My Favorite Characters: Queen Elsa

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The previous three characters that I have covered, while interesting and supremely entertaining, had in common that they were all vulgar, violent, and not really considered to be "good people". They were all along the lines of a villain or an antihero. It's nice to change things up and discuss a character that parents can actually teach their kids to look up to and be inspired by.

Queen Elsa of Arendelle is one of the most popular and most divisive characters in pop culture today. She has legions of fans who are inspired by her but also a legion of detractors who hate her with a burning passion. Being the most popular character of one of the most popular movies ever made can definitely lead to a wide range of opinions. Personally, I love this character. I find her very interesting, her personality engaging, and her abilities breathtaking. But other people may not think the same way I do because of how overexposed Elsa and Frozen as a whole has been. And trust me, I'll discuss that topic later on. When I watch Frozen, I block out all of its hype and popularity as well as all of its hate and backlash, and view it simply as a movie. And when I do that, I view a great overall film where the characters are its best element. And in my opinion, no character in the movie is as well-developed as Elsa.

The production history of Frozen is very fascinating. In fact, the creation of Elsa's character is what held the studio back for the longest time. Walt Disney had wanted to make a film adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson's story "The Snow Queen" as soon as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs premiered. So yeah, Frozen is a movie that was technically in development hell for more than 75 years. The Disney team initially struggled to create a multi-dimensional, believable version of the story's eponymous character, and as a result, the project ended up being scrapped. The Snow Queen character is Anderson's original story is a cold, unfeeling antagonist that has very little motivation for her actions. When Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee began the production of Frozen sometime in 2011, they had the brilliant solution of making the Snow Queen the sister of the main character. And for the longest time during the film's production, Elsa was seen as the film's antagonist. Kind of a cross between Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty with Cruella De Ville from 101 Dalmatians. Hell, "Let it Go" was originally pitched as her VILLAIN song. In fact, the entire plot of the film needed to be changed after that song was completed because the filmmakers realized that a villainous character should not be singing all of these powerfully inspirational things when they're supposed to be hated by the audience. As a result, the version of Frozen and the version of Elsa that we know today were only created in about five months before the film premiered in November of 2013. And knowing how long it typically takes an animated movie to be created, the fact that Frozen ended up as good and as successful as it is should be viewed as an enormous accomplishment. It's a weird thought that the character of Elsa was initially going to be the heartless, uncaring villain of the film and "Let it Go" would have been seen in the same context as songs such as "Gaston", "Poor Unfortunate Souls", and "Be Prepared". You can think whatever you want about Frozen, but you have to admit that with the short amount of time the directors had and all the alterations that were made to the overall story, it's amazing that the film managed to achieve such a large amount of commercial and critical success.

Elsa is a character that is so very interesting to me. She was born with such amazing gifts, but has no idea of how to control them for the majority of her life, and fears herself as a result. To make a character interesting, they need to have some sort of inner conflict that motivates their actions. And Elsa's inner conflict throughout the events of Frozen intrigues me on such a high level. Here's a person whose parents essentially taught her to shield herself from the world for over a decade, had minimal contact with people for most of her life, and all of a sudden is thrust into a position of power after her parents' deaths. All the while, she has an unbreakable bond with her little sister, but cannot spend a large amount of time with her in fear of hurting her and others. Due to her not having much contact with other people, Elsa is very shy and introverted, and does not wish to call attention to herself. She wishes to live a normal and quiet life but obviously cannot because of her abilities. All of these elements combine to form such a likable and sympathetic character that I think is impossible not to root for.

