la-et-ms-oscar-songs-frozen-her-and-alone-yet--001

One Dad’s Thoughts on Frozen’s Smash Hit “Let it Go”

I think it’s time we get serious about the song “Let it Go” from Disney’s smash hit Frozen. I’ve spent a fair amount of time lamenting that it has been stuck in my head for the last four months. Recently I realized why the 6-18 year old female demographic has experienced such a connection with the song. While it’s still still annoying–dads everywhere, I stand united with you on that–I also stumbled upon a realization that is harder to shake than the tune itself.

November 1st, 2013 @ 20:50:17Our girls relate to the emotion more than the music. Have you really listened to the song? I mean really. I think our daughters love it because it describes what they feel deep down inside.

They feel frozen. Like a series of short text messages they might send to only their most trusted confidant late at night when it’s just them and their beloved mobile device, the lyrics of Let it Go let us in on the adolescent mind. It’s like an old Nirvana song super-charged with sticky-sweet feminine musical accompaniment.

“The snow glows white on the mountain tonight
Not a footprint to be seen
A kingdom of isolation,
And it looks like I’m the Queen.”

An equal mixture of loneliness and narcissism make up the song’s introduction. The setting of this song is when Princess Elsa flees her community after a rather embarrassing ballroom gaff. Every teenage girl can identify with that feeling of red-faced embarrassment. Sometimes the only safe place is solitude.

la-et-ms-oscar-songs-frozen-her-and-alone-yet--001

“The wind is howling like this swirling storm inside
Couldn’t keep it in, heaven knows I tried”

Our kids hear “be yourself” all the time. Trouble is, they often are pretty confused about who they are. What they do understand they rarely enjoy. For Elsa, it’s this magical power to turn everything to ice that she can’t sort out. For girls today it’s that they’re too tall, too short, too fat, too skinny, too pimply, too dumb, too smart–there’s no limit to their insecurity. Their “swirling storm inside” is one that is hard to contain. It always seems to leak out at the most inopportune time.

“Don’t let them in, don’t let them see
Be the good girl you always have to be
Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know
Well, now they know”

Most girls–especially teenagers–feel like they’re faking it. They “conceal.” They fake it for their parents, their teachers, their coaches, their youth ministers. They are one person around boys and another around girls. They fake it so much–wearing so many different identities depending upon the time and the place–that they grow numb to it all. Feeling nothing trumps feeling bad all the time. What choice do they have left?

“Let it go, let it go
Can’t hold it back anymore
Let it go, let it go
Turn away and slam the door
I don’t care
What they’re going to say
Let the storm rage on,
The cold never bothered me anyway”

The choice many make is to retreat to a chilly solitude where the only one they have to please is themselves. To surrender to apathy is their only remaining option. They “turn away” from people who love them, they “slam the door” in the face of people who they think are judging them. It doesn’t matter if their friends and family are fully on their side. They don’t care if people are chasing them down. They build their ice fortress and they deal with it. The line “the cold never bothered me anyway” is sung like a confident statement of power. However, in Elsa’s case and in the case of our daughters it’s a blatant lie:

The cold is precisely what is bothering our girls. They are fooling themselves to think otherwise.

131122-frozen

“It’s funny how some distance
Makes everything seem small
And the fears that once controlled me
Can’t get to me at all
It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me
I’m free”

It’s true that if you avoid and ignore long enough, things can seem like they are getting better. But this stanza is line after line of self-deceit. Absolutely nothing is “funny” about a girl being so far deep within herself she can’t see the reality of her value. The “fears that once controlled me” that Princess Elsa claims can’t get to her are influencing every decision she makes. She ran in fear. Now she’s building walls because of fear.

She lives alone in a castle made out of ice with no company. She may think there is “no right, no wrong, no rules for me,” but in reality she has determined the right and wrong–everyone else must be right, she’s wrong, and therefore she has to be alone because the one rule that she cannot deny is that she’s not good enough.

“Let it go, let it go
I am one with the wind and sky
Let it go, let it go
You’ll never see me cry
Here I stand
And here I’ll stay
Let the storm rage on
My power flurries through the air into the ground
My soul is spiraling in frozen fractals all around
And one thought crystallizes like an icy blast
I’m never going back,
The past is in the past”

This chorus and bridge are dripping with pubescent angst. Souls are spiraling, tears are stuffed down and held in. Thoughts (albeit selfish, deceitful ones) are crystalized. Storms rage. She’s not going to budge!

