Friday, March 27, 2015

Elsa from Frozen: battling a mental illness?

As told by a Hell lot of Gifs.

This post contains spoilers about the movie Frozen.

Everyone knows Frozen, right?


Disney's animated film about Princess Anna and her sister, Queen Elsa. And how the latter has had magical ice powers since she was born and how she's kept them hidden from society and more importantly, her sister. Until the day of her coronation during an argument with Anna she loses control of her emotions and her powers are revealed for everyone to see. People don't understand what's going on and get scared. Some old guy even calls her a witch and a monster. Elsa then decides to escape to a far away mountain, alone. 

In the end, the sisterly love/bond of the two girls proves to be stronger than any other thing. It really is a beautiful tale. And if you haven't seen it yet, seriously go do it. 


Ever since I watched the first six minutes of the movie I immediately related to Elsa. Anna had fallen on the icy ground unconscious because one of Elsa's ice rays (?) had struck her while they were playing. Accidentally, of course. By the moment their parents enter the scene I was a total mess. I was literally bawling. How many times had I not lived a similar situation in my childhood? Minus the amazing ice powers, of course. 

This is totally me every time I watch Frozen

I don't want to get all personal here but I try to be as open about my mental disorder as I can possibly be. Because when I first found out I had (Bipolar Disorder) I thought about every person who might be struggling with some disease similar to mine and can't find the help they need. In order for people to treat themselves, we need to fight the stigma against mental illness and inform everyone about it. So that's a great reason for me to be an advocate about something that is so close to my heart. 

And then, Disney comes out with this new movie. I watch it, and beside making me cry like an infant, it becomes evident to me that Elsa's powers are actually a metaphor for mental illnesses. Especially those like Major Depression, Bipolar Disorder or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (which are incidentally the ones I have experienced). Of course, I don't actually know if Disney intended for this but if they did, they aced it! 

Here are the reasons why I think the movie is based on mental disorders:

  • The way Elsa acts in general.

This reason is made up of various little clues. 

1. Elsa's powers seem to get worse depending on her emotions. 


For someone who's dealing with a mental sickness being stressed or scared (or even tired) can mean that the symptoms are going to become more pronounced. Small, everyday problems become issues that seem unsolvable.  Fears are heightened and actions reflect the illness rather than one's true self. In the movie we can see that every time Elsa feels cornered or afraid, her powers literally burst out from her. I have to admit that would be kinda cool. 

I could be all like, "I said, get the Hell out of my face!" BOOM, icicles all over the place. 


Okay, back to business.

2. Elsa is afraid to hurt her loved ones, in this case, Anna. And when she does she only becomes more distant. 
Diseases hurt people. And they not only hurt those who have the disease. Many times, loved ones' feelings get hurt because of different reasons. One of the most common reasons is because family and friends don't fully understand what is happening and enter a stage of denial. Another reason is that relatives may think they're helping by doing things a certain way when sadly things need to be done differently. When this happens, no one is at fault. This is seen in Frozen, when Anna insists on going after Elsa and gets her heart frozen. Although, there's no doubt she means well and again, this is really no one's fault. 

Right in the feels

3. Elsa feels guilty because of her powers.
Guilt is one of the main feelings involved in a mental illness. It's hard being sick and trying to understand the fact that it is not your fault. Symptoms in a mental illness are often mistaken by one's character or personality. That's why knowledge is power. The more one learns about an illness's symptoms the more they can be told apart from one's personal traits. In the film, Elsa repeatedly says that she needs to get away so she "won't hurt anyone". Also, her crippling guilt is shown in almost everything she does. Her eyes just scream "Guilt, guilt, guilt" ALL. THE. FREAKING. TIME. 

If this here doesn't break your heart, I declare you heartless

4. Elsa failing to control her powers.
When someone who suffers from a mental disorder is not being treated, things can spiral out of control really quickly. Also, denial from the person suffering the disease can really worsen the situation. Accepting that one is sick and needs help is key. This happens to Elsa rather frequently in the movie and it doesn't help that she is told (in a very colorful and terrifying way) by a troll that fear would be her worst enemy. And well, that's exactly what happened. Jesus, Grandpa Troll, could you try to be less insensitive?


5. Elsa's need to be alone


It is quite normal for people who are sick to push family and friends away. The reason this happens is because the one who is sick feels like they can only be themselves while they are alone. Shame is usually a feeling that paralyzes patients with a mental illness. Elsa runs away so she can be alone and free. Here is the part when she sings "Let it Go" and embraces her badass self. 


  • Anna's confusion and disappointment

Loved ones many times have feelings of confusion or helplessness especially when the existence of a mental illness has not been considered. It can be very difficult to try to understand someone's  "weird behavior", which is actually caused by the illness's symptoms. Anna shows her confusion towards Elsa's behavior on more than one occasion. The memory of her sister's powers is wiped from her mind and she doesn't know why her sister shuts her out and pushes her away. 

  • The way society sees Elsa
Stigma is a big issue when it comes to mental disorders. As someone with one I can honestly say it happens a lot. And it is very annoying. The main reason stigma exists is because people don't even bother to educate themselves and in turn judge others like there's no tomorrow. I mean, GOD DAMN, just because you can't see my illness it doesn't mean it's not real. Like I mentioned above, Elsa gets called a monster and a witch. She is also led to believe she is a danger to herself and everyone else (this happens waaaay too much in the real world). And at one point in the movie she even gets chained to a wall. Personally, I've never been called a witch or a monster (at least not to my face, haha), and I've certainly never been chained to a wall. But this still happens in some places of the world, which is sad. And well, I have been treated like I could be a danger to myself and others. As if I weren't capable of change. All in all, stigma sucks a**. 

Chill, little dude. If Elsa had wanted to hurt you, she would've.

  • Anna's faith in her sister

In contrast to the stigma, there is something pretty amazing: family and friends who support you. If I've ever been blessed with something, it's my family and friends. Those people who want to honestly help you and try their hardest to understand what you're going through. When you get over a rough patch they are sincerely happy for you and cheer you on in the process. I think that this is the most admirable thing ever. God Bless you family & friends, you rock. In the movie Anna never loses faith in her sister. She constantly reminds Elsa that she is there for her and shows this in her actions. This is the true definition of sisterly love. 

  • Elsa finally finding solace in her true self
Yep, mental illnesses hurt and are super hard to battle. But I believe humans have so much strength inside us and we can ultimately defeat even the most terrible of situations. When treatment is given and taken in the right way, patients get so much better. Life gets good again, trust me, it does. At the end of Frozen, Elsa finds that she was capable of handling her powers after all. She embraces them and is able to enjoy the upside that comes with being the way she is. This happens with people who are sick, too.

There is a little detail that actually made Frozen's resemblance to mental illness so much stronger for me. At the beginning, Elsa's dad gives her a pair a gloves so she can control her powers better. When I was little, I washed my hands too often because of my OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and my hands were so dry that they had started to bleed. And my parents had a great idea, before bed I would put some moisturiser on my hands and then place a pair of cotton gloves on and go to sleep. When I saw Elsa's gloves I practically got hit in the heart, haha.

The fact that I have a sister who has fought beside me every step of the way also made the resemblance stronger. 


So there they are. All the reasons why Frozen probably is about mental illness. I love this movie and it speaks to me on so many levels. I hope it helps fight some of the stigma and I hope other movies can, too. Thanks for reading and have a kick-ass day. 

love, Adrienne. 

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