2020 has been filled with a plethora of the unknown. The unknown that terrifies. The unknown that does not discriminate. But, also the unknown that sometimes does. The unknown that creates fear: a regenerating and combative virus in society. The unknown that can manipulate one into feeling they no longer even know themselves.
Thirty nine days before the ball dropped in New York City, Frozen II was released in theatres, grossing, to this day, 1.5 billion dollars. From the outset, Elsa hears an unknown voice calling to her. The voice scares her, for she does not understand who is calling to her and why. To make matters worse, Arendelle experiences an uncontrollable disaster – one that precipitates a mass evacuation. The people of Arendelle are forced into this situation, rather uncomfortably and unwillingly. At the core of the conflict is the tumultuous past of the Arendelle people and the Northuldra tribe: a relationship laden with discrimation, fear, power and prejudice. Ultimately, the fate of these lands, of these people, and of the world which they all inhabit, is placed in the hands of young adults, who some may even consider teenageers. It is up to them to save their world.
The parallels between the conflicts of Frozen II and the events of 2020 are striking. From the songs to the characters, similarities can be found between the Disney film and the real world. With the inclusion of main protagonists Elsa, Anna and Kristoff who represent members of Gen Z, as well as the devastating wars ignited on the basis of discriminatory prejudices and violence, Frozen II’s storyline reflects the timeline of 2020 thus far; it specifically emulates the inflamed racial and political climate of America, the overwhelming effects of Covid-19 and the impulsiveness and unsureness of Gen-Z.
It is very clear that America faces major internal issues along racial and political lines. In response to the killing of George Floyd on May 25th, Black Lives Matter marches have erupted across the country and continue to this day. The call for justice in the United States has never been as strong as it is today. The Black community, standing alongside members of almost every community, is demanding equality and fairness in all aspects of society, whether it be during a potential arrest or a job application. This moral cause is most certainly not “new” or “modern,” but has been cultivated and chased for centuries, even from the earliest days of America and the cruel and inhumane system of slavery. It is a topic that is consistently overshadowed and swept under the rug.
I would like to paint you a picture of racism in America. Imagine America as an enchanted forest, covered in mist and fog and confusion. Very few are allowed in through its borders, but, once you are in, you are stuck in your position within society. There are two main groups that live within this old and enchanted forest: the Arendelle people and the Northuldra tribe. Consider that the Arendelle’s are white, wealthy and more entitled than their Northuldra counterparts. Furthermore, presume that the Northuldra people are black, poor and on the receiving end of any blame for instances of conflict or disarray. Little does everyone know, the tribal war and distrust that has long existed between these two groups is a result of a cold blooded murder. Arendelle’s King Runeard killed the Northuldra leader when he was on his knees, unarmed and defenseless; Runeard justified his hateful act, citing that their “magic ma[de] [the] people feel too powerful, too entitled… [and] ma[de] them think they [could] defy the will of a king” (King Runeard, Frozen II). The Arendelles committed an atrocity and then blamed the Northuldra tribe for declaring war in the first place. Blood was shed, the truth was ignored, and the conflict persisted. Sound familiar?
A wise troll king named Pabbie once said, “a wrong demands to be righted.. [and] the truth must be found. Without it, I see no future” (Pabbie, Frozen II). Pabbie’s words speak to the racial issues that have heightened in America this year. With unwarranted police brutality and murders, similar in nature to King Runeard’s actions, finally under the microscope, it is impossible to ignore the cries and pleas of the Black community. Although these realities are being plastered on the news and on every social media outlet, there are still those who do not recognize their privilege or admit to the existence of these injustices. Young Anna represents this ignorance in the film. She cannot understand “why [the Northuldra] attack[ed]” and “why they [would] attack someone who [gave] them a gift,” making reference to the Arendelle-built water dam (Young Anna, Frozen II). Many Americans point to a variety of things that our government supplies to the marginalized, minority groups of society as “gifts.” These may include, but are not limited to, subsidies, medicare and laws that “make it illegal” to discriminate in the workplace. By framing these benefits as “gifts,” privileged Americans further marginalize disadvantaged groups.
