So I finally watched Frozen. A lot of the delay had to do with my frustration with its most familiar song, “Let It Go”. Now, I’d been told not to judge the movie on the basis of that song, and my knee-jerk reaction upon actually seeing the movie is that the song is acceptable in context and that it’s a brilliant movie. On the other hand, despite it’s placement in the movie, the popularity of the song brings to light some problematic values which the movie dealt with and which the movie-going public has completely ignored.
Firstly, my initial problem with “Let It Go” is that it’s a rebellion song. (Anyone who disagrees needs to deal with “No right, no wrong, no rules for me/I’m free!”.) The movie deals with this by giving Elsa if not strictly a “good” reason to rebel, certainly a sympathetic reason. When Elsa finally caves to the incredible pressure of her isolation, loneliness, and anger, leaving her responsibilities as queen, the audience wants her to escape. However, this ultimately leads to the dawn of an eternal (or however long Elsa lives) winter of suffering that even Elsa cannot control. Unfortunately, this is not recognized in popular use, as the song functions more as a statement of “I’m going off to do whatever I want” rather than, “I’m trying to leave my issues behind.” The emphasis is on the injury rather than on healthy ways of healing. Parental restrictions *can’t* be what all these people are singing about, can they?
Looking more closely, however, Elsa was not required to seclude herself as she did. Even had her parents forbid her to speak to Anna, which was suggested but not made explicit, Elsa would have had ample opportunity to throw off the bonds of seclusion after her parents died. She didn’t. This suggests that her restrictions depended largely upon fear, and were largely self-made. Now, one could argue that her parents’ past restrictions and fear of hurting Anna still bound her. Having been a sister, I certainly appreciate the difficulty of opening up to an impossibly inquisitive little sister. But then the song becomes about Elsa’s own pride and fear, and the rest of the movie becomes about being so lost in self-pity that one can’t see the outside world. I can certainly relate to that.
You know who’s less relatable? Anna, the main character. I know that a lot of people *do* relate to Anna, as a younger sister, I find that understandable. Anna is less relateable overall because she spends the bulk of the movie in increasingly fantastical chase scenes which prevent extensive character development development. Where her character is developed Anna is essentially a weaker reflection of Elsa. Both sisters are excited about gaining their freedom (opening the gates, on the mountain), both do stupid things with it (getting engaged, moping about an ice castle), and the movie can’t move on until they get past their expectations (rescuing Elsa rather than having Elsa or Hans fix the problem, only controlling snow).
The real point of the movie is that we build emotional prisons for ourselves, and without outside help, we can’t escape them. For Anna, this was the need for validation from a guy: validation she eventually found from both *another* guy and her sister *after* she stopped trying to find validation and acted sacrificially. Elsa, on the other hand, trapped herself in her room even after her parents were gone and then in an ice castle because she couldn’t control her emotions. Of course, in the end it turned out that she just needed to think about how much she loved her little sister as she did her magic. So, Frozen is a brilliant movie for several reasons, and “Let It Go” is an important song, but it’s a song about a mental prison: wouldn’t a song about love make more sense in the context of the movie?
As a side note: where on earth were the trolls during Elsa’s childhood? Maybe the king should have asked for their advice more often as Elsa’s control over her powers slipped.