Have you seen this song “Life’s Too Short” which was created but then cut from the movie Frozen? There were many paths considered for the plot of the movie Frozen. This was cut as the story was developed. Please watch it and read on.
I think I would have really liked Frozen if they had gone in this direction. If you follow this blog, you know I’m not a fan of the movie. Here are the reasons why “Life’s Too Short,” a song full of deep and complex ideas and interpersonal dynamism, made such an impression on me.
Reason 1: I think this song demonstrates what strained sibling relationships are like.
Good movies/stories show insight into relationships no matter how fantastic the setting. Poor story telling either doesn’t go deep enough or makes caricatures of those relationships and the people in them. Is it realistic that Anna and Elsa should not know each other at all, spend six, eight or ten years separated by a door, unwilling to play, even after their parents who separated them died? Is it realistic that Elsa should be crowned queen after being locked up in this way?
It is more realistic that they would know each other, have some relationship, albeit is a very strained one. There is the desire for a relationship but an inability to quite connect because they don’t fully know or accept a part of who Elsa is. So as it is, is it really a happy ending the way the movie goes? They still don’t know each other but they’ve finally become aware and acted on their love for each other. Then what? I think the next step would more likely be what this song portrays. Just as I dislike movies where we spend one and half to two hours waiting for people to date, I disliked this movie. The real drama happens when relationships start.
Reason 2: If a person decides to take the “screw you, this is my who I really am” approach to things, there are some very real and painful consequences for everyone involved.
Elsa left her responsibilities as queen on her coronation day. In the song she will be only happy if Anna joins her in her new life. She won’t back to a life of hiding. It’s Anna’s mistake to think the only way Elsa can return is through hiding (wearing the gloves) but it’s the mistake of Elsa to think the only other alternative is to leave entirely. This dichotomy hurts people. The interaction reveals assumptions and expectations. Elsa’s choices and Anna’s ultimatum (which is really just a lack of understanding) damages relationships.
Number 3: Good stories commit to who their characters are, for good and ill and allow consequences to their faults/virtues to develop.
If we consider the musical Into the Woods (I have not seen the film, I am referencing the musical), the Baker’s Wife is basically a good person, but she has utilitarian beliefs (willing to lie to get the cow because have a child is a greater good than a boy’s friendship with a cow). That utilitarian belief leads to her dismissal of her unfaithfulness towards her husband with the prince as just a moment in the woods. There are consequences for her perspective.
Frozen does not commit to its characters. Elsa let’s go of all she has known, she’s a liberated person and there are no personal consequences that move the viewer. Personally, I believe Disney did not want to make her a real villain, even for a little while (reconciliation could still be the ending, sprinkling in conversion), because of the marketing opportunities to having two new princesses.
With this song, Elsa becomes the villain because she prioritizes her freedom over everything else, without regard to what or who she left behind. It’s implicit in the story as it is, but you have to search for it. By and large, she is treated as good and and as a victim without negative emotional weight to her choices.
Good stories have complicated people, good and bad, which is like life. This plot direction would have made the favorite song, “Let it Go,” a deeply complex song, sung from Elsa’s perspective but ultimately shown to have disastrous consequences when seen from a broader perspective. “Life’s Too Short” causes us to feel more for Anna when juxtaposed against Elsa, although it still succeeds in making us feel the hurt of both sisters. It makes that goal of the movie more successful by casting a little more judgment on their choices.
Number 5: Lastly, from where do we take our identity?
Who am I? Does my value come from my athleticism? What happens if I get injured, lose a leg, or my ability to run because of a heart condition? Who am I then? Sometimes when a person has been told to hide who they are for so long, they ruminate on that feature and it becomes a defining characteristic. I’m an artist! I’m a lesbian! I’m a Democrat! But these are features of our personality and parts of our life, very important features and important parts, but parts nonetheless. Our wholeness and value come from something permanent and lasting, from being made in the image of God as human beings. Seen in this framework, we can negotiate the rest, make it work, see where it fits.
Have you ever seen the stop animation film, Santa Claus is Coming to Town? You can still have the misunderstood villain by having a real villain who experiences a conversion. Sure, it’s simplified here, but the concept is important. It’s a concept mostly lost in modern storytelling.
I’m not saying Elsa should put on the gloves. But a resolution of this crisis might show that she repents of her choices to abandon everything, return and work through both her feelings of rejection (while others learn to accept who she is) and also learn to use and adapt her powers to her frame of life. It has less an “us against them” feeling and more “us against ourselves” which is something the greatest dramas in history portray.