She’s never been more shaky.

Sociologists who study adolescent culture call this the “world beneath.” Kids stay to themselves–only allowing their most trusted allies access to their true feelings. No one else is allowed in. They only enter the mainstream world when they have to, and even then they are not their true selves. They are resolved, like Princess Elsa, to isolation. They think this is a strength. I’m persuaded it is their greatest weakness.

At least then nothing can hurt them, they think. Simultaneously, they’re dying inside.

“Let it go, let it go
And I’ll rise like the break of dawn
Let it go, let it go
That perfect girl is gone
Here I stand
In the light of day
Let the storm rage on,
The cold never bothered me anyway”

By the end of the song, we’re struck by the repetition (part of why it gets stuck in our heads). No fewer than 12 times has the princess (Elsa, or perhaps your little girl) sang “Let it Go!” with increasing intensity. She’s trying to convince herself to do so, but never finds it to be an easy task. How does one ignore who they are? Every time they look in the mirror they see a zit or hair they don’t like. Every time they go to school they see a girl who is skinnier or prettier. Every time they get their grades they’re reminded that their best friend made a better score. They can shout it all they want, “Let it go!” But they find it very hard to do.

“The cold never bothered me anyway” is the big deceit of the anthem, as we’ve already mentioned. After singing it one last time, Princess Elsa takes her place as the lonely ruler of her one-woman kingdom. She’s okay because she’s alone, we are to believe.

But you’re smarter than that. You are older than your daughter, and you know it doesn’t work like that. If you are a Christian as I am, you know that we need to be open to community and find our identity in Christ instead of being defined by other people or even ourselves. Banishing ourselves to solitude and self-governance does not result in a better existence. It usually leads to greater angst, depression, self-harm, eating disorders, co-dependence, addiction, identity issues, and fear-based living.

To be fair, the movie Frozen does not end with Elsa in an ice castle. The movie is about self-discovery and the relationship between sisters and it ends on a very positive note. I’ll save the details just in case you’ve been snowed in all winter and haven’t seen it yet.

I share all this now because I realize that it’s easy to write off a song as “catchy.” But I believe the song “Let it Go” has become a generational anthem for our young girls not because of the music that drives it but because they relate deeply with the emotion that fuels every woefully self-centered line.

Give the lyrics a read again. Think through them with your little girl in mind. The song will likely be stuck in your head the rest of the day, but what’s new, right? Regrettably, there are some things you just can’t un-hear.

On the plus side, maybe now instead of growing frustrated at the persistent, nagging tune you can take the opportunity to pray for your own little princess–a girl God has entrusted to your care to persuade that she doesn’t have to be bothered by the cold, she doesn’t have to live in chilly isolation.

She doesn’t have to let it go.

_____________________________________

If you have a minute to read one more thing I’ve written, I’d recommend this. Our nonprofit The 25 Group is about using crowd funding to make significant financial gifts to organizations all over the world who are meeting basic human needs in under served communities.  If everyone who has read this blog could pitch in $1, we’ll have the projects feeding hungry children in India and the Dominican Republic funded in no time. Rest assured I’m not making a dime off your gift. After transaction and banking fees, 100% of your gifts go to the need.

You can also keep up with The 25 Group on Facebook and Twitter

If you don’t need to read anything else to be convinced, you can simply make a small donation here or use our text-to-donate feature.

