On Frozen’s “Let It Go”: A recovering “good girl” speaks out

We saw Disney’s Frozen last night in theater, as a family. Regardless of what I’m about to say in this post, I am so glad that we went. Our three-year-old son did so well and was really mesmerized. He wasn’t scared at all and sat still almost the whole time. It was his first in-theater movie and our first movie as a family! We definitely made some good memories.

My initial thoughts about the movie were that it was good that not great, but my husband had some scathing things to say about it. His views were not popular and I doubt that what I’m about to say will be either.

On Frozen's "Let It Go": A recovering "good girl" speaks out

The moments when Elsa sang “Let It Go” were both my favorite and least favorite part of the movie for me. My emotions about the song are conflicted.

Elsa has secret ice powers. Her powers had been misused in her youth as she accidentally almost killed her younger sister. Her sister was healed; but their parents determined that if she couldn’t control her powers, she had to hide them. They told her not to feel, conceal.

In the song “Let It Go,” she fights back. She releases her powers, sheds her cloak and her gloves, transforms her overly-modest gown into a stunning off-the-shoulder gown with a slit up her thigh, lets down her hair (literally), stomps her feet, and builds an ice castle with her bare hands. Her movements gain confidence throughout the song; and by the end she is sashaying seductively as if she is a model on a runway.

As a former “good girl” and “recovering perfectionist” and “people pleaser,” a huge part of me so identifies with the message of the song:

Don’t let them in, don’t let them see
Be the good girl
You always had to be
Conceal, don’t feel 
Don’t let them know

I created myself a cage and lived that kind of life of my own volition because I thought that was the right thing to do, the way to please God, and the way to not be hurt. I was the good girl.

And I have definitely experienced freedom as I have let go of her and let go of “the fears that once controlled me.” I’ve left behind “the kingdom of isolation.” I’m glad to know “I’m free” and “That perfect girl is gone.”

This message of female empowerment, shedding of rules, being strong, testing limits – this is a message I have embraced in the past. I have What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger and Brave in my playlist. A year ago this song would have ended up there right along with them. So like I said before, I get it.

And a part of me believes that being in that place was necessary to get me to where I am now.

But my heart breaks when I think about the four year old – the one singing along to words like this:

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

I don’t have a daughter, so I’m not going to pretend that I know the right way to parent a daughter. But I think that if I had one, this would not be the message I would want to share with her.

I don’t want to tell her that she has to be a good girl or that she has to conceal, don’t feel. I don’t want to tell her that she has to hide who she is.  That message is destructive.

But so is the message of let it gono rulestest limitsturn away and slam the doorEspecially when it is accompanied by a transformation that turns a sheltered good girl into a seductive, door-slamming, “empowered” woman.

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I recognize that this song does not encompass the whole moral and message of the movie in its entirety. I know that Queen Elsa didn’t act this way throughout the rest of the movie and that there are themes of sacrificial love and redemption apart from romance throughout. My issue isn’t so much with the movie itself as it is with this scene – especially as it seems that this song and this scene is what is having the most impact on young girls.

So please understand, I’m not sitting here in judgment of the movie itself or anyone who has seen it and liked it.

I just felt like I needed to confront the destructive message of the Let It Go scene.

Can we let little girls be little girls? Can we avoid sheltering them or forcing them to be perfect good girls who can’t feel – without simultaneously pushing them toward rebellion, defiance, and isolation? Is there a balance to be found here? What positive messages could have been put in this song instead?

I don’t have all of the answers. But I think that there is a better message to speak to the hearts of impressionable girls than the one being spoken in Let It Go.

“She needs to be reminded of who she is, not who she is expected to be. In Christ, she is loving, even if she is acting unloving. In Christ, she is patient, even if she is acting impatient. Appeal to her new creation identity rather than simply shaming her for her wrong behavior.

Tell her she is beloved. Tell her she is beautiful. Remind her what is already true. Invite her to live into the truth of who Christ is forming her to be.” ~Emily Freeman: 12 things your daughter needs you to say.

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All photos taken from Google Images.

