I took both my daughters to see Frozen 2 reluctantly. Not because I don’t like seeing movies with my kids. I do. In fact, one of my favorite things to do as a father is take my kids to see movies. I was reluctant because I’ve seen enough Disney movies to know that they don’t always provide the best examples for my daughters.
And yet, it seems to be almost impossible to avoid princess movies. So we always go, and at the end of the movie, we usually discuss the characters and the relationships portrayed. Most times we also talk about how it wasn’t a real example of dedicated partnership, determination, or how to be an independent woman. My kids roll their eyes as I go on, thereby solidifying my role as the most irritating over-analytical father in the history of ever.
But I have to say, things were a little different with Frozen 2. (Warning: a few teensy-tiny spoilers ahead.)
I cannot be the only person who noticed Elsa take on the ocean, fall down, get up, and take it on again, and again. And who came to her aid? Not a prince. No, sir. She just kept on fighting until she got where she wanted. And when she got stuck in that frozen underground cave, did she call her boyfriend? Nope, she called her sister. In fact, I’ll just say it, I don’t think Elsa needs a man at all (well … outside of Olaf, who really is only comic relief).
She is a pretty wonderful example of an independent woman in a position of power who actually cares about people. As a father of daughters, I will admit that sometimes I look at all the Frozen crap in my house and feel like I’m paying the mortgage on Elsa’s Ice Castle, but I’m comfortable with that as long as she keeps being an amazing example to my daughters.
And listen, Anna saved the freaking day in that movie, right? She pulled herself out of despair even after Olaf disappeared, then she organized the rock giants to tear down the ill-gotten dam. She was the flat out hero of the movie. She was never a damsel in distress. She was never locked in a tower waiting for some prince to save her. She just got busy with heroics by her damn self. Bottom line: Anna is freaking amazing.
Another character getting a lot of just discussion is Kristoff, and I’ll tell you why. I did a serious pause when he looked at Anna and said, “My love is not fragile” and “I’m here. What do you need?” I mean … wow! As a father, I was pumping my fist in the air.
I think we have all experienced fragile love, right?
It’s the love that falls short, causing a partner to move on when things get rough. My father was like that and he died divorcing his fourth wife. He went around setting up families like franchises, and when something didn’t go according to plan, he closed up shop and went on to create another family, always searching for something better rather than investing in the family he had.
To be honest, sometimes I think most of my early examples of love were fragile. You know, the kind of love where a prince meets the love of his life, but he can’t remember what she looked like, so he makes everyone in the kingdom try on a glass slipper. Or the kind of love where you trap a woman in your castle until they experience Stockholm syndrome and fall in love with you even though you are a mean monster. Or the kind of love where you coordinate a huge lie with the help of a genie so everyone thinks you are a sultan to hide your questionable past.
I hope this doesn’t come back to bite me, but I’m proud to say that my wife and I just celebrated 15 years of marriage, and if I’ve learned anything in that time it’s that for a marriage to last, it needs strong love, weighty love, stern love, the kind of love that two people can comfortably lean on. This isn’t to say that your love should stand up to emotional or physical abuse. That’s not love. The kind of love I’m talking about doesn’t pause when a mother’s body changes after childbirth, because nothing physical can change the raw beauty of a devoted mother and wife.
I’m talking about the kind of love that shines brighter than the everyday grit of raising a family, and doesn’t end in a beautiful castle, but rather in a living room filled with toys, feeling like you are both the fairy godmother and the wicked witch.
It takes making love a verb. It means looking at your spouse and saying something as simple as “I’m here. What do you need?” And I’ll be honest, I have seen so many Disney princess movies, and I have never once seen an example of actual, tangible, real, “going to do everything I can to be a functioning partner” love until Frozen 2.
As we exited the theater after seeing Frozen 2, I didn’t jump into my usual discussion of how this guy seemed shady, or that princess really could have done that on her own. I didn’t over-analyze the prince. I didn’t discuss how the princess should have gotten up and killed the dragon rather than waiting around for help. I didn’t remind them about the risks of guys wandering through the woods kissing dead women in the hopes that they will come to life.
Instead, I waited until they got done talking about the water horse, and the cute little fire lizard, and how funny Olaf was. I listened as we drove. They laughed, and told me their favorite parts. And then, once we were in the driveway, about to go inside for the night, I repeated those two lines, “My love is not fragile” and “I’m here. What do you need?” I asked them if they noticed them, and both girls nodded. Then I talked about how Elsa didn’t stay down, and how Anna saved the day.
“Be like that,” I said. “And if you find a Kristoff, you will find a real partner.”
Both my girls nodded.
Then we went into the house and I tucked them into bed.