The Happy Hero

Yesterday I went and saw Frozen for the third time, and I’m not the less bit ashamed of that fact. My lack of shame is partly because I unabashedly love and adore all things Disney, but mostly it’s because Frozen is a fantastic movie that leaves me with a great big dopey grin on my face every time I see it. There are so many things to love about this film, including its positive portrayal of female friendship and sisterhood, its message of self-acceptance, and its spoof of the Disney princess motif. I’ve already written about “Let It Go”, the soaring empowerment anthem that over the past couple of months has become a pop culture zeitgeist unto its own, inspiring countless covers, spoofs, and parodies, but in re-watching Frozen yesterday, it dawned on me just why I find this film so delightfully refreshing. The answer is entirely due to a certain snowman with a heart of gold.

Olaf, voiced by Josh Gad, is a magical snowman who introduces himself as a someone who likes warm hugs, and that is a perfectly fitting description for this wonderful character. Full of joy and almost deliriously happy to be alive, Olaf makes his way through the film with an expression of pure awe on his face, an unlimited supply of optimism, and an unwavering determination to help his friends. He finds the good in everyone and every situation, even when he is inadvertently impaled by an icicle, and he doesn’t think twice about risking his own life to save a friend. I wrote before that Olaf is one of the most joyously innocent and blissfully free from cynicism characters that I’ve ever seen in a movie, and I’ve come to realize that this is precisely why Frozen has resonated with me so deeply.

Today, the main currency in creating characters is the anti-hero; the conflicted and flawed protagonist who will ultimately save the day, but who has to wade through a mountain of baggage before they can do so. These characters are often fascinating to watch, but over time they have become more and more damaged, and as Hollywood continues to produce its never-ending series of dark and gritty reboots of once bright franchises, I’ve grown weary of all of the melancholy, sorrow, and misery. But then along came Olaf. A sincere, big-hearted, and uplifting character who is the complete antithesis of the current norm, and a most welcome change of pace. From now on, whenever I grow tired of the usual parade of cynics, pessimists, and angst-ridden anti-heroes, I’ll return to Olaf and his special brand of happiness. Something tells me there’s a lot more Frozen in my future.

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