187 comments

  1. Hello, I know it’s long, but please read: No offense, but I think you’re off-base on this. The part about having difficulty with being yourself is good, but the whole point with “Let it go…” is embracing the freedom to be yourself–finally not worrying about what the world thinks. You took such a negative stance on what is the inner anthem for so many girls and grown women. “Selfish, deceitful thoughts,” “Narcissism,” these are powerful words you’re slinging around about such a critical time in a young woman’s life. As an ex-teenage girl with a pre-teen daughter of my own, I can tell you the insecurity of being ourselves comes from fear of rejection so we try to conform (“conceal don’t feel…don’t let them know”) to what we believe is expected of us. “They relate deeply with the emotion that fuels every woefully self-centered line…” A desire to be accepted as we are without fear of rejection or the persuasion to conform to even Christian boundaries and guidelines is not self-centered deceit, woeful or narcissistic. This is a world predominantly driven by men, governed by men, with boundaries and expectations set by men. Christ is the only man who can honestly accept a woman as she is; I had to read the gospels and John’s books many times before I could read anything written by Paul without feeling the sting of his words. If you really want to better understand the female psyche, I would recommend “Captivating” by John and Stasi Eldridge. Insecurity is not always driven by pride. If you watch the movie carefully, you will see that when Elsa’s inner self (represented by ice in this case, if you really want to be metaphorical) is actually revealed she IS met with rejection initially. This song and scene was Elsa’s FIRST STEP toward accepting herself. Anna, like Christ, immediately loves her, pursues her, encourages her and ultimately sacrifices herself for her–again like Jesus. It is that FINAL step that helped conquer the storm inside Elsa, and once Elsa accepted who is, accepted Anna’s love and sacrifice for her, the storm lifted inside and out and then the world could enjoy the beauty of Elsa’s freedom and love. Much the same way that once we accept the fact that Jesus loves us just as we are (not as easy as it sounds), the beauty of His love shines from within us (man OR woman) and we are truly the “light of the world and salt of the earth,” bringing flavor and illumination. I did not write this to scold you, but your words were accusing–putting teenage girls and even grown women into a neatly labeled box. Yes, the song is very symbolic, but there are more interpretations– less cruel, LESS BELITTLING, interpretations of it.

    1. Hey Amber,
      Thanks for reading and for your comments. I did read every word and I take no offense. There are more interpretations than just mine. In no way was I trying to be belittling to young women. Rather, it was a call to action on the parents part to be engaged in their kids’ lives so they can be in tune with the emotions they are connecting with in any song, whatever those emotions might be.
      I appreciate your thoughtful response, for sure. Thanks again.

    2. I have to agree with you Amber. We as teenage girl or older women are not necessarily being selfish or self centered. It’s hard to be ourselves but not impossible. It is a beautiful song, that teenage girls could identify with. We can help them and continue to pray that they will see what Elsa saw in her sister’s love and persistence too seek her, and her sacrifice. That they too see that we as parents will love them no matter what. That Christ was the first loved us and sacrificed himself for us.

  2. I thank you for what you are saying. That is why I feel that it is very important to keep lines of communication open between mothers and daughters. My close friend and I make it a priority every year to take a weekend away with our daughters… so we can talk, talk about things as females. We leave the dads and brothers behind at home. We realized that we both felt that our moms wanted to have open lines of communication, but they started it when we were teens, at that time it was not “cool” to hang out with your mom… So we started it when our girls were younger, and in a few years they will be teenagers… but I know it will still be “cool” for them at that time, because they value the time we spend one on one with them. Plus my daughter will pull me aside at other times to just tell me what’s going on, because she knows that I care and value her and her feelings. Plus as a Christian mom having a weekend with another Christian mom, we uplift one another too… My daughter loves the movie Frozen, in fact she loves the song “Let it Go”. We use the statement “Let go and Let God” in our house. We have talked alot about thoughts lately and how we are to take them captive… If the thought is not Godly,pure, etc we say “rebuke it and let it go.”

  3. Elsa’s character was written to have anxiety and depression (her icy powers). In the beginning of the story the trolls tell us that fear will make everything worse and love and acceptance is the only way to control her powers (mental disorder). The song, or should I say power ballad, Let It Go is about her finding herself out and accepting that not everyone feels comfortable in a crowd and that she’s really beginning to see herself as a queen and not a menace to society. “Turn away and slam the door” – her slamming the door on her past depression “the col never bothered me anyway – because of her disorder, she never really cared to be around other people so her being alone in the snow is her actual ideal. “I am one with the wind and sky” – she is becoming one with her disorder and learning to accept it and herself even though it can get rough, she has all the power she needs in herself. Your interpretation makes sense from where you are coming from, but this song is not promoting depression but doing the opposite. Let It Go is a ballad to promote a healthy mind and show children that it’s okay to think differently than everyone else and you don’t have to be perfect to be accepted and loved “that perfect girl is gone”. Because the parents didn’t know how to deal with her powers, which isn’t their fault, it took her 18 years to discover herself and love the fact that she can make a snowman with a flick of the wrist. The movie is empowering and energizing for those of us that have isolating mental disorders. Once you have youself figured out, then you can let other people in like God and those who help you seek him.

