Frozen and Mental Illness

I’m aware it’s been a couple years since this movie came out but I feel like I’m explaining this to too many people and it would just be easier to have an article I can give them.

Okay, so Frozen! I love that movie and it is wonderful and I sing along to the songs shamelessly when I’m alone in the car or in my bedroom. It’s one of those movies that has characters that I can genuinely relate to, even if the ending is a cheesy bandaid solution.

But here’s why I love Frozen, really: Mental Health Representation.

I know, I’m a crazy SJW who sees social issues in everything. But wouldn’t you rather I saw with a critical eye and celebrated people doing it right instead of only seeing offensive things everywhere?

So the obvious case would be Elsa: Anxious, depressed, and hiding her condition from everyone around her. She’s prone to lash out when she’s stressed and she’s afraid of being afraid. This one kind of hits you in the face when you watch the movie.

But then there’s Anna, and this is the part I’ve had to explain to people: Anna has Alopecia Areata.

There are some diseases and disorders that may pre-exist but will only manifest under stress. Alopecia Areata is one of those disorders. In fact, I have it. Often, you’ll lose hair in spots and sometimes it won’t grow back at all and sometimes it’ll grow back white. Sometimes that white hair falls out and it grows back red and sometimes it just stays white.

When Anna got hit by her sister’s powers, her sister’s anxiety, her hair turned white. When her sister hurt her again, pushing her away because of the anxiety, Anna’s hair started turning white again.

So when my grandparents asked me about the white streak in my hair, I had a perfect example to point to. There’s Disney Princesses with the anxiety and alopecia that I deal with every day. And they’re paving the way for people to understand me and others like me.

That’s why we try to include all kinds of different people in our books and movies: it gives folks a reference point. Everyone can pretty much understand the neurotypical, cisgender, able-bodied, straight, white folks, especially men, because all the stories told in our culture are about them. Everyone else is dehumanized or objectified because we don’t have their stories being told.

And I know Frozen is another story about some straight, cisgender, thin white girls, but they are both dealing with a condition that’s stigmatized and othered, and being able to say “I’m like Queen Elsa” could be so important to an anxious little girl who’s never felt safe expressing herself.

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