Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Why Frozen Brought Tears to My Eyes

A month or two ago it seemed like everyone had an opinion about Frozen.  It's the best thing.  It's the worst thing.  It had a beautiful message.  It had a hidden agenda.  It's a Disney Master Piece.  It's totally unimpressive and people don't get the hype.

And honestly... I read many of the articles... but they didn't really sway me either way.  People can like it or not like it, and that's okay.  I'm not writing to convince you to like it or to convince you to lock it up and make sure your kids never see it.

I am writing because watching Sadie watch Frozen had me nearly in tears every time I thought about it for the first few days after we went to see it together.

Our trip to the theater was a big deal.  Paul took a precious mid-day off studying and Sadie and I rushed off to the theater.  She was dressed in her Anna costume that we'd gotten on sale with a gift card at Toys R' Us, back when the shelves were still dripping with all things Frozen, rather than sold out nearly instantly when a new item was finally stocked, and she bounded across the parking lot clutching my hand with excitement.

The last time we'd gone to see a movie was in California when Brave was released, so it had been a while.  For the last few years we haven't really been a "see it in the theater" type of family.

Sadie already knew the story and at the time related strongly to Anna's character.  "It's the older sister who's runs away?" she kept saying, shaking her head in disbelief.  "Are you sure she's not the younger one?  Are you sure?  It sure does sound a lot like Maggie."

So we went and we watched.  Afterwards we went to a nearby restaurant, because I was stretching out our special day for as long as I could, and she ate a kid's sized plate of spaghetti with a giant meat ball, while her Anna doll sat on the table, and we talked.

Sadie talked about how she was just like Anna and Maggie... Maggie had been just like Elsa, trying to run away, not talking about things, wanting to go in her room and close the door, which is exactly what Mae does when she's overwhelmed, which used to be quite frequently.

She loved the movie and in her mind it wasn't about all the various things that people say it's about.  In her mind it was about her relationship with her sister, who happens to be autistic.  And watching seemed to help her process Mae's way of dealing with the world around her.  My heart melted.  She sees Elsa hiding in her room with the world locked outside and she saw her sister.  She saw Elsa wanting to escape when things were too overwhelming and that reminded her of how Mae reacts when she's overwhelmed too.

Later she would watch it again and again and fall in love with Elsa's shimmering dress ("I don't know why Anna doesn't wear one of her pink dresses!" she'll say with a shake of her head and a sigh).  And for anyone who's worried, as we watch we've talk about that song she won't stop belting out and she can tell anyone who asks that "Elsa sure was wrong when she said that part about 'no right no wrong no rules for me,'" because she gets that that is part of the story too, and that Elsa running away and saying that the rules didn't apply to her was pretty much a disaster that affected everyone around her.

When Frozen came out Mae was about a month and a half away from her diagnosis and was just starting therapy.  She hadn't been given many of the tools that she has today that help her communicate with the world around her, and especially with her sister and brother.  She and Sadie weren't playing princesses together just yet, and I wouldn't find Sadie in her sister's bed whispering bed time stories to her.  Mae was still much more removed from Sadie's world than she is today.

Things are quite different now.  A few weeks ago I asked Sadie what her favorite part was about Mae starting therapy.  "Well," she said, thinking hard, "I like that she's a princess now.  And that she likes pink."  

Lately, many of their hours are spent playing princesses and dressing up together.  Sometimes Mae is a mermaid.  She gets out a blue bean bag chair and pretends to splash in the middle of the living room.  She almost always tries to make sure she's wearing one of her big sister's dresses.  Anything that Sadie picks out is as good as gold and if she isn't a fan of something that she's been given I only need to have Sadie wear it once and it will suddenly be a Maggie favorite too.

But I still remember those first days when Sadie related so strongly to Frozen because she felt like it was about her relationship with her sister. And I can't help but think of how it helped her, in her own way, relate to a sister who she was finding hard to reach and how it seemed to give her hope that even when her sister seemed to lock herself away, they would still live happily ever after.

In the end, that's what I take away from the movie and that's why I'm so thankful that Disney made it.  People can take from it what they will, but it will always hold a special place in my heart, because it helped one little girl, who I love very much, who was struggling to understand her sister to feel like she wasn't alone, and it gave her hope for a future that we didn't know at the time, was actually much closer than we imagined.


And in case that wasn't enough princess-ness for you... here are a few of my favorite princess moments from our home:


  1. I remember when you mentioned how much Sadie loved frozen after y'all first saw it. We didn't get the movie until a few weeks ago - my oldest isn't quite able to sit still for a whole movie yet - and my kids love it. Even my son keeps singing all the songs and dancing around with his sister.

    I kept thinking of what you had said about Sadie and Mae while I watched it. Your story made me love the movie. I love that it's the sisters love for each other that saves the day. Over all, I think the movie is a step in the right direction and was refreshing to see.

  2. This brings tears to my eyes. What a perfect movie for your two princesses.

  3. That is the beauty and function of all good stories, fictional or true: they help us to see a truth at the heart of our lives. Because they can be analogous, they give our experiences meaning. They can show us that the crises we are in is not the end of the story, that the sadness we are living can turn out to be "happily ever after," or as we grow up, that in the end, justice prevails; love prevails; truth prevails (the bad guys get punished, the good are vindicated). We all need these stories, and of course, how wonderful Frozen was able to be a tale for Sadie about two sisters who were different, yet love overcomes it all.
    God Bless. ~ Bonnie

  4. I loved Frozen from the moment I saw it. I love it even more after seeing it through your daughter's eyes.

  5. Some people see bogeymen around every corner, and hidden messages in everything. I think Sadie got it right. :)

    I hope Mae is feeling better.



I love comments and I read every single comment that comes in (and I try to respond when the little ones aren't distracting me to the point that it's impossible!). Please show kindness to each other and our family in the comment box. After all, we're all real people on the other side of the screen!