When my oldest daughter was born, and even before, I worried about princesses the way people worry about bedbugs. I was afraid that once they got into our lives, they would never leave and that the child would be obsessed by the celebration of wealth, beauty, privilege and the need to be rescued by men that I felt (perhaps unfairly) these characters embodied.
More specifically, I was worried about “Frozen,” a film that I had yet to see but whose defiant, show-stopping anthem-that-shall-not-be-named I had already heard — and dismissed as embarrassing, sub-Lloyd-Webber drivel. (Also, a snowman who wants to go to the beach? Puh-leeze.) But I had witnessed the hypnotic power this movie has over children and had seen, on multiple non-Halloween occasions, little girls walking around in public — in public! — wearing their Elsa costumes.
No way, I thought. Not my kid.
For three years, I actively kept this film from my daughter, steering her instead toward fare that was more tolerable (to me), such as “Moana” and the Pixar library. Was it her I was trying to protect, or was it me? I plead the Fifth. But the week after our second daughter was born, while I was awash in the rekindled joy and exhaustion of bringing a newborn home, I let down my guard for a few crucial minutes. Older daughter heard the song when it began playing after the “Lion King” clips we’d been watching on YouTube, declared “I want to watch that movie,” and, too weak to fight it any longer, I relented.
The first few viewings were hard. So were the next few mornings on which she wanted to hear only “Frozen” songs on the drive to school. Weeks passed. Elsa sang.
“This is your life now, you dumb bastard,” I thought to myself.
But life had also changed in more important ways. Before, I had been the father of a daughter. Now, I was the father of sisters. Luckily, older girl thought — and still thinks — younger girl is wonderful and fascinating and has taken a mostly protective attitude toward the baby since day one. The baby seems to adore her big sister, who is often the greatest show in town. It’s been amazing and moving to watch them interact and see their relationship develop.
“Frozen,” for the blissfully uninitiated, is about two strong, confident sisters trying to protect each other. There’s a bit of romance, too, but it’s mostly subplot; it doesn’t drive the action of the story the way the bond between the two young women does.
And so, driving my oldest to school, listening to “Do You Want to Build a Snowman” for what may well have been the three-dozenth time, I suddenly found myself getting, well, a little emotional.
Those sisters are so devoted to each other, I thought with a burst of clarity. All they want is for the other to be safe and happy! That’s what I want for my girls. That’s all I want for my girls!
Resistance, it would appear, was futile. From then on, my objections to the film have more or less evaporated. The Song is still mediocre, Olaf the Snowman still feels like he was hastily dreamed up so the team in the writers’ room could break early for lunch, and the movie is still about princesses in pretty clothes rather than ordinary-looking people with regular jobs. But … it’s OK.
It’s got two great sisters, and that will do for now. I’ve learned that sometimes you just have to … I mean, you have to take your anger and … we’ve all just got to let … sigh … Oh, reader, don’t make me say it. I still can’t bear to type the words …
Daniel Leaderman is author of the blog, Dad Reckoning.