An Editorial — Once Upon a Time: Frozen

So as I mentioned in a previous post, I recently finished catching upon a season four of Once Upon a Time. This half of the season was Frozen-themed, which I was pretty excited about. I really loved Frozen, and I couldn’t wait to see it transition into the plot of OUAT.

Overall, I was happy with how they rewrote and recast the characters and how they worked them into all of the non-linear craziness of Storybrooke, but it couldn’t stay as topical fan service forever. The slightly-sociopathic Ice Queen made her entrance and started ruining life for the inhabitants of Storybrooke, and once again it was up to Emma and her band of misfit mythic personas to save the day.

But there was something that happened towards the end of this half of the season that kind of bugged me; it was the episode “Shattered Sight.” I’ll limit the spoilers here, but it’ll suffice to say that Emma was having to deal with controlling her growing magical powers (Sound familiar?), and Elsa gave her this big pep talk about how she gained control of her own powers. The gist of what Elsa tells her is that while, yes, her sisterly love for Anna helped her learn to control it, that wasn’t all; she also needed to love herself.

Wait, what?

That’s what I said anyway when it got to that point. What? Did these people pay attention to the original source material at all? Or did they just glean the characters and basic vibes and move on from there? I’ve had this conversation with two different people now — my mom and my cousin, both of whom watch the show — and I just keep coming back to the same idea.

I loved the movie Frozen for a ton of reasons, but most of all because it’s got some great, deep themes running through it. I’m sure you’ve heard people laud it for its treatment of romantic love (“You can’t marry a man you’ve just met.”), and it deserves those praises. But it does something else; so many of the stories we see in film, television, and books do nothing but preach feel-good platitudes about the self. Listen to your heart. Follow your dreams. Love yourself. And while I think that these things can contain kernels of truth — sure, do things that you want to do, try your hardest to achieve what you want, don’t self-destruct — they are more often than not taken past the realm of being beneficial. When all you hear are these kinds of things, it’s not that hard to become self-obsessed. It’s not that hard to hurt the people around you because you were just listening to your heart. It’s not that hard to cast people aside because they can’t keep up with you as you follow your dreams. It’s not that hard to neglect those around you because you’re too busy loving yourself.

But I’ll get off my pedestal. Whether you agree with me or not on my assessment of these themes, you have to admit that these are not present in the movie Frozen. Instead, we have something that I think is a lot more important. What enabled Elsa to control her powers? What saved Anna’s life? What saved their relationship? It was their reconciliation. And this reconciliation only came about through Elsa looking outside of herself, not inside, and by seeing that all these years she had neglected Anna. She had locked herself up in her room under the guise of protecting Anna, but she was really trying to protect herself. You could say that it was too much self love at the core of her actions. She’d hurt Anna, and she needed to change that. This realization and the actions that followed — ie: true (albeit sisterly) love’s kiss — were what enabled her to control her power and save her sister.

I was upset that the writers of Once Upon a Time decided to move away from those ideas, though. They did a great job staying true to the characters, the feel, and the look of the movie, but they rather failed at echoing its strongest point. Now, don’t get me wrong; overall, I did like this season. I did feel like they’d missed out by nixing the real themes from Frozen, though, and going with the banalities they usually use. I really want to like this show, and sometimes I do; sometimes, however, I just can’t. They would do so much to better this show by being less touchy-feely-you’re-perfect-so-just-be-you-ish and instead write good stories with well thought out plots with hard-hitting themes. And, you know, a little more Captain Hook wouldn’t hurt either.


Molly Buffington curates this blog mainly to showcase her art, but occasionally writes editorials about the other passions in her life, including but not limited to television, movies, books, and history. When not typing away at a screen, she enjoys good stories, good essays, good friends, and good studying sessions. Comments and discussion are always encouraged.

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