How do we resolve this rift in society? How do we educate ourselves to be better? And what does Frozen II have to offer on this front? Two songs in particular
Racial conflict is not the only challenge this year has brought. It is also pertinent to discuss the pandemic that has affected the world on a global scale. Covid-19, colloquially known as coronavirus, has left people in severe emotional and physical distress. As of today, 720,000 people have lost their lives to Covid-19 and no vaccine has been proven successful enough to implement. During these unprecedented times, it is easy to feel hopeless. Luckily, Olaf, arguably everyone’s favorite Frozen II character, has the perfect response to these normal and, most times, overwhelming feelings. After entering into the enchanted forest and meeting the children of the Northuldra tribe, Olaf proclaims that he is “controlling what [he] can when things feel out of control” (Olaf, Frozen II). Throughout the entire film, Olaf contemplates the idea that “nothing is permanent” (Olaf, Frozen II). He expresses his concerns in two ballads: “Some Things Never Change” and “When I am Older.” He concedes that sometimes in the moment it is difficult, or nearly impossible, to accept the things that are happening. Yet, he notes that, when he is older and has had years to reflect on these events, he may be able to truly understand them. Moreover, he acknowledges that even during times of uncertainty “[he] can’t freeze this moment” and delay the inevitable, “but [he] can still go out and seize the day” (Some Things Never Change, Frozen II). This optimistic outlook is crucial during the Covid-19 era, especially as individuals look to preserve strong mental health.
Last, but certainly not least, it is time to discuss the future of the world. They go by the name Gen-Z. Generation Z, which includes those born after 1994 and before 2014, is an incredibly unique group. Not only were they born during the technological revolution, but they also possess a different ethnic makeup, a revamped set of moral values and an increased level of knowledge. According to a research article published by the Pew Research Center in 2020, Gen Z is the most racially and ethnically diverse generation yet. In fact, America’s Gen Z’s racial makeup is 52% White, 25% Hispanic, 14% Black, 6% Asian and 5% Other (Parker and Igielnik, 2020). In comparison, the Gen Xers, who happen to be the parents of most Gen Z members, possess a 70% white majority, and only a 12% Hispanic and 15% Black minority, with no statistically significant Asian population and a mere 3% Other (Parker and Igielnik, 2020). These statistics alone may help explain Gen Z’s reformed moral and ethical values; in addition, they provide a possible explanation for why the Black Lives Matter movements and marches that have taken place this year have garnered so much promotion and encouragement from Gen Z, specifically on social media outlets. Furthermore, in terms of their political views, only 22% of Gen Z approves of Donald Trump’s presidency, while 33% of Millennials, 42% of Gen X, 48% of Baby Boomers and a staggering 57% of the Silent Generation approve of how Trump has run the country (Parker and Igielnik, 2020). As discussed earlier, these statistics are most likely a result of both an increase in racial diversity, a reworking of societal values as well as the fact that Gen Z is “on track to be the best-educated generation yet,” (Parker and Igielnik, 2020). For these reasons, I am confident that Gen Z is leading the world into a better future.
Although Gen Z is one of the most empathetic, creative and socially active generations, they are also the generation with the most reported mental health issues. In fact, according to Bethune’s article published in a 2019 volume of the Monitor on Psychology Journal, 91% of Gen Zers reported that they have experienced physical or emotional distress symptoms, usually a result of overwhelming and typically unmanaged stress (Bethune, 2019). We see some of this distress materialize in Elsa, Frozen’s main character. She is insecure, anxious, experiences insomnia and mostly feels like she isn’t where she belongs. This is true of many teenagers today. Elsa is not the only entity in Frozen II that exemplifies the struggles of Gen Z. Significantly, the song “Show Yourself” highlights many common feelings of Gen Z. The lyrics describe experiences such as trembling out of fear and keeping secrets within yourself, while always searching for the part of you that you believe is there, but cannot fully connect to. The song is a search for purpose, asking you to discern “the reason [you] were born” and how you can contribute to society. It challenges you to “step into your power” and be the confident person that you were always meant to be (Show Yourself, Frozen II).
It is only right to leave you with one last Olaf quote before you go and spend the rest of the day grappling with the parallels I have laid out before you.
“It’s so refreshing to talk to the youth of today. Our future is in the right hands,” (Olaf, Frozen II). Into the unknown, Gen Z will go.
Del Vecho, P. (Producer) & Buck, C., & Lee, J. (Directors). (2019). Frozen II [Motion Picture]. United States: Walt Disney Animation Studios.
Parker, K., & Igielnik, R. (2020). On the Cusp of Adulthood and Facing an Uncertain Future: What We Know About Gen Z So Far. Retrieved from pewsocialtrends.org
Bethune, S. (2019). Gen Z more likely to report mental health concerns. Monitor on Psychology. 50(1), 20.
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Published by Julia Szynal (she/her/hers)
Julia is a Sophomore at Boston College, majoring in Applied Psychology and Human Development with a concentration in Special Education and two minors: Restorative and Transformational Justice and Cybersecurity. She is from Summit, NJ, and in her free time, loves to watch movies, go to SoulCycle, and play lacrosse.