How 'Frozen' Teaches Us the Real Meaning of Sisterhood


There's a line in The Parent Trap when the identical pre-teens who share a birthday and a set of parents realize their connection is deeper than friendship. Hallie says, "You and I are, like, sisters," to which Annie replies, "Hallie ... we're like twins!"

I hear that duh-moment in my head every time someone lauds Frozen by saying, "It's, like, about women." I feel like shouting, "It's about sisters!"

Frozen has melted the hearts of millions of people around the world, grossing more than $1 billion in the global box office and earning its place as one of Disney's most successful animated films of all time. It also — unsurprisingly — just won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature. That's partly thanks to a killer soundtrack, brilliant animation and a touching storyline. But the No. 1 reason behind this movie's success is its depiction of sisterhood.

Image Credit: 'Frozen' Facebook

In fact, all three of Disney's most commercially successful films — Finding Nemo, The Lion King and now Frozen — have one major theme in common: They're about family, not romance. That's Disney's magic formula for success. But whereas those first two films focus mainly on the father-son relationship, Frozen is the first to really delve into sisterhood.

Your sister is your partner in crime, your most ruthless critic and your biggest fan.

Most anyone with a sister will recognize themselves immediately in Frozen, and Anna and Elsa's relationship as children is endearing to watch. Anna — the excitable and eager younger sister — jumps on her older sister Elsa, trying to wake her up to play. Elsa, the protective older sister, tries to impress Anna with her talents, while Anna looks up to everything she does.

Image Credit: Disney Wikia

Years later, at Elsa's coronation ball, even though the two sisters haven't interacted in close to a decade, they giggle, they breathe in the scent of chocolate together and Elsa mischievously pushes Anna to dance with the pernicious Duke of Weselton. They're sisters, which never changes. 

Depicting a sisterly relationship has made the film so successful because it fills a niche. And this is a relationship like no other. Siblings experience every stage of your life alongside you; they get dragged down by your failures and elevated sky-high by your triumphs. Your sister is your partner in crime, your most ruthless critic and your biggest fan. You can be brutally honest with a sister in a way you can't with a friend. (Notably, the two refer to each other as "my sister," and not by name, throughout much of the film.)

Anna tells Elsa the hard truth: "All you know is to shut people out." But she also never stops supporting Elsa. When Elsa's powers are first unveiled, she flees amid shouts of "sorcery!" and "monster!" from recoiling townspeople, but Anna's face expresses only concern as she runs after her sister. Anna defends Elsa in that moment ("It was an accident, she was scared"), and continues to do so throughout the movie. 

Image Credit: 'Frozen' Facebook

After a lifetime of Elsa being told to conceal her powers, of being spooked into fear, Anna is the first person who tells her sister that her powers are beautiful — that Elsa is good — when she walks into the ice palace: "This place is amazing." They're the exact same words she said as a child, when Elsa would turn empty rooms in the palace into snow globes.

Audiences were quick to jump on Disney's subversive plot that undermines the traditional concept of "true love." Because the act of true love that saves Anna isn't a kiss — a passive event from a dominant male that happens to her — but rather it's the act of sacrificing herself for her sister. What's more, it's Anna's own action that saves herself, and not the deed of someone else. 

Image Credit: Disney Wikia

As with many sisters, it takes both Anna and Elsa a while to realize the power of their relationship. Toward the end of the film, Olaf the snowman says to Anna, "You really don't know anything about love, do you?" 

It's apt that Olaf asks this question, as he's the symbol of Anna and Elsa's relationship. The sisters build the snowman together in an early scene as young children and discovering each other's friendship; when Elsa hits Anna with her power, Olaf crumbles. Building a snowman together becomes the refrain of their relationship, but Olaf doesn't reappear until Anna journeys to find Elsa. Fittingly, at the end of the movie, when Anna and Elsa have reunited, Olaf is given his own personal (and permanent) flurry.

In the words of Olaf the snowman, the symbol of that sisterly true love: "Some people are worth melting for."