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Is Elsa From Disney's Frozen, A Bad Sister?
Is Elsa a bad sister? I know it might be hard to believe, but if you were paying attention you might have noticed some questionable behavior from our ice queen that suggest, she probably is. Don't believe it? Well allow me to shed some light on the subject.
Let me first start by saying, frozen is an amazing Disney movie, and definitely deserves all the praise it gets, and despite the scrutiny I'm about to place Elsa under for being a bad sister doesn't make me think any less of the character or movie. Great characters can have flaws and Elsa's flaw just happens to be that she's a bad sister. You know aside from being super insecure, but lets not get ahead of ourselves. We shall start where all good things start, the beginning.
As a child Elsa had total control over her power, she and Anna were best buddies, and for the most part Elsa seemed like the best kind of sister anyone could have, the kind that could instantly turn an empty ball room to a winter wonderland. But as the old saying goes; it's all fun and games till you accidentally hit your little sister in the head with your magical ice powers. It was after this unfortunate incident we immediately start to see Elsa lose control of her powers from heightened emotions.
Anna and Elsa’s parents take Anna to some rock trolls who are able to heal her, and erase her memories of Elsa’s magic, but allow her to keep the memories of the fun she shared with Elsa. The trolls also warn about fear being Elsa’s enemy, which set her on the path to becoming a horrible sister. Now in the early, "Do You Wanna Build A Snowman" years of Anna and Elsa's lives, it's quite understandable why Elsa ignores her sister. Her parents make it very clear she's suppose to keep her powers hidden from everyone, including Anna. They even go as far as to keep the castle gates closed, reduce the staff, and limit Elsa’s contact with people. During this time Elsa's powers start to become tied to her emotions, due to the fact that they are both being concealed, and bottled up within her. All this goes on while Anna is continually trying to get her sisters attention, for years, never knowing why the sister who she still has memories of playing with, is suddenly always isolated in her room, and giving her the cold shoulder. Throughout that whole sequence the only words Elsa ever says to Anna is, "Go away Anna." And that's where we get our first taste of Elsa being a bad sister. Elsa could have just said, no I don't feel like building a snowman, or she could have just ignored her like she does for the next 13 years. But in all honesty, we can say in that moment Elsa was just frustrated, having to be away from her sister, and from being tempted to do something she knew she wasn't suppose to, causing her to become annoyed to the point where she just tells Anna to go away. We can't fully condemn Elsa to the bad sister category just yet, because lets be honest everyone gets annoyed with their siblings every now and then, especially when we're in a bad mood.
However at the end of the do you wanna build a snowman years, Elsa and Anna's parents are tragically killed at sea, (or by a cheetah, 10 points if you understand the reference.) leaving 18 year old Elsa and 15 year old Anna with no one left but each other, and after their parents funeral, which Elsa wasn't present for, Anna comes calling on her sister one final time, distraught and brokenhearted she begs her big sister to let her in and give her some sort of comfort, or sign that she wasn't alone. And Elsa gave her nothing. Yes Elsa is afraid of her powers and the possibility hurting her sister, and yes her parents wanted her to keep it a secret, but even if Elsa was too paranoid to let her sister see her, not saying anything at all? That's just cruel.
I empathize with Elsa I really do, but there's no way you can simply chalk that encounter up as Elsa trying to protect her sister, Anna was in pain and Elsa let her suffer alone. Even if Elsa would have just said, "I don't know what to say." It would have been better than nothing. It would have started a conversation that would’ve been at least a little comforting, even if Elsa never told her about why she couldn't let her in. And maybe even talking to Anna would have helped Elsa realize that her in ability to control her powers is all in her head, and if she would just take her fear and let it go, she would be just fine, as we later find out in the movie. So let's go to 3 years later, the day of Elsa's coronation.
This day holds the primary evidence of how bad a sister Elsa is. Nothing has changed between Anna and Elsa over the past three years, and if your trying to fool yourself into thinking they might have interacted throughout that time skip, here are three lines sung by Anna that proves they haven't. "...There'll be actual, real, live people, it'll be totally strange..."
"...Cause the first time in forever I won't be alone..."
"...For the first time in forever I could be noticed by someone..."
There's no denying Anna has a distinct lack of social interaction in her life, honestly if she hadn't sung that song with such enthusiasm, those lines could have been pretty darn depressing. Now on Elsa's part of the song you see that once again she only starts losing control of her power when she starts over thinking it, years of isolation has only lead her to continue to fuel the fire of her own paranoia. Shes been so deluded by her own mind she actually convinced herself that she only has to survive interacting with people only for today. Um hello Elsa your becoming a queen, you can’t just go back to your room and hide from the world anymore, you have a kingdom to run. And let me just say, those gloves don't actually do anything to stop her powers, they're just a pacifier of sorts, and she has a psychological attachment and dependency on them that helps her feel calm but causes her anxiety when she's detached from them.
