Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Hidden Mickeyisms 10: Frozen Female Philadelphia

SPOILER ALERT! Disney films celebrate love: The love between a boy and his dog (Old Yeller), The love between children and monsters (Monsters, Inc.) The love between monsters and monsters (Monsters University) The love between a child and his/her toys (Toy Stories), The love between a craftsman and his creation (Pinocchio), The love between a child and its mother (Bambi), The love between a child and its father (Finding Nemo, Mary Poppins, Saving Mr. Banks), The love between boys and girls of different species (Little Mermaid), and, of course, The love between various princesses and their princes (Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Aladdin, Tangled, Beauty and the Beast, etc.).
Nevertheless, until the winter of 2013, there was no specific Disney movie celebrating the love of sisters. The city of Philadelphia was so named because it wanted to be the city of “brotherly love.” The Greek word PHILOS means love. The Greek word ADELPHOS means brother. The Greek word ADELPHE means sister. The word PHILADELPHIA could be translated either as “brotherly love” or as “sisterly love,” depending on whether one assumes the root of the word to be ADELPHOS or ADELPHE. In the case of the movie “Frozen,” I apply the term to ADELPHE. The ending –IA simply refers to a state of being or a process. Philadelphia is simply the process of acting with love towards one’s sister.
The 1954 Bing Crosby movie White Christmas contains elements of such a “female Philadelphia” with its song “Sisters,” but the love between the sisters in the film—played by Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen—pales in intensity to the sisterly love portrayed in Disney’s “Frozen.” Even the website of Turner Classic Movies (which owns the rights to the White Christmas movie) calls White Christmas “a film that's remembered mostly as a warm, nostalgic holiday movie rather than as one of the all-time great musicals.” Nevertheless, “it was the highest-grossing film of 1954” and it is a perennial favorite for TV viewers during the Christmas season. It was re-released on the big screen for a couple of nights during the 2013 Christmas season, as well. The Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen sisters, however, faced no test as severe as that faced by the Frozen sisters—Elsa and Anna. Elsa, the Snow Queen, possesses magical powers, which she cannot control. Simply put, just as those things (and people) King Midas touches turn to gold, those things (and people) Elsa touches turn to ice. Since an early incident suggests to Elsa that there is a possibility that she will accidentally freeze her sister Anna, if she is too close to her, she intentionally separates herself from her sister—as an act of love. Anna, of course, is kept ignorant of the fact that this fear for Anna’s safety is the reason for her seclusion, but Anna’s love for her sister Elsa never flags. At Elsa’s coronation, it becomes clear that Elsa still cannot control her dangerous gift. She flees to the mountains. Anna pursues her sister to Elsa’s ice palace after Elsa has inadvertently frozen the entire kingdom. Anna is determined to reunite with Elsa. Following several fairy-tale-prescribed difficulties and obstacles, Anna is faced with the ultimate problem—she will die unless she receives an act of “true love.” Disney relies on the misdirection of the formulaic “true love’s kiss” from multiple prior Disney movies to draw the audience into the desire for a kiss from a love-at-first-sight boyfriend of Anna’s. Then, when that boyfriend turns out to be a charlatan, the audience turns to the desire for Anna to be kissed by her reindeer-loving friend Kristoff, who helped her on her quest to find Elsa. The twist occurs as Anna is more consumed with protecting her sister Elsa than she is with romance. The Jesus-love paradigm comes into play as Anna gives her life to save her sister Elsa. “Greater love has no one than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). The Jesus motif is continued (as it is in many other Disney films) as the one who loves by giving his/her life is resurrected (Pinocchio, Baloo the Bear, the Beast, etc.).
Disney essentially disavows “true love’s kiss” as the truest indicator of “true love” in favor of the Jesus-love model. This is Philadelphia—sisterly love.