I’m betting you’ve seen the movie Frozen. If you haven’t, go rent it and watch. We’ll wait. Come back and let us know your thoughts.
I don’t know if what Disney did with that movie was intentional or not (I sort of think not), but they really created different heroines for different audiences. I’m guessing most of you saw it and thought of Anna as the heroine. She’s the one who goes on the quest to find her sister. She’s the one who, in the end, sacrifices all to save her sister. She risks everything to save Elsa and the kingdom of Arendell. Anna’s funny, brave, kind, but she’s also a bit impulsive and starved for love. We can relate to her vulnerability. Who among us hasn’t felt lonely at one time or another? We admire her because she embodies what it means to be a hero—sacrifice, risk, doing what is right even when no one else will.
But I bet if you have a young child, especially a daughter, she isn’t enamored of Anna. She loves Elsa. Princess Galen adores Elsa and even has an Elsa dress.
Why? Elsa is not the heroine of the story. In fact, Elsa seems to be the villain until relatively late in the movie when Hans’s real character is revealed. So why do kids love Elsa? Because she’s strong and powerful. No matter that her power is a fluke. That she’s actually kind of a coward because instead of facing her weakness (her powers) head on, she tries to hide them and runs away when the going gets tough. When PG and I play with her Anna and Elsa dolls, my daughter always wants to be Elsa. All her little friends want to be Elsa. No one wants to be Anna. She isn’t special. She doesn’t have the unique powers Elsa has.
And as an aside, I don’t think Disney expected Elsa to be the more popular one because they were not prepared for it. We were at Disneyworld right after the release of Frozen, and Elsa dolls were sold out. We got the last one in Epcot while we were there. A few months later, I decided to buy an Elsa doll for my daughter’s friend’s birthday. I couldn’t get one anywhere for under $150. Even now if you look on Amazon, Anna dolls are about $23 while Elsa dolls are $45. Scarcity increases desirability, but I think Disney would rather have the money from all of those Elsa doll sales than disappointed kids who will move on to the next big thing in a couple of months when doll production has caught up.
Creating heroines like Elsa is something authors have to watch out for. Sometimes we create a really strong character, but forget to make him or her heroic. It’s not enough for a character to be strong or brave or special, he or she has to use those talents in heroic ways. Incidentally, Disney is able to redeem Elsa at the end of the movie because we have a foundation for her heroism at the beginning of the movie. She was a good sister to Anna when they were children.
So who’s your favorite? Anna or Elsa? Why? One person who comments wins the DVD of Frozen (U.S. and Canada only). Winner announced Sunday (April 6).