Opinion · Review

Communication of Mental Health in Social Media

Recently, I watched a video about why Elsa from Frozen is a terrible character. I was incredibly frustrated by the video for the points they were making because to me, they couldn’t see the finite details. As someone who has experienced trauma and depression, I thought it was a horrible message to give to an audience. In this post I want to discuss the portrayal of mental health and people’s reaction to it. I’ve found that society is aware of mental health, yet there is still a disconnect, so let’s explore.

Firstly, I’d like to start with the opinion of the narrator in which Elsa was described as bland and lacking personality. A comparison was then made to other Disney princesses that are quite energetic, loud and proud, however comparing Elsa to their personalities is similar to contrasting a cat to a dog. They’re both quite different. People are allowed to dislike someone’s character, but saying they’re terrible based on the personality of another is highly toxic. Drawing comparisons is quite harmful in society and what adds to this lethality is the fact that Elsa has undergone trauma and suffers from anxiety and depression. People who suffer from anxiety and depression can at times shut down, it isn’t a bland personality, it’s a mental health issue. While Elsa is a fictional character, the likes and comments on this video were quite upsetting because people agreed with these points of the argument. The audience of a youtuber is quite vast and when you have thousands of people condemning a character who clearly has mental instability, what message does this send others?

Frozen has always been a target for hate because it’s a popular movie, I personally love it because it sends an important message. While a person has every right to dislike it for their own reasons, it’s inappropriate to spread hate for a character for their traits that can be explained by mental health or trauma and ride it off as poor writing. My biggest fear is the cascade effect this can have. Society loves to hate on things and cancel them. Frozen was incredibly popular so of course people are going to get sick of it. However, people who are influential have the potential to feed that hate and in the process ride off mental health of as being bitchy or a horrible person. People behave the way they do for a reason and if society truely wishes to support mental health, it starts with not creating hate for the small things like a persons character. I want to discuss some aspect of Elsa’s personality so we can really grasp what severity of these kind of comments.

Shutting Anna Out

In the film Elsa avoids Anna because she fears her powers. She harmed her once before and she’s afraid she will again. In the video, the narrator stated ‘why didn’t she tell Anna once the parents died?’. And then goes on to say ‘hey Anna I have magic ice powers I can’t control and that’s why I stayed away from you….why couldn’t she just say that?’. This is an extremely ignorant and damaging thing to say. Trauma exists. Victims of trauma have to try very hard to overcome aspects of it. People cannot get over it as a whole and it takes a lot of time and energy. When Anna states “I can’t live like this anymore” and Elsa responds “then leave”. The narrator says ‘no rational person would say this’. Elsa clearly looks distressed in this scene and it’s very difficult to let people in as well as it’s very easy to shut them out. Calling it irrational is incredibly hurtful and can make someone think with anxiety or trauma believe that their fears are invalid. The narrator then goes on to state people with anxiety and depression can often act irrational and shows sympathy. While compassion is important and key to understanding people with mental health, why downplay it previously as irrationality? Singling a group out can be detrimental to that group as well as children.

The Movie is Not Teaching Kids to Shut People Out

Elsa needed space to reflect on her thoughts. She created a safe space to do this in the form of an Ice Castle. Progress isn’t linear and the song Let it go was only a representation of one aspect of it. If the movie was showing kids to shut people out there would not have been any resolution. The narrator states ‘why couldn’t she have let love in before’ the resolution rather than avoid others. Once again, mental health is a process and it takes a lot of energy that people don’t have to do this. At the end of the day, isolation isn’t key, but it is a step in battling trauma, depression and anxiety through reflection. Everyone needs to take a step back and think, that’s how life works.

Elsa Needs Anna

The narrator stated the movie didn’t show that Elsa needed Anna. I think it definitely demonstrated overcoming the fear of loving her sister. The only connection Elsa made to love was accidentally hurting her sister while they were playing as kids. For her letting love in mean’t hurting the ones she loved. The act of hurting Anna was another step in overcoming this as it allowed her to see she can hurt Anna at any time and that it doesn’t come with letting love in. Once again, trauma is at play and the entire journey was about Elsa overcoming that fear due to her mental health and showing Anna love. Elsa needed Anna to help her through that.

At the end of the day, it’s definitely up to you to like a character. However, downplaying mental health creates a message in society. While the narrator could identify some aspect of mental health, it still felt offensive. Being irrational is scary to people with mental health problems and commenting on it like that can be damaging. It pushes negative views on mental health onto an audience and can be triggering. Each of these opinions lead onto each other and demonstrated ignorance when it comes to understanding a person, as a result trauma felt like something someone can just get over. We still have a long way to go in order to understand mental health and communicate it. I hope in the near future people will learn to stop criticising others in such a way.

Thanks for reading! Please be wary on the internet, some places are definitely safe zones but some can be quite triggering. I also wasn’t sure whether I should link the video or not, while I don’t agree with an opinion I would rather not create a negative space elsewhere.

4 thoughts on “Communication of Mental Health in Social Media

  1. Thanks for the post!

    I guess the phrase “I hate you, please don’t leave me” resonates with Elsa’s behavior. Personally, I love her character, as she displays one of the best character developments I’ve ever witnessed in fiction (which continues rather nicely in Frozen 2).

    She’s certainly more complex and multidimensional than any of the other Disney princesses – and don’t get me started on the whole YA “reluctant prophecy child realizes their power and saves the world” story arc that’s been done to the point of exhaustion.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My pleasure 😊
      Definitely! She has major character development on a multi dimensional level. Especially because so much she works on overcoming in both films. And yes indeed that story arc has been done so many times in other princesses! It’s so refreshing to have a princess that deals with very common mental health issues.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I particularly enjoyed how she went back to her old ways in Frozen 2, when she tries to keep Anna safe by shutting her out again. That humanized her to my eyes, as it was so realistic. At times of stress, it’s easy to go back to undesirable behavior patterns, and that’s just what Elsa did.

        Another brilliant piece of writing is the “Into the Unknown” song, where she’s torn between the urge to venture into the scary new and the desire to stay in the cozy familiar.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That’s true! She does revert back to her own ways and I think a major difference is that she didn’t shut Anna out due to trauma caused by her parents. This time it was because she didn’t want her sister to get hurt. It was her journey to take. And it really did humanise her more!

        Into the Unknown is fantastic! It’s described the human condition perfectly 😍

        Liked by 1 person

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