      1. As a sufferer of depression and anxiety, I relate much more to the interpretation of “Let it Go” written in this article. Obviously there are multiple interpretations that aren’t wrong, but when Elsa says “turn away and slam the door” I relate to it much more as her shutting people out and deceiving herself with false hope that letting her powers out and isolating herself from everyone is a good thing. I agree in some ways that the song can mean to let yourself be who you are, but I personally feel this song is her decieving herself into thinking shutting herself out from everyone makes everything better. Just like with depression and anxiety, this only makes things far worse for yourself and the people that care about you, which is a perfect metaphor for what is happening in this movie. Elsa thinks shutting out the people who care about her will make everything be okay again. As the movie progresses, we soon find it had only made things far worse for herself and those who care about her. I am a teenage girl who suffers from depression and anxiety and I relate to your article so much, and I couldn’t have said it any better myself. “Don’t let them in, don’t let them see, be the good girl you always have to be. Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know” I relate to these lyrics particularly.

    1. Bethany, beautifully written. My 12 year old Aspergers daughter wants to sing Let it Go at the school talent show. She appears typical at first glance, but is far from. She is musically and artistically talented, academically gifted, but attention, OCD and social inappropriate issues cause her to get into trouble all the time. Everyone tries to make her “the perfect girl”, even me cause I fear for her future. We don’t truly get her in trouble, but are always pointing out the things she has trouble being aware of. This song is a life line I’m sure, breaks my heart.

  4. The song may not have a great message, but that’s only if you take it out of the context of the movie itself. The message of the movie is that family, community, and love are most important in life and no one is truly happy till they let people who love them in and that you need to be yourself.

      1. I have a song you might find more uplifting to young women and spiritual . More Beautiful You by Jonny Diaz.

  5. Your daughter has the irreplaceable blessing of a Godly father who truly cares about her. I thoroughly enjoyed this and was blessed and challenged. Thank-you so much for sharing this! I agree with everything you said and it inspired and motivated me to change aspects of my own life in order to help others in any way I can. I am also a Christian and agree that our true identity is in Christ alone.
    May God richly bless you and your family!

  6. Thank you. I appreciate your contemplative analysis of let it go. I agree with you. My child is 5 and all her school mates are equally obsessed with Elsa. I’ve seen many 5 year olds belt the song out with equal passion. And even though they are only 5 their hearts are already full of emotion. They want to please parents, teachers, friends and God. Your thoughts remind me to make it clear to her everyday that I love and accept her even though I am disappointed by her choices at times. And of course to run and give her a big hug.

    Our children (in this egocentric time we live in) are in grave danger of being swallowed up by the beast of narcissism. And (parents) as their shepherds must love them with the supernatural and self less love of Christ to save them from selfishly hoarding their hearts all to themselves as Elsa did in the story. As she learned, true love thaws a frozen heart. For us who have believed in Jesus, it has been His love that has saved us from our narcissism. In the movie Anna represented self less love. But in the hearts of our children, we must be the ones to show them the love of Christ.

  7. “Let it Go,” was released as a single 40 days before Frozen hit the theaters. Even though it accompanies the cute movie with adorable characters and a happy ending, “Let it Go” was also made to stand alone. I don’t know what the movie’s message is yet, but this songs message is “crystal” clear. I’m a label reader in general. I like to know what kind of energy things are going to give my kids. I read song lyrics before my kids ingest them because my kids memorise and regurgitate them, and they rarely forget songs. Their minds are so “sticky” that I use music to teach scripture and theology. My kids think about the words rolling around in their head and they ask me questions about them. I also read labels on breakfast bars. Not all are created equal, or with good health in mind. I wonder how long it takes for what is memorised and sang, (played on a loop in the mind) to take root in a persons heart, and I wonder how soon after that we can see behavior? Consuming high fructose corn syrup has my 2 year old crashing hard in about 20 minutes, and turns my sweet, big eyed, blondie into an out of control toy terrorist. It’s wise to examine what lyrics we expose a pliable mind to, ESPECIALLY through music. It’s also wise to be alert and connect what is “fed” to the mind to the feelings and behaviors developing in a tender heart. I think that the words that come from our mouths, and what our hearts meditate on matter. A lot.

