Gospel Glimpses in Frozen

Spoiler alert: You’re about to learn a lot about Frozen. If you’d rather learn about this movie by watching it, read no further.

Last week, Addie and I went to see the sing-along version of Frozen. Like most American girls in her age demographic, Addie loves this movie. During playtimes, she now insists that I act like Anna, the film’s protagonist (Addie plays the part of Elsa, Anna’s sister. The game basically consists of Addie freezing me over and over again).  

I too enjoyed this movie. It’s a throwback to Disney’s glory days (i.e. the 90’s); a serious and compelling story with great songs generously sprinkled throughout. But Frozen possesses an additional attribute; this film simply bursts with gospel truth.

I can see how stories are shaping Addie’s imagination and affections. Thus, as we watch movies I’m trying to illustrate truths about Jesus. Frozen makes this easy, since it’s replete with the imagery of the gospel. Many have already noted this, and the good folks at Mockingbird have provided a thorough theological analysis of the film. Rather than rehash the plot, I’d like to highlight a few truths the movie underscores (if you want to a summary of the story, go read the aforementioned analysis). Here are four things you can point out to your kids:

1. Cancerous Sin

Elsa is born with an innate power to create snow and ice. As she grows, so does the power. It damages those around her, and it alienates her from other people. When she finally lets go and surrenders to the power, it drives her into complete isolation, and the kingdom of Arendelle into perpetual winter. Elsa’s curse underscores that sin is an innate problem that both wreaks havoc on others and alienates us from them.  

2. Powerless Law

Elsa does everything she can to control her power. Her parents isolate her from an early age. She wears gloves to prevent the power from flowing through her hands. And she incessantly repeats a mantra to herself: “conceal, don’t feel.” Yet whenever she feels fear or anxiety, the magic overtakes her, and her powers manifest. After making a public spectacle of herself, Elsa despairs of subduing the power, and yields to it. Elsa’s efforts underscore our complete inability to conquer sin through law observance. Apart from the grace of God, we will never have the willpower or discipline or positive self-talk (or even meticulous parental oversight!) to be freed from sin.   

3. Cross-Shaped Love

The climax of this movie just wrecked me. Elsa unintentionally curses Anna with a frozen heart; a terrible condition which can only be cured by an act of “true love.” As viewers, we’re led to believe this act will be performed by Kristoff, Anna’s love interest. In the movie’s climactic scene, Anna is on the verge of freezing forever. Kristoff runs towards her, ready to offer true love’s kiss. Anna looks at her savior coming towards her. But out of the corner of her eye, Anna sees that her sister’s life is in peril. Hans (the movie’s villain) stands over Elsa with sword drawn. He’s intent on killing her, ending the curse of winter and usurping the throne of Arendelle. Rather than kiss her one true love and be liberated from the curse, Anna runs to the aid of her sister. She throws herself in front of Hans’ descending sword. As she does, the curse takes its full effect. Anna freezes completely and Hans’ descending sword shatters on her statuesque frame. Elsa’s life is spared.  

So many children’s stories proclaim the salvific power of romantic love. A dashing prince is what’s needed to break the curse, or undo what’s wrong, or defeat evil, or ensure one’s happily ever after. If Addie wants her own prince charming, that’s fine by me. But the only man who can provide her with salvific love is the Prince of Peace. The romance provided by Addie’s hypothetical future husband isn’t going to save her from anything. Moreover, said hypothetical husband will inevitably make a lousy Jesus. I don’t want Addie to be misled, or form a false god in her heart. That’s one of the myriad reasons this scene is so beautiful. As I watched it, Jesus’ words in John 15 echoed in my mind:

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

Anna’s choice to lay down her life for Elsa is the ultimate demonstration of true love. And this love ultimately liberates Anna, Elsa and the kingdom (and creation!) from the fearsome curse of winter. Anna’s action is thoroughly cross-shaped.

4. Transformative Grace

In an effort to protect others from her power, Elsa isolates herself from everyone, including Anna. At first, Anna doesn’t understand Elsa’s anti-social behavior. Yet she pursues her sister indefatigably. She comes to Elsa’s door each morning and asks her to play. Elsa always refuses. Yet Anna always comes back. Once Elsa manifests her powers in public, the people of Arendelle deem her a great danger. But Anna continues to pursue Elsa, even after being cursed by the power. Anna dies to save her sister’s life, even though her sister is really a stranger. It is this relentless, undeserved, and unexpected love that frees Elsa from her fear of the power, and enables her to live in right relationship with others. Jesus chooses to love unloveable strangers like us. We can resist him, run from him, spurn him and refuse him. But his love will ultimately drive out our fear, and liberate us from sin.  

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:18-19)