Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Ratio of Elsa To Anna And What It Means

Anna? Where are you?
This Halloween, my seven-year-old daughter went trick-or-treating as Elsa. You know, Elsa? From Frozen?

If you haven’t seen Frozen, you’re either living under a rock or don’t have a seven-year-old daughter and my guess is you’re not living under a rock.

Frozen is an animated film about two sisters –– princesses –– the older one of whom has difficultly controlling her power to make stuff freeze. When she –– Elsa –– ascends to the throne, she inadvertently unleashes her power on the assembled and runs away in fear, leaving the kingdom in an icy grip. The younger sister –– Anna –– goes after her and it’s only through Anna's love that she can save Elsa and the kingdom.

Anna is the protagonist. She’s also the more interesting of the two. But like I said, my daughter decided to dress up as Elsa. As did her best friend. And, based on my very unscientific research, 97.23% of girls between five and nine who expressed a preference.

In fact, a dear friend of mine –– Tamara Thompson, founder of the brand strategy consultancy SenseTruth –– happened to be at Disneyland on Halloween and mentioned that of the thousands of princesses she saw, just about the only ones she saw dressed as Anna were pretty obviously the younger sisters of girls dressed as Elsa and too young to have chosen their costumes themselves. In fact, when two sisters were older than around four,  it was apparent that both insisted on being Elsa.

This squares with what I noticed at a Frozen sing-along I took my kids to at a local park this summer.

The question is, what does this tell us? Why do girls want to dress not as the hero of the movie –– the one who’s brave and funny and resourceful and kind –– but as the character who inadvertently hurts others, runs away from the problems she creates, and needs someone else to rescue her?

In my daughter’s case it can be explained by the fact that Elsa wears a turquoise dress. Turquoise is my daughter’s favorite color and has been since… um, well, since she first saw Frozen.