  8. I agree with a lot of what you said.

    “Don’t let them in, don’t let them see
    Be the good girl you always have to be
    Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know”

    Conceal.  Don’t feel.  Be the good girl.  I was able to relate to that.  Because of circumstances I was forced to grow up early and take on a lot of responsibility.  I became tired of being the dependable one.  In the movie, Elsa built  protective walls around her heart and shut out the one who loved her.She found herself trapped in a prison of her own making.  She worked hard to make sure nobody could see behind the mask.

    “A kingdom of isolation,
    And it looks like I’m the queen.”

    “You’ll never see me cry.”

    Finally Elsa comes to the place where she can’t or won’t hold it in anymore.

    “It’s time to see what I can do
    To test the limits and break through
    No right, no wrong, no rules for me
    I’m free”

    She says “the fears that once controlled me Can’t get to me at all”

    But she was only deceiving herself.She ran away from her problems and decided to live life on her own terms, but still lived in isolation.  She traded one “prison” for another.  And when her problems followed her, she found that the fears had never really left.She had just stuffed them away.  And

  9. I agree with some of your interpretation, but you failed to mention that Elsa was just getting over abuse. For years her parents had forced her into isolation where she had to conceal. Not feeling was part off her controlling her power. This song is about recovery.

    Is she perfect or a role model at this point? No. But many people can identify with her struggle to cast off others stifling expectations of her and figure out who she is. For Elsa, it’s becoming an independent woman after years of abuse at her parents hands. (Keeping in mind they had the best intentions.) For most girls who identify with this song, it’s about being independent and figuring out who they are if they break the painful mold forced on them by bullies, mainstream media, and confusing social norms for women.

    I also disagree with your statement about narcissism. Elsa IS the Queen. The song is about loving yourself for who you are on the inside, not on the outside. That’s mistaking self confidence for narcissism.

    When you said in the one comment that this is more of a call to action for parents, I agree. It’s a call for patents to love and accept their children as they are without putting pressure on them to hide who they are. Don’t force gender norms. Don’t force your own expectations, desires, and dreams on your child. Love and support your child. If Elsa’s parents had done that from the start, the whole eternal winter thing would never have happened.

    1. Thanks for reading, Suzanne. You are correct, this was more than a resource for parents than a critique of a song. While we disagree on some points, I appreciate your feedback and the way you communicated it positively.

  10. I had this conversation with my girls right after we saw the movie. Thankful that the movie redeems it and she realizes that being alone and just letting go isn’t the answer. But you are right that if we leave the song alone and don’t address the message, this is the song that will cement itself in their brains and speak to something inside them. We must speak to it and bring balance in so that the truth of their value in Christ and the truth of their value as a created child of God is placed higher than the lyrics of this song. Thanks for your post!

  11. Your commentary is amazing. Thank you so much for writing this. As a mother of a three year old, and a youth pastor – I commend you for writing this.

  12. My youngest is watching this in the church nursery. Got any ideas on how to tell a one-year-old she doesn’t have to “let it go”?😉 I appreciated your assessment.

  13. I can myself relate to the song “Let it go” bad marriage for so long and faking that everything is ok to everyone!! The song really hits home for me! I have to put my feelings aside because I have three children that need me…I agree with what you said about the song, people that do not may not have been affected like that and cannot see what it’s like to live that way for so long! Thank you for writing this. I am a Christian and it reminds me to trust the Lord more! Humans will let us down but He won’t!
    Michelle

  14. I think you have a valid point. If a girl or person were to, and they do, take this sort of mindset to heart and action, then this is a sad state for anyone to have to feel they need to be in. It’s so important as parents to grow our kids up and build into them and give them options to know they aren’t alone. As Christians, we have the best option of all. We are constantly trying to equip ourselves and our kids, and we just got a copy of a brand new book, well renewed, so to speak, I think everyone with girls would benefit from called “She Calls Me Daddy: 7 Things You Need to Know About Building a Complete Daughter,” by Robert Wolgemuth. The original book came out in the 90s, a best-seller, has been updated for today. His girls are grown up and give their own input along with their husbands who are daddies to girls. I understand 40% of the book is new material. It’s so unique in this way. Robert puts the anxieties of Daddy raising his girl(s) to rest, guiding you through challenges and good times – protecting, conversation, affection, discipline, laughter, faith, conduct. So great for helping daddies learn to lead, love and cherish. An invaluable investment. I highly recommend it!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s