Why Elsa is a superhero
A three-year-old can already tell that Elsa is a boss superhero. Not sure? Let us walk you through it.
My three-year-old told me he was off to play with his super hero friends.
Great! I said. Who are your friends? expecting him to mention some friends from nursery, or kids we play with in the street.
Batman, Wonderwoman and Elsa. I’m Spiderman.
(Truth be told, I could tell he was Spiderman as he was dressed in a slightly disturbing red and blue padded muscle suit, and carrying a red handbag.)
I admit I was surprised that Elsa was part of the superhero clan. Not a princess, but a superhero. And luckily I kept my mouth shut, because when I thought about it, I realised he was completely correct.
1. Origin story
Superheroes are nearly always orphans, and they tend to lose their loved ones in tragic circumstances. Superman’s entire planet was destroyed and he was the one survivor (or so he thought, I know), Spider-Man’s parents died in a plane crash, Batman’s parents were murdered in a street mugging. Elsa’s parents go on an unspecified journey and their boat sinks leaving her to grapple with the responsibility of power alone.
2. Massive Magical Power
Elsa has superhuman powers. Ok, so not all super heroes have magic powers, but freezing is pretty serious stuff. She can mould the world around her into any shape she likes, create a never-ending winter and see off anyone who wants to stop her. (This totally trumps Batman or Iron Man who have to make their own ‘magic’ powers with their wealth and tech.)
3. Power Struggle
Superheroes are often conflicted about their own powers. Knowing that her power can be used for good or evil – and that not using it might be as bad as using it for evil – is something that Elsa grapples with. Just like pretty much all the X-Men (and, ahem, X-women…). Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben was killed in street violence, maybe because Peter chose not to use his Spidey-powers to stop the killer. And feeling responsible for injuring a loved one, in, say, a midnight ice-game gone wrong, is another super-motivator. Toying with not using your powers for good is an important part of your super-self-growth, as is becoming figure of vigilante-style anti-feeling, whether that’s getting the Gotham City police Bureau after you, or an angry mob turning up at your ice palace doors and chucking your yeti monster off a cliff.
All self-respecting supers have a costume - usually a very slinky, figure-hugging outfit, with a swishy cape-y thing. And some sort of logo or embellishment on the chest. And they tend to design it themselves. It’s like part of being a superhero is having an innate tailoring ability. Elsa, as the snow queen singing ‘Let it Go’ has them all - even down to the snowflake emblem on the chest. There’s no mask of course - but not all superheroes want to hide their identities. Wonderwoman does fine without one.
5. Self acceptance
Ultimately, Superheroes are on a journey to find their true selves (maybe saving the world in the process). In Elsa’s case, she has to learn that with great power comes great responsibility, but also that what helps you use your power is love – love for your family, for your community, and for yourself. Realising your powers (and your feelings) are part of who you are, good and bad, has always been the super hero story – confronting your darkest fears and growing from those experiences is what makes you truly super.