As you get older, both the holidays and Disney movies lose a little of their magic. In some small ways, ignorance is bliss; when you’re young, you don’t always pick up on familial tensions, and it’s much easier to sing along with catchy musical numbers about love when you don’t yet understand the concept of personal agency. Yes, I still get excited on Christmas morning, and I’ll always cherish my worn-out Little Mermaid VHS, but the older I get, the harder it is for even Santa’s presents to wrench me out of bed if I’m still tired, and “Kiss the Girl” makes me cringe more than it makes me laugh.
I don’t mean to be a Scrooge or a killjoy, but I suppose I was a bit of both this holiday season. I have vivid and fond memories of Christmas Eves full of laughter and food and presents and fun, and this year my mom worked late and the salmon was overcooked and nobody respected the Kid’s Table/Grownup Table split and my cousins got more presents than me and…
…and I was a brat. Between finishing long-procrastinated final assignments, scrambling to get or make perfect gifts in spite of a smaller-than-comfortable bank account, battling caffeine withdrawals from a poorly timed coffee-quitting experiment, and nagging reminders that this was my last Christmas Vacation maybe ever, I was anything but merry and bright, and I am not proud.
Christmas Eve is the main event in our family, and Christmas Day has always been more subdued. I was very much looking forward to a post-breakfast, post-present catnap in my new fuzzy PJ pants, and was very unhappy when everyone voted to walk instead of napping. Even in my sleepy, grumpy haze I knew I didn’t want to miss out on family time, though, so I ran a brush through my hair and put on my tennis shoes.
And, thank God I did, because the weather was gorgeous and the world was a lot less melancholic on the other side of a 4-mile jaunt down a tree-lined path, which led to a surprise dinner of delicious leftovers and a surprise trip to the movie theater, where we saw Frozen.
The latest animated flick from the land of Mickey Mouse might be my new favorite movie, or at least my favorite Disney movie, largely because it was sort of anti-Disney in a lot of ways. Sure, there was anthropomorphization, and wide-eyed princesses with ski slope noses singing about love, and creative liberties taken with things like physics and the elasticity of the human body, but truth be told, I do love those things.
But what I loved more (I hate spoilers, so beware!) was the complex characterization, playful teasing of thoughtless romance, emphasis on the importance of familial love, and an absolutely PERFECT portrayal of how easy and cute asking for consent (and thus slowly preventing rape culture) can be. The basic plot (I hate spoilers, so beware!) is that two princesses, Elsa and Anna, are incredibly close when they’re little. Elsa has Jack Frost-like powers, and one morning they accidentally endanger Anna. In order to protect her family, herself, and her kingdom, Elsa shuts herself away and vows to conceal her powers forever. She’s not entirely successful, and the song “Let It Go” depicts her decision to give up trying to hide that part of herself. As someone who constantly battles control issues, I really identify with Elsa’s struggle, but also appreciate that the song’s lyrics are ambiguously inspirational enough to resonate with many other “issues” people might tackle. It also helps that Elsa is voiced by powerhouse Idina Menzel, with whom I have been obsessed since I was thirteen.
Even though I hate to admit it, sometimes it takes a good dose of Disney moralistic magic to provide a reminder of what’s important; for me, the holidays are about being close to my family—and and if it’s cold and we huddle a little tighter, even better.