In 2013, the world went completely apeshit for Frozen. But every time I read something about how great Elsa and Anna are, or heard my sister request that we name our dog after the film's sarcastic reindeer, I would glance at the empty bottle of Zoloft I keep on my desk as motivation and sigh a little bit.
Throughout the movie, Elsa is dealing with some major clinical depression, and frankly, that hasn't gotten the coverage it deserves. Since superhero movies have us convinced that powers are cool, it was shockingly easy for us to not even notice that Elsa's cryokinetic abilities are a symbol of serious underlying issues. And it all starts with ...
#6. Parents Place Massive, Undue Stress On Their Firstborn
Admittedly, it's hard at first to relate to the problems of Queen Elsa. We come from entirely different worlds (spoiler alert: Hers is animated), but she has something in common with a lot of us: She's the eldest child. There are definitely some perks to that, but being the oldest is also a pretty harsh gig, and Elsa had it particularly bad, even ignoring the part when she almost accidentally kills her younger sister when they are children.
"Finally, I'll have my old room back."
There are parts of the world where people probably think primogeniture is a fancy way of grilling sausage (or that it's a word I just made up to sound fancy), but for Elsa, it was a career and a lifestyle all wrapped up into one and thrust into her lap within seconds of her royal mother making the king's icicle start to drip, if you catch my (snow)drift. I do not apologize for either of those puns (because I'm cold-hearted ... BAM!). Elsa had no brothers, so as the eldest, she would one day rule the kingdom of Arendelle.
Thus becoming part of the ice-tablishment. (Sorry. last one, I swear.)
That is an excessive amount of pressure to place on a child who's barely old enough to color inside the lines, but she could at least hope for a baby brother to inherit the pressure ... right up until her parents' sudden deaths. Basically, she becomes an orphan and has her entire life decided for her, all while she's still a teenager. It's actually shocking that her powers didn't manifest as goth poetry.
Once she grows up, Elsa has no real positive memories of her parents, and for good reason. Her ice powers / depression freaked them right the hell out, so they locked her away. Now she has to follow in their footsteps, put on a happy face for the people who admired and respected those parents she barely knew, and rule a damned country when she hasn't left her bedroom in years.
The heater broke a while back.
A lot of people (read: children) who saw this movie probably wondered why it was so hard for Elsa to just put on a happy face the way Anna could, and science has an answer. See, parents tend to expect their firstborn children to succeed more in school, life, and everything else more than the younger ones. While the eldest tend to get better care at a young age, they're often way less happy, and more likely to deal with anxiety and depression.
#5. Elsa's Gloves Are "Masking The Problem"
I'll just cut right to the quick here: Elsa's gloves are a symbol for her dependence on antidepressants.
She's been wearing gloves since she was a small child, primarily as a means of stopping the ice powers she has from affecting anyone else. Her parents literally use the phrase "Conceal, don't feel," as if her suffering is some kind of twisted Mother Goose rhyme. It's like trying to prevent suicide by chanting "Fun, not gun." However, she's still been locked up in the palace for forever, so it's not like the gloves/antidepressants were paired up with anything useful, like positive social interaction. In fact, the sister who loves her unconditionally is running around, baffled as to why Elsa can't come out and play (more on that in a minute).
"Do you wanna build a constructive support system?"
We've told you before how bad it is to prolong treatment with antidepressants, and Elsa lines right up with every ill effect of extended use. She has been using her gloves since she was a small child, and now as a young woman she can't function without them. She has to spend a frankly alarming amount of time practicing holding a scepter without her gloves, which doesn't exactly bode well for the future of the kingdom. Or for Freudian psychologists.
Now with a cool, tingling sensation for her pleasure.
But here's where the symbolism is even weirder and more precise: Prolonged use of antidepressants can cause "involuntary tics," such as the ones that Elsa experienced when she shot ice everywhere at her coronation.
"Umm ... ah-choo?"
Those icy tics made a whole bunch of foreign dignitaries get panicky, with one creepy old dude thinking that this terrified-looking princess was actually trying to kill him. This extreme level of social scrutiny caused Elsa to flee, all the while belting out the movie's main song, and, well ...
#4. Let It Go Is A Blatant Suicide Note
This has less to do with the storyline and more to do with the movie's background. I know it's hard to believe that the song your six-year-old niece has been belting nonstop for three years might be the sing-along suicide note of the main character, but not if you know the background of the composers for the movie.
Composer Robert Lopez's previous credits include the Broadway smash hit show The Book Of Mormon, which famously features incredibly catchy songs about teenagers who are trained to hide their deepest and darkest feelings, and a main character who comes to think that Jesus hates him a little more than halfway through the show. Jesus literally calls him a dick, and that's not easy to recover from.
"Seriously, have you considered converting to Buddhism?"
With that in mind, it's pretty obvious that Lopez is good at making dark subject matter sound really happy. Ignore the top-notch soprano coming from Idina Menzel, and let's look at the lyrics a bit.
The most-repeated line in the song (other than the titular "Let it go") is "The cold never bothered me anyway," which on the surface is a reference to her ice powers, but is also a description of how depression can make someone nothing but numb all the time. They have difficulty feeling much of anything, and it can be really hard to regain "warmth" at all. Or if you're less subtle, she's talking about corpses. The cold, dead corpses of her dead-ass parents, as well as the thought of her own dead-ass deadness.
Sweet, sweet release.
It could also be argued that by running away from the whole life she'd known, Elsa was committing a sort of "social suicide." But if that sounds too far-fetched, we can move right along into ...