By now you’ve heard it. “Let it Go.” Easily the most viral song from Disney’s recent animated film Frozen. At a first glance, this song seems to be about being yourself, refusing to be burdened by what others care about who you really are. It seems empowering, strengthening, fierce. The only legitimate complaint that I’ve ever heard placed against this song is one that I just recently read from a friend on Facebook: the song was placed inappropriately. Elsa had not yet earned the right to sing “Let it Go,” that she had not yet become confident enough, strong enough, to belt out this anthem. I can understand why some, perhaps many, feel this way. At a first glance, the song is about freedom, about beginning to feel comfortable in one’s own skin. To me, however, this particular song represents something else, and to me, she has more than earned the right to sing it.
Consider the song for a moment. It begins with a terrified Elsa fleeing from a crowd of villagers amid shouts that she is a monster, a witch, a villain. This girl Elsa has been told since her earliest childhood that there is something wrong with her, something that will cause people to fear and hate her if discovered. As she grows further from the village, suddenly the urge overcomes her to not control it anymore – to let it go. Elsa begins playing with her ice powers – tentatively at first, but then more and more as she realizes what she can really do. She continues fleeing into the wilderness and up a mountain, where she builds a wondrous frozen castle, a monument to her power. A monument to her vanity. A monument to her isolation. By the end of the song, we see what we understand to be a powerful Elsa, an Elsa who really doesn’t care about anyone else. But that’s kind of the key, isn’t it? She’s stopped caring about anyone but herself. Her idea of letting it go involves living alone and never having to deal with other people. To some, this seems a stark contrast to the very spirit of the song. To me, it hit so hard I began shaking within the theatre as I continued to watch. To me, it wasn’t about freedom. It was about giving into one’s deepest fears, fleeing from anyone and everyone, living alone and trying to convince oneself that such a life is freedom. I struggled not to weep.
If you’ve read some of the other things I have written, you may have picked up on the notion that I’m not good with people. The notion that I have trouble forming friendships, keeping friendships. If you’ve read my six-part story I posted on the Cardboard blog last fall, you know just how deeply this social underdevelopment has troubled my life. Now, let me make something clear to you that I have only hinted at in the past. I have autism. Because I did so well in school, it never occurred to anyone that my delayed social development might be evidence of something more serious. So as I grew up, I knew nothing more than that something was terribly wrong and different about me. So when I watched this movie Frozen, I didn’t see a story about a princess with incredible ice powers. I saw a story about a young girl who had been told all her life that she wasn’t ok, that she was different and different was bad. When I saw her hiding in her bedroom refusing to build a snowman, I saw myself hiding in my bedroom refusing to go out and spend time with friends. When I saw her fleeing into the mountains, I saw myself shutting out anyone who began to see me for who I really am. And when I saw her captured and dragged back to prison, informed that her sister was dead, I saw myself locked in my room at a hospital, knowing full well that I’d never be talking to one of my closest friends ever again. So you see, this is why I love the movie Frozen. I don’t think it is meant to be an empowerment movie. To me, it is about facing one’s deepest, innermost fears, the fears that can cause a person to shut oneself off from the rest of society. It is about struggling with those fears, conquering them, overcoming them, even if only by the force of another. And this is why I love the song “Let it Go.” I don’t think it is meant to be an empowerment song. It simply reflects the desperate need of a psychologically abused young lady to believe that for once in her life she is not afraid of who she is. And its placement is so perfect I still begin to shake at that moment.