Frozen Shame

The Disney blockbuster Frozen is portrayed as a children’s movie but it is loaded with adult emotional themes. In the movie’s opening scene, the two young princesses, Elsa and Anna are playing with each other. Elsa has a surprising talent. She can make snow, create ice, snowmen, frozen castles, with a mere flick of her wrist.So she and Anna are “making snowmen” together, with the freedom, pleasure and enjoyment that only children can do. Both are enjoying her special gifts. There is only child-like joy.But something goes very wrong. Elsa accidentally harms her sister with her innate gift. Anna’s wound was very serious and could have been deadly. Specialist trolls are brought in who heal Anna, but a great deal of damage was done. Elsa and her once-special gift are blamed.Perhaps well-meaning but nevertheless destructive, Elsa’s parents sternly warn her that she must forever control her emotions, to wear protective clothing and to isolate herself, so that she could do no more harm to her sister or anyone else for that matter.Can you imagine the shame that parental order would cause in the soul of a young girl? I cringed at the conversation with the parents. There already was the immense guilt that Elsa felt having almost killed her sister. And now, that guilt morphed into shame. Her child brain had to have understood that it was more than some mistake—it was her. Shame “iced” Anna’s heart. Anna is “frozen.”Anna learned young from those who loved her, that there is something different about her that is not good, loveable or healthy. She was inherently a danger to her family and must bury her dangerous uncontrollable emotions and isolate—isolate even from the very people who loved her. Listen to her shame in the Oscar winning song, “Let it Go!”The wind is howling like this swirling storm insideCouldn’t keep it in, heaven knows I triedDon’t let them in, don’t let them seeBe the good girl you always have to beConceal, don’t feel, don’t let them knowWell, now they know

Shamed Elsa, from a very young age, had a dark secret that had to be covered up and hidden. Her parents ordered her to carry her secret alone. She was not only different, there was something troubling in her—something dangerous. So she must hide, cover up, never be touched and never touch others. Tragic.When she came of age, Elsa’s gift was accidentally exposed to the entire Kingdom—to the horror of all (except Anna). Elsa’s greatest fears were realized. No matter what she did to cover up her shameful gift, or how hard she tried, she couldn’t control it.How painful was it for her to be labeled a dangerous monster that must be hunted down and destroyed. Her shame was confirmed and realized. There was something wrong with her. She did not belong to the regular community of people.Elsa is a portrait of shame. If the truth were known, Elsa was still only a shamed child who had no way to process her shame. In a self-destructive choice that initiates the dramatic movement of the movie, she leaves the Kingdom and intentionally isolates. That is what shamed people do, or want to do. She became the “Queen of a Kingdom of isolation.” In her mind, it was all right, because “the cold never bothered [her] anyway” –a clear statement of the self-talk and justification of shame.What makes her choice self-destructive? Her only hope in finding healing, and returning to joy and community was the love of her sister Anna.Having said that, all who are shamed, know that it is better to cause the hit to yourself before someone else hits you. It is far less painful. Self-inflicted wounds and critique cause less pain than the hurtful unthoughtful words from others—even unintended words from those who you expect should love you (Remember the parents?). The latter causes too much pain.Elsa’s shame robbed her of a normal childhood and almost a normal adulthood. She was the epitome of shame and shame-empowered paranoid loneliness.This is not the first time that Disney has played with the theme of shame. In fact, many of Disney movies major on the topic. What defeats shame? In Frozen, it is an act of sacrificial love. Fascinating really. A very Biblical principle.The Apostle John writes that that there is such a love, a “perfect” love that can defeat fear (1 John 4:18). It would be a short leap to also suggest that such a perfect love can also begin to diminish shame. Shame is very much related to fear.Biblically there is only one such perfect love—the love that Jesus has for shamed people like me, as I am, without requiring me to do anything to earn it. I am not required to change before such love is mine. It was manifested by Him 2000 years ago in an amazing very sacrificial act—the Cross.It does seem to me that when a person—who has known deep shame, those downward stares from haughty, judgmental condemning eyes (whether real, or not, whether truly from others or from our own mirror)—who by some miracle actually experience being loved for the person that they are now—without hesitancy or suggestions for improvement, there is a tectonic plate shift in their soul. Love seeps in. God loves the Elsas of the world. God’s love sets shamed Elsas free.