In case you’re one of the eight people who haven’t seen Disney’s latest cash cow, Frozen, be warned that this post contains spoilers.
Yeah, yeah, I know, it’s another post about Frozen, but hear me out. I want to talk about an angle that I don’t think has gotten enough attention in the film: its portrayal of extroversion and introversion.
There have been some thought-provoking articles written on this topic, praising the film’s accurate depiction of introverts through Elsa and extroverts through Anna. Anna loves people, sings an entire song about open doors being wonderful, and clearly draws her energy from crowds. Elsa doesn’t seem to need that people-energy in the same way, and her happiest moment arises when she can just be alone and be herself. (And now you have “Let It Go” stuck in your head. You’re welcome.)
While I agree that it’s nice to see an introverted character who’s not portrayed as psychotic, depressed, or antisocial, there was one moment in the film that stuck in my craw.
It comes at the very end. Elsa has returned to Arendelle and fixed the “everybody’s going to freeze to death” problem, and she’s found acceptance from her people. Aww, isn’t that sweet? Then Anna says something about how nice it is to have the castle gates open so everybody can come in and hang out with them.
And then Elsa says, “We are never closing them again.”
Wait, what? No. That’s the worst idea in the world. A never-ending house party sounds like my idea of hell – guests going through every room, moving all your stuff, wanting to talk to you because you’re the freaking queen of the country and everybody’s going to have some input on how you should do your job…what was Elsa thinking when she said that?
She wasn’t thinking like an introvert, that’s for sure. I doubt Disney intended this, but the ending of Frozen implies that Elsa has learned the enlightened ways of extroversion, and she’s going to be a happy, social, normal person like her sister from now on.
I was rooting for her to stay in that awesome, private ice palace in the mountains. She seemed so happy there. Yes, it’s wonderful that the rest of the people accept her and her powers now, but can’t she at least keep the icy fortress as a vacation home? What’s she supposed to do when her excitement about finding herself wears off and she feels like closing the castle gates again for a little while?
I think that decision would play out something like this: Elsa decides to close the gates. Anna protests, because she likes the never-ending party and the visitors wandering around and the countless conversations and making small talk with everybody and just how many times can you comment on the weather and…
Sorry, I had to go hyperventilate into a bag for a second. I’m okay now.
Anyway, I imagine Anna disagrees and wants to keep the gates open. Elsa, being in charge, overrules her and takes a week off to stay inside by herself. Anna accuses Elsa of retreating back into her unhealthy habits from before. Elsa feels hurt, but then she starts to question her own feelings. Is her sister right? Is it normal to want to shut out the world? Is this the first step on a slippery slope back to hermit town? Maybe she should just suck it up and put on a happy face and try to be sociable, like a normal person.
If you’re an introvert, you’ve probably gone through this at some point. I was fortunate enough to be raised by parents who respected introversion and let me have my space, but many people aren’t so lucky. They’re constantly told that they should spend more time with friends and get to know more people and go explore interesting places in their area. They feel guilty whenever they turn down a party invitation or don’t go to a once-in-a-lifetime event. Unless they learn to accept their introversion and everything that comes with it, they might spend their entire lives under a cloud of pressure to be socially “normal.”
It doesn’t surprise me that Frozen implies extroversion is healthier than introversion. That’s a common view in the real world. Does it ruin the movie? Of course not. Frozen is an excellent film, and I loved watching it. I’m going to buy it for my future kids so they can enjoy the story and sing all of the songs until my ears bleed.
But I do think it deserves mention that, while it shows a solid understanding of introverts, it still succumbed to the pressure to provide a “happy” ending, where everybody learns to be outgoing. That’s not the reality of the introverted world, and for those of you who felt as bothered by it as I did, it’s okay.
It’s okay if you thought keeping the castle gates open was a terrible idea. It’s okay if you’d rather go live in the isolated ice palace. It’s okay if you would rather read than go to a party. It’s okay, and you are okay, and don’t you let social pressure tell you otherwise.
As far as that line that stirred up all these emotions – it’s not that big a deal. I guess I’ll just have to…let it go.