I’ve seen Frozen 2 three times now, and I cannot check out emotionally while Anna sings “The Next Right Thing” no matter how many times I’ve seen it. And it has a lot of value to offer kids today.
Frozen 2 did a lot of things right. We’ve reviewed the movie, written about the songs, and celebrated one of the healthiest relationships, but I still think there’s something we haven’t talked about that will prove to be valuable to kids for decades to come. The value of a song that brings me to tears every time I watch the scene. I’m talking about Anna singing, “The Next Right Thing.”
When you think back to your childhood, and how you related to Disney movies, I’m sure there’s at least one that you just can’t talk about. One that you didn’t watch more than once or twice. One that has such a sad scene in it that no manner of happy, joyful scenes could make you watch it again. For me, this was Bambi, but I know others who never got over some of the sadder parts of Dumbo or The Lion King.
The deaths or heartless separations in those movies had an impact on your childhood. They made you look at the reality of the world around you, despite also giving you talking animals, flying elephants, or catchy musical numbers. These movies taught you as much about death as anything else in your young life.
“The Next Right Thing” in Frozen 2 is SUCH an important moment. Not only does it give kids a visual representation of exhausting, debilitating grief as we watch Anna mourn not only the loss of her sister, her only remaining family, but also the loss of her friend, Olaf, and the magic that her sister brought into her life.
We get to watch as she sinks down in the darkness of the cavern and lets her grief swallow her up. She wallows in her loss. She lets herself feel the pain of all this loss and sings to us about how it feels as she shares that, “This grief has a gravity, it pulls me down.” She can feel her loss in her limbs. It’s pulling her down deeper into the earth, into the floor. It’s trying to overtake the resounding spirit we all know is inside Anna.
And then, she looks even deeper into herself and hears a voice reminding her that she cannot stay here. She cannot be overcome. She can feel this pain. She can endure this agony and loneliness, but she must also push forward. “Take a step. Step again. It is all that I can.” Just one step. And then another. She goes on to tell us how she’s going to continue taking each step: “I won’t look too far ahead. It’s too much for me to take.”
No one in this world escapes their life without experiencing some kind of grief. Whether it’s a beloved pet, a grandparent, a parent, a sibling, or a friend, grief comes for us all in some way. And, for kids, it’s even more difficult because they don’t entirely know how to handle the feelings that are eating them upside. But, I think having examples like Anna, someone who not only displays her struggle to get up and keep moving on after her loss, but sings about how easy it would be to just stay where she is and allow it to swallow her up, is the most valuable thing Frozen 2 has to offer.
Kids need someone to emulate. They need someone stronger than them to show them how to do things, to teach them the ways they should take to move forward through their lives. This song is a valuable tool for parents. I hope that, in addition to all the wonderful magic and light-hearted moments from Frozen 2, parents take a few moments to talk about what happened to Anna in that cave. How she dealt with the hard things.
And how she pulled herself up and kept going. She managed to make her way out of the darkness one step at a time, and back into the light of day. She grows into the kind of leader Arendelle not only deserves, but desperately needs right in front of our eyes. She has her mantra, “The Next Right Thing,” and takes on a new goal after seeing the cause of all the story’s woes just outside her cave.
I can’t get past how powerful this song is. How hard it hits my soul. I haven’t watched Frozen 2 yet without crying pretty steadily throughout this scene. As I watch a character I adore suffer through her grief and find strength to move on, it gets me every time. And I think back to my childhood, and wish that I had had a character like Anna to show me the way through the stress of grief and depression. She is one hell of a Disney princess, wait, I’m sorry, Disney Queen.