Why this mom loves “Let it Go”

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The song “Let it Go” has grown on me.

When I first saw “Frozen” in the theatre, I thought “Let it Go”  was a visually impressive number.  I loved the images of Elsa gliding through  the bluish snow and the ice palace rising around her.   But for some reason the song itself didn’t grab me, though I did mentally applaud the singer for her impressive range. (I also thought, “Wow, that’s the first time I’ve ever heard the word ‘fractals’ in a song lyric.”)

But since then, I’ve heard it many times.  I’ve had an increasingly hard time getting it out of my head.  Just a few days ago I heard it playing in the pediatrician’s office, and I started singing along, which caused my seven-year-old to say politely, “Mom, could you stop singing?”

Because while he enjoyed the movie, he is sick of the song.  “The girls ALWAYS sing it at recess,” he complained.  I’m sure he’s right, because from what I hear from my friends who have girls, they love this movie with a passion that goes beyond the popularity of most Disney films

I’m a forty-one-year-old girl, and I can relate.  This song gets me; it really does.  And here’s my theory: Females understand this song in a way that guys don’t.

What’s the song about?  It’s about a girl with a unique power she’s been told not to use.  She’s different and her power can cause problems, so she learns to hide it.  Then her gift accidentally comes out, and it’s scary and upsetting, but then she finally says the Disney equivalent of “Screw it. I’m tired of holding back.  I’m going to let it rip.”

It’s a far cry from the Little Mermaid who, as a college friend of mine  once memorably explained, gives up her voice to have the perfect body so she can get a man. “Let it Go”  is about female empowerment.  You actually hear a Disney princess singing, “That perfect girl is gone,” and it’s a good thing.

I love that.

We women have come a long way, but it’s still so easy to get into a “don’t rock the boat, don’t be a troublemaker”mode.    I’m not saying women should stop  being sensitive and compassionate, because sensitivity and compassion are qualities that I wish more people (men included) possessed.  I’m saying that you can be sensitive and compassionate and cause trouble.  (In fact,  compassion for others is probably the catalyst for most social justice work.)  

A lot of the positive change in this world has come about through women who did cause trouble, who grew tired of being someone else’s  idea of what it means to be perfect.  You see this in the suffragettes, in the women of the Civil Rights movement, in so many places in history.   These women probably each had to have their own “Let it Go” moment where they realized that they could no longer live the careful, fearful life they’d had before.  I’m grateful they had the courage to smash through the expectations that held themselves and others back.

Now that I think about it, maybe boys can relate to this song more than I thought at first.  My kids are so young that they haven’t yet started expressing pressure to be “the perfect male,” but I’m know that pressure does exist, especially as they reach the teenage years.   But as a former girl,  I know why this song is so popular with Matthew’s female peers.  Even at a young age, girls can sense the need to fit into a narrow definition of “perfect,” be it in their behavior or their weight or their dress.  I think there’s something in Elsa’s liberation from that that touches a chord, and powerfully.

Just recently, Matthew and I attended a birthday party for one of his female classmates.  An hour or so in, two costumed and bewigged young women arrived, one dressed as Elsa and the other Anna.  They gathered all the kids together and played the soundtrack and invited them to sing along to “Let it Go.”  (they also supervised a fake snowball fight and painted faces.)  I sang along too, and loved it, and  I noticed several other moms doing the same.

It’s a message we can’t hear enough: When the perfect girl is gone, the real woman can come out.

9 responses to “Why this mom loves “Let it Go”

  1. Grateful for your thoughtful perspective, Ginny. I think the song is fun too, but I have to admit I’ve been afraid of it becoming the anthem for girls of my daughter’s generation. I have had a hard time ignoring the sexuality of the song (Elsa ends up in the slinkiest dress ever! :). And being the prudish Mormon that I am, I DO want my daughter — and my son! — to have rules. But you point out the meanings that are not just about sexuality, but about social justice and personal expression. Thank you.

  2. Thanks so much for your comment, Lisa. I totally get your ambivalence (and I too wish her dress were a bit less Las Vegas slinky. 🙂 ) For some reason, it’s the social justice, not-hiding-your-gifts piece that speaks to me when I hear this song. Just this morning, the prayer book I read daily featured a piece on Ida B. Wells, the African-American woman who in 1884 sued a train company when they tried to make her give up her seat to a white man. She went on to become a journalist and huge champion of justice. I read it and thought of the song. She sure let something go there, and we all gained a lot. Thanks so much for the comment and hope you and the family are all doing well!

