The heir and the spare

As if the world needed another review of Frozen, Hannah analyzes the tragically underappreciated character of Anna.

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Hannah Beckmann, Staff Reporter

Last November, when I was sitting in a theatre crowded with small children, I was expecting to see yet another Disney princess movie. Nothing special, nothing original. Just another Disney movie. But two hours later, as the credits rolled across the screen, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I had been wrong. There was something about “Frozen” that made it so much more than its predecessors.

Perhaps it was the presence throughout the script that was so wonderfully Disney, or the catchy songs, the brilliantly written dialogue, the visually stunning animation. Or perhaps, the success of “Frozen” lies simply in its deeply personal and relatable characters. When “Frozen” creators came out by saying they had modelled their main character, Elsa, to be a representation of anxiety and depression, the world marvelled at such a progressive and truly important character. Long gone are the practically perfect princesses of the past, and it looks like the beautifully flawed princesses are here to stay.

But while the world celebrated the progressiveness of Elsa, the movie’s protagonist slipped into near oblivion. That’s not to say that people didn’t like Anna, but just as in the movie, she has been overshadowed by her older sister.

In an early draft of the movie, “Frozen” creators say that the story was more about “the heir and the spare,” with Elsa being born to inherit the throne and become queen of Arendelle,  and Anna being left as the overlooked, not needed spare. In fact, Anna’s introductory song was originally going to be titled “More than just the spare,” which can be found on the deluxe soundtrack of the movie.  This idea was eventually scrapped, but the original themes still stick.

As the younger sibling in a royal family, Anna has spent her entire life in the shadow of her older sister. Add to that the pain of having that same sister shut her out for thirteen years of her life without any knowledge as to why, and you begin to understand just how deep Anna’s dilemma goes.  Anna was left alone for every important moment during her childhood, including her parents’ funeral. An orphan at just 15, she had no one to turn to- certainly not Elsa, who wouldn’t even open the door for a comforting hug.

When the main narrative of the movie begins, Anna is introduced as a young woman desperate for love. During my first viewing of the movie, I saw this as nothing more than a reflection of her naive and rather silly nature. But the more I thought about it, I realized that the truth stretched much deeper than my original analysis had understood. Of course Anna would be desperate for love, because she had received very little of it for so long. That is why she so readily agrees to marry a man she just met. That is why she is so desperate for Elsa’s approval. And that is why Hans’ betrayal is so much worse than a bad break up.

Hans saying that he never actually loved her must have been devastating for Anna. It was a reminder of all the things that she had tried to forget and deny for 13 years. Hans said that there was no one who loved her, and I think that Anna believed, if just for a moment, that he was telling the truth. And then, as if just to rub salt into a wound, Hans continues to say that “as heir, Elsa was preferable.” Once again, Anna finds herself in an all too familiar situation- not only does she believe herself to be unloved, she believes herself to be second best.

I believe that those two thoughts have been a significant recurring theme throughout Anna’s life, and maybe even past the movie. Elsa’s character is tragic and deserving of our sympathies. Her struggles with anxiety and depression are a story that a lot of people can relate to and find comfort in. But it is a disservice to the creators of the movie to ignore another well- rounded and multi-faceted character.

The success of “Frozen” is due to its amazing characters, more so than anything else. The songs were good, and the animation was truly stunning, but it was these two new Disney princesses that crossed over from the restraints of being strictly fictional and more than merely perfect. It was two princesses that made little girls and teenagers and parents feel like there was someone out there that related to their own struggles, no matter how small. It was due to Anna and Elsa that “Frozen” took off, and I truly hope it keeps going.