By which I mean, the popular song from Disney’s Frozen is not an anthem for an attitude that would be at all healthy to have in the real world. Embracing indifference is not exactly something to celebrate.
After all, let’s not forget what the song is about: a sad, scared, angry queen embracing indifference toward the world. The philosophy she is deciding on is evil.
Let’s look at some lyrics that reflect the evil Elsa’s embracing:
- Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know – Hints out how she was dealing with her problem wrongly from the beginning.
- Let it go, let it go, Turn away and slam the door – She’d rather evade her problems than face them.
- Let the storm rage on – She has no consideration for who that storm may be hurting.
- The fears that once controlled me can’t get to me at all – She’s replacing them with all new fears, particularly the fear of facing others with her uncontrollable powers, or letting others, like her sister, try to help her at all.
- No right, no wrong, no rules for me, I’m free – Oh dear! The most obviously evil lyrics here. No right or wrong?! Yikes.
- You’ll never see me cry – She’s embracing indifference. Not good.
- I’m never going back, the past is in the past – It’s one thing to forgive yourself and move on, it’s another thing to stop caring completely, which is clearly what she’s doing.
- The cold never bothered me anyway – Again, she’s embracing indifference. And she’s lying. Her powers have always bothered her and they’re still bothering her.
So, it’s a song about embracing indifference toward the world and her self-image. Though cathartic, it’s clearly not the right solution to her problem.
And the storytellers know this, of course. The song isn’t her climactic solution to her problems after which she lives happily ever after. The song portrays her creation of even bigger problems, both in her own heart and the outside world that she’s cutting herself off from and plunging into eternal winter. Her living alone in an ice castle out in the mountain boonies is never portrayed as a good thing. In “letting go” of her concern for control of her powers and her self-image (an effort which initially came from a genuinely good place, even if she was dealing with it wrong from the very beginning, after being traumatized by injuring her little sister), she still holds on to the fear that keeps her away from her kingdom. If she was truly “letting go” of what she needed to let go of (her self-image fear, her over-self-consciousness), she wouldn’t feel any need to stay away from her kingdom and those she loves, particularly her sister.
Story-wise, the song serves the same purpose as Sweeney Todd’s “Epiphany” (though Todd’s pledge is much more sinister – to murder innocent victims until he can get revenge) and as Elphaba’s “Defying Gravity.” In Sweeney Todd and Wicked, such goal-changing decisions eventually lead to tragedy in one form or another. Fortunately in Frozen, Elsa realizes her mistake and changes by the story’s end, thanks to her sister. Still, her song is about a character who’s been struggling with something and is deciding to embrace a clearly wrong answer.
But of course that’s also what gives the song it’s power, in the dramatic sense; we can relate to Elsa’s emotions completely, even if we know she’s choosing the wrong thing.
But that’s also why it’s a bit funny to see videos of young children belting out the song proudly. They’re singing about becoming evil. Yes, I know it may be over some of their heads, but I still find it funny. The music is great, but its beauty and power are misleading, as is Elsa being all smiley and happy about it; the philosophy she’s embracing is ugly and tragic. After all, I don’t think we want children to actually let go of things like worrying about right and wrong.
The right answer to Elsa’s problem: love (as Elsa learns by the film’s end). The wrong answer: cold indifference (as Elsa embraces with “Let It Go”).
So when you sing “Let It Go” while taking your evil shower (Sims joke), let’s hope you’re not singing the lyrics with actual conviction. Because that would be, you know, evil.