Later on during Elsa's coronation after party there comes a point where a herald announces Queen Elsa and Princess Anna, positioning Anna next to her sister, and it's very clear Anna is uncomfortable being this close to Elsa, she even scoots away from her like Elsa is a faberge egg she might knock over. Then for the first time in forever Elsa speaks to Anna with a simple hi, and Anna is so shocked by this, she has to ask if Elsa was talking to her. So if there was any hope in your mind that these two might have developed a better relationship off screen in the three years we skipped, you could just say your farewell to that idea, because that scene was the final nail in the coffin. Sure they have the nice little jinx moment where they say chocolate at the same time, like they hangout all the time, but that's not all that impressive, since Anna and Hans have two jinxes in row later that night.
But before we get to that we have to add another bad sister tally to Elsa's record. After Anna and Elsa share a few laughs, Anna puts her heart out there and tells her sister she wishes it could be like this all the time, and while Elsa does express she wishes the same thing, she immediately backpedals and dismisses Anna with a heart shattering, "but it can't." Like a good sister Anna tries to figure out why not, and gain some sort of understanding of why Elsa shuts her out, and like the horrible sister she is, Elsa answers with an even more dismissive, "It just can't!" I mean come on, they're both adults, and Elsa is the queen of Arendelle now, if she truly wishes it to be that way, she should just LET IT GO already and tell her sister the truth, if not she could at least try to spend more time with her without revealing her secret. It just so frustrating! But let me hold off, because it gets worse. After Anna walks away heart broken, her eyes well up with tears, before some portly fellow booty-bumps her so hard she almost falls to the floor. I’m pretty sure he would have been executed for, if it wasn't for Hans smooth moves rescue.
Anna and Hans proceed to have their love is an open door duet, which ends in Hans asking Anna to marry him, which Anna obviously says yes to, this is the most she's connected with anyone in 13 years, and when she goes to ask for Elsa's blessing not as her sister but as the queen, Elsa has the nerve to tell her no. No!? Then she goes a step farther and asks Anna "What do you know about true love," In this condescending tone like she's all wise and stuff. As if she knows jack squat about how the world works. Sure it’s obviously not a good idea to agree to marry someone the same day you meet them, but Anna has a song, and one quarters of a songs more street smarts and life experience then Elsa, since she spent the the last few lines of The First Time In Forever, and practically all of Love Is An Open Door, outside the castle gates while Elsa still hasn’t even set foot outside the castle in 13 years. So Anna's reply of "more than you!" Was very accurate, especially when you consider at the end of the movie it's Anna's love for Elsa, that saves her from dying, but we'll get to that later.
Elsa still refuses to give her blessing and decides it's time to shut the party down, Anna obviously doesn't to revert back to the way things were so she tries to stop her, accidentally removing one of Elsa's gloves, unaware of her sister's psychological dependency on them. Anna tells Elsa she can't live like this anymore, to which Elsa replies "Then leave." It's clear more than ever now that Elsa cares more about herself more than she cares about her sister, you don't just tell your family to go away, or leave, when they clearly need you. It isn't Anna's fault she doesn't understand why Elsa acts the way she does, for the first five years of her life they were best buddies and now they aren't, and nobody told her why. But Elsa is too self centered to see how much pain her little sister is in, and if her intentions or motivation behind how she behaves is to protect Anna, she's not doing a good job. What’s even the point behind denying Anna her marriage, if Elsa is willing to just tell Anna to leave like that? Anna is going through a lot of emotional suffering, she had to deal with the death of her parents all alone at the age of fifteen, while continuing to be neglected by her only remaining family member. Okay sure, Elsa has is traumatized from almost killing Anna when they were younger, but if her biggest fear is hurting her sister, her paranoia is preventing her from seeing that that's all she's been doing for the past 13 years of her life. She's so obsessed with keeping her powers a secret, and keeping Anna in the dark about it, that when Anna persist on knowing what Elsa’s so afraid of, Elsa gets so frustrated she almost kills Anna with a barricade of ice spikes. I mean seriously look at this, if Anna was any closer she would have been skewered.
Once Elsa's secret is out she skips town, leaving a frozen kingdom in her wake, we finally get to the scene/song were Elsa lets it go, and basically proves she has total control over her power, and no reason to be afraid of it. She builds a whole freaking palace in less than a minute! A very well designed palace at that, Elsa must have been reading the castles book collection on architecture, and she made a dress too! Bad sister or not, Elsa's got style. Unfortunately Elsa's self-deprecating nature (which was most likely developed out of habit more than anything) is very debilitating to her control over her powers, because even after she just proved to herself that if she lets go of her doubts and fears, she can do anything, she STILL retracts into her fearful state when Anna shows up. And why doesn't Elsa tell Anna the story of what happened when they were young, and why is she's afraid to let Anna close? Well it's simple, it's because she's a bad sister, and stubborn! At this point, the secret is already out, so if Elsa is that afraid of hurting Anna, she should just explain why instead of just trying to blow her off. Even if it’s too soon for Elsa to talk about the past, she could still let Anna hang around and chat, even if it has to be from a distance. It isn’t like Elsa is incapable of being in Anna presence. She had zero problems talking to and being around her during the coronation celebration, but as soon as she starts to consider having a real relationship with her, she blinds herself into believing she has no control of her situation.
