Representation in Animation: What Frozen means to the sister of a kid with disabilities


I didn’t realize just how special my life was until I saw it on the big screen.

When the Disney movie Frozen came out I felt famous. The main character, Anna, (supplement the first “n” for an “h” if you will), not only shared my name but shared nearly every other element of me. Our red hair, freckles, and eagerness to love everybody, watching that movie was like looking in a mirror and I couldn’t turn away.

Frozen follows the life of Anna and her sister Elsa as they are torn apart by a crisis. In the same way that I see myself in Anna, my 11 year old sister, Elliott, identifies with Elsa. The more we watched Frozen, the more we realized that it was a reflection of our life.

Our parents didn’t die, but their divorce really changed how we figured out the world. We spent time together moving between different houses and different worlds. Just like in the movie, we were two sisters figuring out the world on our own. But just like in Frozen, our differing abilities are what divide us.

Elliott had a prenatal stroke leaving her with cerebral palsy, a condition that causes abnormality in muscle tone and affects how someone develops both mentally and physically. Elsa was born with magical ice powers that as she aged she had less control over. Elsa is forced to conceal herself with gloves and hides from society, just as Elliott wears braces and is left out of activities because of her disability.

I am never ashamed or embarrassed by my sister or her disability as people would expect. I am beyond proud of her and amazed by her every day. The way that Anna treats Elsa really validated how I interact with my sister. While Elsa feels ostracized from society Anna risks her life trekking through the snowy wilderness to convince her that she is okay. While Elliott and I have never been in a situation like this, I know that I would do the exact same thing.

Anna and Elsa overcome the conflict of their movie by loving each other and that was what hit me the hardest in Frozen. Being able to see me and my sister’s story with a happy ending made me realize just how important visibility in media really is.

I am so grateful for Frozen because I know that what Elliott has learned from watching that movie at least 200 times will stick with her. There are powerful women in the same situation she is in, her sister will always be there for her, and that in times of struggle being kind and showing love is the solution.