  3. OK, OK, OK. Yes to all of that.

    Maybe it’s that I’m more of a guy than the other girls I know? (Said tongue-in-cheek.) I dunno. MY girls love the movie, the song, EVERYTHING ABOUT FROZEN.

    The more I hear the movie in the background, the more it grates on me: this stereotype of a peppy person and an injured, wronged person, and suddenly, boom, love makes it all better.

    I have lots to say about it, but, really, I don’t care enough to articulate it all.

    In my own head, I think this movie brings out some different aspects of personality and approaches to life. My hack sociologist can’t help but scratch her head while the driven-crazy-by-the-soundtrack mom can’t help but plug her ears and run screaming from the room… 🙂

  4. Ah, Sarah, this is where our experiences differ. In my house, *I* am the one singing the song, while my son is the one who is being slowly driven crazy by it. 🙂

  5. Sounds like a must-see movie! I hadn’t heard much about it until I watched the clip that you posted and could see the ambivalence – love the idea of “letting it go” when it comes to other’s limiting expectations, but the implied sexuality of the cartoon character at moments in the song did leave me raising my eyebrow at the thought that this had young girls as a target audience. But then, I don’t know the movie or the context for the song so I could be off…. I DO sometimes wonder- for myself and as a role model for my girls – how to “let it go,” to really let go of worry, fear, the need for affirmation, the desire to avoid conflict. Maybe I should listen to the song some more and seek some inspiration! 🙂

  6. Okay, the problem here is that the song promotes a misreading of this moment in the story. When Elsa runs away and finds herself, it is NOT entirely a good thing. The song SOUNDS empowering, but it’s at a point in Elsa’s transition where she is choosing to turn her back on family and responsibility because she feels like that is what she has to to in order to become who she is meant to be. The song represents her backlash against oppression (which she has done to herself, since her parents have not been around to enforce it). What she needs to learn is what comes later–how to balance her power with responsibility and love. So I completely disagree. If the message of the song is empowerment, Disney placed it in the wrong part of the movie. It’s a fine moment, but IN CONTEXT it means something very different from what it means if you strip away the conflict of the plot and the interactions that precede and follow.

    I like the line “The cold never bothered me anyway.” I like it a LOT. And the song would have been okay, too–at half the length. (Pop is not really my preferred genre.) But it does NOT, in CONTEXT, mean that freedom is empowerment. Freedom is running away, and at some point, you need to go back home. It’s the “Hakuna Matata” of Frozen, but more serious.

  7. Therese, it would be interesting to get your girls’ reaction to it. As the mom of boys, I do feel like their experience of the song is so different.

    Nicole, great points. I agree that the movie as a whole teaches that you need to balance your own freedom with relationships with others (who wants to live alone in an ice palace, however pretty?). As someone who has seen the movie only once, not a zillion times (like so many of my friends who have girls have done :)), it’s easy for me to focus on the song as discrete unit.

    But I do loooove it because I tend to play it safe and not take risks. The line about the perfect girl being gone really works for me. (Somehow, that social justice reading just keeps sticking out to me.) And I think that Elsa’s freedom here is one big step on the road to the happy ending that eventually comes. Relationships end up being better when the people involved don’t have to fear or hide their true selves. That’s how I see it, anyhow.

    Good ol’ Disney movies — so much to think about. Thanks for your comment!

  8. I have to say that I have really been working on the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy this lent and on thing that we have been reflecting on as a family is to bear wrongs patiently. We’ve been talking a lot about not overreacting when feeling attacked and forgiveness. My two year old loves to run around singing “Let it Go, Let it Go!” at the top of her lungs so it has become our motto when the kids are bickering or even for myself when I am festering over something. I just start thinking how God wants me to “Let it go!” and it’s brought me so much peace! Thanks for the post!

  9. That’s such a great application for this song, Michele. I think I need to remember your post when folks cut me off on the freeway and I let my frustration fester for a few miles (as I tend to do, alas). I’m happier just letting it go. Thank you for the comment and hope you have a great Lent!