First let me say, “I loved Frozen.”
Second let me say, "SPOILER ALERT!"
|CLICK TO BUY DVD OF FROZEN|
I honestly loved the IDEA of Frozen rather than the reality of it. I’ve got four daughters. The way they showed strength in young women, and love between sisters, almost chokes me up when I talk about it. I never came close to crying when I watched it but talking about it, I came pretty close.
I’ve seen the movie twice and, I’ve seen most of the scenes, especially the songs, many, many times on Youtube videos. Especially I have watched that beautiful video of Let it Go, about a hundred times. The song, the words, the voice, the spectacular animation, all just extraordinary.
But I came away from watching the movie feeling a little unsettled by it and it took me a while to figure out why.
My granddaughter has Elsa pajamas. I’ve given her Elsa stickers, she went as Elsa to at least one Halloween. She LOVES Elsa. And the dress up clothes, Elsa’s are bright and blue and drapey and glittery.
Anna’s…I can’t even remember.
But what’s unsettling about this is, Frozen is Anna’s story.
We’ve talked about ‘Who’s story is this” before, and so often the answer is split between hero and heroine. Because those are the main two characters. Well, in watching Frozen … up until that grand finale, huge production number of Let it Go, frankly, Elsa isn’t even hardly IN this movie.
|MARY...SHE THINKS SHE KNOWS EVERYTHING|
Seriously, she’s got the opening scene where she accidentally injures Anna in a way that is fatal without the magical intervention of some rock people. (Disney maybe hoping to sell a toy that looks like the love child or a troll doll and a pet rock?) So that’s the first time Elsa kills Anna. At least it’s an accident.
There’s a second scene where the troll/Pet Rock people magically save Anna. And then…that’s pretty much it. Elsa is gone.
There are maybe two or three scenes where Elsa is mostly just sitting on the opposite side of the door from Anna, but those scenes are all Anna.
The loneliness is Anna’s, the songs are Anna’s, the evil villain aims at Anna, the good guy saves and guides Anna.
I mean c’mon! Elsa doesn’t really reappear until like the last half hour. She and Anna share a scene, again, largely Anna’s scene, then Elsa goes off in a raging temper, sets off eternal winter (these aren’t spoilers I hope) and has her big splashy song.
At which point we go BACK to Anna trying to save the Kingdom, save Elsa, find true love, on and on and on. This is Anna’s story.
|PROOF THAT OTHER CHARACTERS GOT SOME NOTICE|
Then (look away if you haven’t seen this movie and intend to) Anna finds Elsa who injures her fatally AGAIN and this time deliberately, though not REALLY deliberately, but sort of deliberately…and then in the end….Anna is freezing to death, only to be saved by true loves kiss and Anna turns her back on true love to SAVE ELSA.
Anna gives her LIFE. She turns away from True Love, then Anna throws herself between Elsa and a descending sword. Anna gives her life TWICE.
In the end, Elsa finally sees what’s all gone wrong and saves Anna but not by choice, just by good luck that a hug…given out of a heart full of true love…sisterly love (this is where I choke up) saves Anna.
But seriously, Elsa was just hugging her good-bye, that it saved Anna was as accidental as that original deadly injury.
Anna is killed twice by her sister and gives her life twice for her sister. THIS IS ANNA’S STORY.
Now the Disney movie is wonderful and I read that it’s the highest grossing animated movie of all time. So who can argue with that?
But in our books, so often we want secondary characters to be fun, they’re the quirkiest, they’re the source of comedy or angst, they draw the hero or heroine out and awaken the personalities of the main characters. And sometimes these oh—so—fun—to--write characters can threaten to take over a story.
When that happens we lose our vision of the story we want to tell. It’s a seat-of-the-pants risk for sure but plotters can let this over take a story, too.
The plain fact is, at the end of Frozen you are going to remember two things, maybe only one. One absolutely for sure, is that spectacular song and Elsa transforming herself into an ice blue dress and building a magnificent ice castle. And maybe you’ll remember Elsa catching hold of her frozen-to-death sister and weeping and hugging her and SHAZAAM Anna melts and comes back to life.
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Those two scenes are NOT the story of Frozen. Now imagine if your first thought when you imagined Gone with the Wind was Melanie Wilkes dying (yet another spoiler, yikes!) That is NOT the story of GWTW. And no one does think of her first--because she didn't take over the story!
If you let a secondary character take over your book then you are not telling your story. If you create characters you like that much, then give them their own book, by all means. But the main story needs to be front and center. If it’s not, you risk diluting a reader’s experience and maybe they won’t remember your book at all, at least not the parts you wanted them to remember.
Now, let’s talk about secondary characters you have read about or written about. Who is your favorite? Have you ever seen a secondary character become so important or interesting they take over the story?
And what do you think of my take on Frozen. Am I wrong? Is this Elsa’s story? Do you think I’m right or wrong?
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PS that's my Grandson in his Halloween Olaf costume from two years ago.