What makes Elsa so special as a character is her variety and the arc that she goes through. At the beginning of the film, she's scared of who she is and has zero confidence in her abilities. After she accidently reveals her powers and is branded a monster, she escapes to the mountains and initiates one of the most famous or infamous scenes in movie history. Now, if you hate "Let it Go" and wish to never hear it again under any circumstances, I completely get it. The song was exploited as hell. There was once a time where you couldn't go a week without hearing it. But now that it is over four years old, allow me to retrospectively say that this song is amazing. Both in terms of its sound and its importance to the story its apart of and the character who sings it. Idina Menzel is a phenomenal singer. Love Frozen or hate it, you would be lying to yourself if you thought that Elsa has a terrible singing voice. Being a Broadway star for more than 20 years, Menzel knows all the octaves to hit and completely nails each song that she has in the movie. Elsa is a character that is both vulnerable and powerful at the same time, and Idina brings her to life with a compelling delivery in each line. During "Let it Go", Elsa is fed up. She's tired of hiding who she is. She's tired of being afraid of herself and wants to break free from the inhibitions that have held her back. "Let it Go" is her coming out and finally showing confidence and happiness in the person who she is. She is no longer bound by her fears of her abilities. She just lets them go and welcomes a new and improved confident version of herself. To me at least, this song and the sequence around it is the high point in Frozen. After all these years of sadness and torment, it's so amazing to see Elsa smile and sing about how she can finally look at herself and feel happy. Personally, I don't care that little kids sung this song until it practically made people's ears bleed. This song is not only amazing to listen to, but it's a powerful turning point in the arc of such an interesting and sympathetic character.

If I had to pick a character from any form of media who I am most similar to, I would have to choose Elsa. And I know what you're thinking. "Phillysports, you're an 18-year-old college freshman from Philly! Elsa's a 21-year-old queen from Norway with ice powers! There's nothing similar about you two at all!" And you do have me there. I obviously can't form ice out of my hands like Elsa can. What I'm saying is that I see a reflection of my own personality and values within her. Throughout most of my life, I've been shy and afraid to express myself in front of other people. There's always been a fear deep down inside myself that has not allowed me to be comfortable in my own skin. There was a point in my life where I actively avoided people and spent time by myself in fear of being disliked and judged by others. While I'm much more outgoing now, I still consider myself an introvert that is still a tad uncomfortable in social situations. And accepting this is what allows me to grow as a human being. Elsa is the exact same way. Throughout her entire life, she was afraid of showing herself to the world and did not like the person who she was. She was not confident in her abilities, nervous around other people, and did her best to avoid others in fear of hurting them. Through the help of her family and loved ones, she was able to become comfortable in her own skin and has much higher self-esteem at the end of the film. I love my family very much and value them above anything else in my life. Elsa feels the same way. She is willing to make the sacrifice of shutting herself off from the world for the sole purpose of protecting her sister, while longing to rekindle the close relationship that they once had. I sympathize with Elsa because her problems of social anxiety and her troubles to love herself is what I had to deal with for the majority of my life. And that's exactly why I think it's so inspirational to watch her get past her inner demons while not sacrificing the person who she is. In many respects, she's an inspiration to shy people everywhere. That's probably the main reason why I love and respect her so much.

Allow me to make some comments about the harm that is being done this character for a brief moment. If you were to type into YouTube "Frozen Elsa", a myriad of deceitful, disgusting videos will pop up that feature the character partaking in tons of weird things that are somehow categorized under "children's education". I hate these videos. I think that they are some of the worst stuff on the Internet that are only trying to make money while disguising themselves education for children. One of my favorite YouTubers, iDubbbzTV, has several videos rightfully calling those channels out for their terrible content. What pisses me off about these videos is that they do a complete disservice to the characters they are portraying. I watch clips of these videos and think to myself that they have no clue about the intricacies of the characters at all and only feature them because of their popularity. It's ironic that Elsa is a character who is exploited because of how recognizable she is, when in the film, she does her best to be modest and call as little attention to herself as possible. When a lot of people think of Queen Elsa, the first thing to usually comes to their mind is the ice chick who froze her kingdom and sang that one "annoying song". She is much more than that. You cannot fully understand what a character is all about until you sit back and watch their story. And you certainly can't understand everything about a character by seeing their face on a random piece of merchandise or somebody dressing as them for Halloween. One of these days, I'll understand the Internet's logic behind "POPULAR = BAD". But with the amount of hateful comments I see being made in the direction of this wonderful character, I don't think that day will come anytime soon.

Queen Elsa, despite her amazing ice powers, is a character that feels very real and very personal to me. Many Disney movie characters are enjoyable and incredibly likable, but many of them just seem like a product of their respective film and worlds. On the other hand, Elsa feels like any real person that you can go up to and talk to. She is one of the few characters of fiction that actually inspire me. And much of that is due to us having so much in common. Her mixture of vulnerability and strength make her so fascinating to watch. Whether she's creating a castle of ice or expressing her love for her little sister, Queen Elsa of Arendelle will always be a compelling and fantastic character in my eyes.

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