14 thoughts on “On Frozen’s “Let It Go”: A recovering “good girl” speaks out

  1. I totally get where you are coming from. Having two daughters who we brough to the movie we had the opportunity to talk about being different, what each set of skills/talents we are given or cultivate as we get older. That sometimes people won’t understand what we chose to do or look like but that as long as we continue to love and follow our savior it doesn’t matter. We don’t need to hide who we are, but to celebrate us. We are each created special, unique and to be able to celebrate that from the beginning means that we don’t end up angry and hurt as an adult. We talked about how her parents thought they were doing the best because they didn’t understand her and how that can hurt. That talking about that hurt could have helped instead of hiding it. We also discussed the love between two sisters, that no matter what happens in life or what comes between sisters they are sisters and their hearts are tied together. That talking to each other and discussing differences can help us understand our sister. I may have cried, but like I said I have two daughters who I pray everyday will have a strong bond through the thick and thin, who will stand up for each other and fight together, who will celebrate each others differences and who will encourage each other to strive to be who God created them to be.

  2. I liked the movie overall, but felt uneasy about some parts of it. Luckily my kids didn’t let it soak into their hearts. Parenting is not easy! Thanks for this assessment. I get what you are saying because I am a recovering good girl too.

  3. I seriously doubt this will be one of your least popular posts of all time. You are saying something pseudo-controversial about a cultural phenomenon!
    The problem is taking the song out of context. Anything taken out of context is harmful. I don’t have to tell you the danger of taking scripture out of context of God’s full plan and message.
    “Let it Go” is basically a kid friendly sexual awakening. But, the story doesn’t end there. In Elsa’s next song, she learns the consequences of living without abandon and sings “I’m such a fool–I can’t be free.”
    Contrast this with the song “Love is an Open Door” sung by Anna. Taken out of context, you get the opposite skewed view of womanhood.
    By the end of the movie, it’s true love–the only time, I’d argue, Disney gets true love right–that corrects both sisters’ views. Anna learns that love is an action, not a feeling. Elsa learns that love is being selfless, not selfish.

    As far as Disney movies go, I don’t think there’s one that has something better to say about love and what it means to be feminine than Frozen.

  4. To me (especially as a recovering alcoholic) it is a story of recovery, hope, and strength. Elsa finally got tired of hiding her defects and went wild. She gave up and secluded herself thinking that she was free to do anything. She felt that she had no hope at stopping herself, was tired of trying, and just went wild.

    It took Anna to point out that her seclusion was hurting others with an enternal winter. Elsa struggled with this so much and couldn’t figure out how to make this work and in her frustration she hurt her sister once again. She hated herself for it and was so scared and lost. Until she fully surrendered to her sisters love and just let God take over could she find peace. Not only that, but she learned to not only use, but boast of her defects/weaknesses for good (2 Corinthians 12:10).

    It is a story of being special, learning how to be special, and how to share your special, aka EXTRA. See this take on it! http://momastery.com/blog/2014/01/27/frozen/

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  7. I think you’re looking a bit too deep there. In this scene she’s decided to become a hermit and cut herself off from humanity. Therefore there are no rules, as anything she does will have no impact on anyone else. She can do what she wants and play around with her ice powers with no fear of harming anyone, like she did Anna. She is now literally ‘free’ to test and try her powers as much as she wants; dress and walk and live as she wants, without offending anyone.

    • On the contrary, her selfish letting go is affecting everyone with an endless winter. She struggles with how to then deal with that as we see during the song “For the first time in forever (reprise)” and takes it to a level of anger that scares even herself. She hurts Anna yet again in her irresponsible desire to just be left alone and wild because she believes that she CAN’T control herself.

  8. I am so happy someone else caught this! Not in a judgmental way, but that someone somewhere else was sitting in a theater with in that uneasy sense that this will be the only message young girls will display on banners for themselves. It shocks me that, while musically, it was a fantastic song, this seems to be where everyone gets stuck in the story.

    Not the rest of the movie where she realizes that the attitude sported in this performance left her alone, bitter, closed and even hostile to the world and to the pursuant love of her sister. No one remembers that in the end, Elsa learns that fear is the opposite of love and reforms her attitude to be more loving.

    No, everyone is so hyper focused on the ‘feel good’ song of ‘let it go’. It also seems that, when this message is called into question, you are accused of being a close-minded, hateful person who is intolerant to others.

    All this to say, Thank you. For being brave enough to point this out. I am not married, I have no children, and I still had to question what this song’s message was doing in the hearts of young girls.

    • Glad someone else saw it!! You are right. People have directed some pretty frustrated comments at my husband and I for picking up on this stuff and “ruining” the movie that’s supposedly positive and uplifting and great for families.

I would love to hear from you and welcome your comments! If you prefer not to comment publicly, you can feel free to contact me via email at aprille.beautifulinhistime@gmail.com. All comments are sent to myself for review before they are posted publicly, so I can stay organized and respond individually to each them. Your comment will be visible after it is approved.

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