Elsa gets so frustrated trying to just get rid of Anna, and finding out she blocks out her sisters comforting words and just keeps psyching herself out, to the point where she just sends a blast of ice magic that hits Anna and will inevitably freeze her to death. Congratulations Elsa you just killed your little sister.
If you notice when Elsa hears about accidentally freezing over Arendelle, and starts freaking out, she doesn't try to tell herself to calm down, she knows she's causing a mini blizzard, and it only starts getting worse because she's trying to hear herself instead of Anna's comforting words. And when she screams "I can't!" and disperses the blizzard, it's equivalent to someone slamming their fist on the table when they're upset. She knows her powers go off when she gets emotional that's the whole point of her telling herself conceal don't feel, so instead of calming herself down knowing Anna's nearby, she decides to get all worked up because she thinks she knows better than Anna. Which she doesn't.
Oh and after she ice strikes Anna she then proceeds to sick an ice golem on her, who almost kills her before her freezing heart could even start to take effect. Of course initially the golem just throws team Anna out of the palace, but all it took was a in effective snowball to provoke the golem into attack mode, and although its unclear what exactly the snow golem would have done to Anna and Kristoff if it caught them, since Anna opts to take her chances falling two hundred feet off a cliff. And although she survives, if she hadn't, it would have been Elsa's fault.
After all that Elsa doesn't really get anymore chances to be a bad sister, but we do get more evidence of how Elsa CAN control her powers very well, when prince Hans and his posse shows up, she pins a guy to the wall by creating sharp icy stalagmite with out stabbing him, bringing one really close to his throat before stopping it. Then she creates a wall of ice that she uses to push another guy away from her slowly sliding it to the very edge of her balcony before also stopping it as well. It takes precision to do something like that.
Towards the end of the movie Hans denies Anna a kiss as her freezing heart gets worse every second, revealing he didn't really love her, and that his true intention was to seize the throne. I know this would lead people to believe Elsa was right to not let Anna marry him, but Elsa had no idea Hans was a bad guy, she listens to him when he tells her not to kill the one guy on the balcony, she even tells him to take care of Anna while she's walking around causing a giant blizzard, after she escapes her cell. Elsa as just being... Well I want to say she was being protective, but not even a minute later she told Anna to leave, so you tell me why. Maybe she was just doing a bad job at trying to be a good sister.
Hans lies to Elsa and tells her Anna is already dead, Elsa falls to the ground distraught and the blizzard she was causing goes away. And just as Hans is about to deliver a killing blow with his sword, Anna rushes in to block the sword with her dying breath as her frozen heart takes full effect, freezing her solid. She's so cold Hans sword freezes and shatters the instant it touches Anna's frozen form. It was at this moment Elsa turns around to see the end result of what she had done, the main thing she had been trying to avoid the entire movie had come to pass, and with that she starts crying. There's a moment of sadness from all the characters who care about Anna before she magically thaws out. Not because Elsa was crying all over her, but because Anna loved her sister so much she was willing to give up her last hope of surviving, to save Elsa. An act of true love. And like a person assembling a desk who you've told for the past hour they're doing it wrong, as they continue to frustrate themselves trying to ignore you and do things their way. It takes until everything has gotten completely F'd up, for Elsa to finally go ooooohhhh, and have her Beatles epiphany, realizing that all she need is love. At which point she immediately thaws out Arendelle, and becomes ridiculously comfortable with her powers. Which goes to show that all Elsa's fears and loss of control over her powers were solely based on her own paranoia, and a unwillingness to believe in her sister, and more importantly herself. Years of self obsession over the dangers of her powers, caused her to waste a good chunk of her life being a bad sister, putting Anna through emotion suffering, mortal danger, cause emotional desperation due to neglect, leading her to put trust in the wrong people, all the way up to accidentally killing her out of frustration. Yes Anna did live but that was only due to the fact that she loved Elsa so much her actions undid the the damage Elsa caused.
In closing I just wanna say that this was all in good fun, none of what I’ve said makes me believe Elsa didn’t love her sister, even though she never says it, it’s clear the her wish to have a normal relationship with her sister was genuine. In fact most of the way Elsa behaves resembles that of a person suffering from PTSD, and her thirteen years of solitude certainly did not help in the matter. Her behavior throughout the movie is greatly influenced by the traumatic experience she went through as a child, but regardless of her mental instability, Elsa was still accountable for her actions, and if Anna would have actually died, it totally would have been Elsa’s fault, after all she’s the the one who caused her own traumatic experience in the first place. But since everything worked out, (as most Disney movies do) When it comes to marking Elsa with a scarlet BS, (for Bad Sister) I guess just this once we can let it go... But only ‘cause they’re making a Frozen 2, and if Elsa doesn’t straighten up, she’s definitely getting a horrible Disney sibling plaque, and it’s going up right next to Scars, They’ll be the King and Queen of bad Disney siblings. Haha I’m just kidding....... Maybe.