For part 1, click here
As you might expect, I feel I would be remiss in moving forward with my analysis of “Frozen” without first talking about how Jesus Christ fits into the history of the scapegoat mechanism.
According to René Girard, Christ both reveals and rejects the scapegoat mechanism by making Himself the scapegoat, the victim who dies for the community. He thus makes His story the first to be told from the perspective of the victim, who is vindicated against the guilty persecutors — as opposed to the ancient myths that were told from the persecutors’ perspectives and used either to justify or to conceal the murder of the scapegoat. So “Frozen” is in a certain sense automatically a Christian tale, in that it is predicated on the rescue and vindication of the scapegoat character.
The people of Arendelle do make Elsa (Idina Menzel) a scapegoat in the traditional sense…they want to kill her. But the scapegoat mechanism can occur in mitigated forms as well, and what the people of our society can relate to in Elsa’s situation is a particular kind of frustration: She cannot count on her people to help her deal with the reality of her strange (and not freely chosen) powers constructively.
So we can understand why she chooses to run away, seclude herself in the mountains, and be alone…why she decides it’s time to stop trying to conceal her powers and just “let it go” (the polar extreme of the suppression she has been forced to endure her whole life).
But to the rescue come Elsa’s sister, Anna (Kristen Bell), and her newly met companion, Kristoff the iceman (Jonathan Groff). With that in mind, let’s play a little game. Tell me I’m reading too much into this if you like, but the names intrigue me.
We should consider first and most obviously the name Kristoff, a Germanic variant of Christopher, which means “Christ-bearer.” The name makes sense — Kristoff is more or less brought into this situation from without, and he bears the weight of Anna’s (and, by extension, Elsa’s) burden on his shoulders.
Which brings us to Anna herself. St. Anna (also known as Anne or Hannah) is very important to us Catholics, because she is the mother of the Blesséd Virgin Mary. Among her various traditionally recognized intercessory roles is that of protection from storms, which is interesting given Princess Anna’s quest to save Arendelle from the “eternal winter.”
The name itself means “grace,” which is really what Christianity is all about. Throughout His earthly life, and in His ultimate act of self-sacrifice on the Cross, Jesus Christ touched people in their infirmities, in their weaknesses, in their pain; He was not afraid to enter into their loneliness and isolation, nor did he use the “marks” of the scapegoat as an excuse to ostracize or kill people…
According to Luke’s Gospel, Mary undertook a long and arduous journey to visit Elizabeth immediately after learning from the archangel Gabriel that both she and Elizabeth were with child. Tradition recognizes this as one of the first acts of evangelization; in a certain sense, Elizabeth stands in for all of us, for the whole human race awaiting salvation…awaiting the Mother and Son who will spell the end of the serpent’s reign (cf. Genesis 3:15). The great spiritual writer Thomas Merton spoke of it as the fulfillment not only of the words of all the Prophets, but also of all the poets (and, I would add, of all fairy tales).
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”
(Luke 1: 41-45)
Not incidentally, Elizabeth conceived her child late in life. She is therefore also known for having been set free from the stigma of barrenness.
Elsa is like Elizabeth in both respects. She desires to be set free from the stigma that has kept her prisoner for most of her life; and, whether she knows it or not, she awaits the intervention of grace (remember Anna?) and of Christ-like (remember Kristoff, the “Christ-Bearer”?) love. What this looks like in the context of “Frozen” is something I mean to turn to in the next post (which will probably come after Thanksgiving).
Movie stills obtained through a Google image search; remaining images from Wikipedia