The first time my daughter told me that she wanted to be Elsa from Frozen for Halloween, I rejected the idea. Not openly, of course, I’m not as foolish as I look ⏤ I know better than to draw a line in the sand. Instead, I steered the conversation onto something else and made a mental note to bring up costumes again in a few days.
Like many parents-to-be, my wife and I had made plans to protect our daughter from the cultural currents that teach girls to be pretty, docile, and demure. And, like many plans created by parents-to-be, ours has not been as easy as we thought. When my now 5-year-old daughter said that she wanted to dress up as Elsa, I took it as yet another sign that the cultural currents were winning. Given my choice, she would be Wonder Woman, a superhero who saves the day, not a Disney queen in a sparkly blue dress who spends much of her movie hiding in an ice castle.
To me, an Elsa costume seemed like a gateway to the dreaded Disney Princess phase. I imagined a nightmare scenario of future princess costumes: first Sleeping Beauty, most notable for being beautiful while she slept, then Snow White, a housekeeper for miners. After giving her a few days to change her mind, I again asked what she wanted to be for Halloween. The answer came back the same: Elsa. Obviously, the costume was more than a passing whimsy. But I still wasn’t ready to ⏤ yes, forgive me ⏤ let it go. I would wait a few more days and ask again.
Elsa’s blue sparkled dress has been popular since Frozen hit the big screen in November of 2013. By the next April, stores were sold out, and limited edition dresses were going for $1,600 on eBay. By Halloween 2014, the Elsa costume was a full-on cultural phenomenon. Google announced that it was the most searched for costume in America. In November of that year, Disney announced that it had sold more than 3 million Frozen Princess Dresses. And while the costume’s popularity has faded in recent years, the National Retail Federation predicts that Frozen characters will still be the 10th most popular type of children’s costume this year.
To someone my daughter’s age ⏤ too young to remember Halloween before the movie ⏤ the Elsa costume is as much a part of the holiday as candy corn or jack-o-lanterns. A few days later, I asked again, pretending that this was the first time we had had the conversation. And for the third time, she said Elsa. Sensing that mine might have been a lost cause, I probed further. “What is it you like about Elsa?” I asked and braced for the worst. I was expecting something like, “she’s pretty” or “I love that song.”
Her answer, however, caught me completely off guard. “Because she has magical powers and shoots ice,” she said. “And when the guys with arrows come to get her, she pushes the ice at them.” She admired Elsa not for her beauty, but for her bravery and brawn. In the end, I wanted my daughter to be a superhero for Halloween, and so did she. And while it may not have been greatest parenting success in the world, I’ll take it. Now if I can just find that dress for under $1,000.
Brian P. Nanos is a part-time writer and full-time stay-at-home dad. He lives in Massachusetts with his wife and two children.