When I entered the movie theatre to watch Frozen II a few months ago, I was expecting a joyful, heartwarming story of sisters and friendship. While this was still the primary focus of the movie, there was another prominent theme: surviving despite depression and grief.
If you haven’t seen Frozen II yet, I highly recommend it. And while I won’t give away major spoilers, nearly halfway through the movie, Anna seems to lose everyone and everything she holds close, and she sinks into a depression. However, she doesn’t let this loss or depression stop her from living. Even while she’s having a difficult time, she knows she needs to keep moving. She knows she needs to do “the next right thing.”
This seems like a simple message, yet her song had me sobbing in the theatre—even at almost 23 years old. As someone with depression and anxiety, the song got at the heart of something I’ve struggled to put into words myself for years now: I’m going to experience loss and grief and isolation and so many other painful feelings in life, and while it doesn’t always feel like I’m going to make it through these heavy feelings, I know I need to keep moving.
As Anna sang “The Next Right Thing”, all I could think about were the times where I’ve been at my lowest and I didn’t think I could continue moving. I thought of the times my depression overpowered me and I didn’t see a future. I thought of the times where I was Anna, forcing myself to take a step forward even if I didn’t know where my feet would lead me.
The future can be terrifying. I often have a difficult time thinking of where I’ll be in a few years, a few months, or even, in severe cases, a few hours. I know I have a future, but I don’t necessarily always know what it is or how to picture it, and that’s okay! So many people, especially in the age of social media, seem to have their whole lives planned out; they know how everything will go and where their feet are bringing them. This isn’t always possible for me, and so many others are in similar situations. But what Anna was trying to tell me in that movie theatre is that it doesn’t matter if you don’t know where the future is taking you, as long as you keep moving forward toward some future. It’s okay to not know where you’re going, as long as you’re moving.
Seeing visual representations of depression and messages of hope such as those in Anna’s story in Frozen II are extremely important; they can help people who don’t have mental illnesses better understand those illnesses, and they can help people who are struggling themselves see that they aren’t alone. Even though I’m personally in a much better place than I was a few years ago, it still meant a lot to me that a character I’ve adored for years experiences similar feelings of isolation, grief, and even despair. It shows that anyone can experience these feelings—even a princess in a magical fantasy world.
Kids (and adults!) who watch Frozen II can see that it’s okay to experience depression and, more importantly, that it’s possible to continue moving forward, even when you feel at your lowest point. There may not be magical forces to bring someone back to life, and it may take much longer than the span of a movie to feel okay again, but as long as you keep pushing, you will be okay. Seeing representations of mental illnesses in the media reminds everyone that mental illnesses are real, conquerable, and not limited to a “certain type” of person. Anyone can experience depression or anxiety or other illnesses.
Whether you’re a fan of the Frozen movies or not, it’s important to remember to “do the next right thing,” even if you aren’t always sure what that move is. It’s important to support movies and other forms of media that accurately portray mental illnesses. One of those representations could be the exact message an almost 23 year old person—or a 5-year-old or 95-year-old person—needs to keep pushing forward.
Background Image Credit: The Walt Disney Company