Forgiving “Let it Go”

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! Let It Go, Sung by Idina Menzel, Frozen.png

I didn’t like Frozen. Well, let’s back up. I didn’t like how saturated the market became after the release of the uber popular Disney film Frozen. And that centered around the movie’s super popular song Let it Go. I hated the song, I hated every child who sang the song, I hated every teen on Youtube singing covers of the song.

I hated that it was “the anthem” for the youths.

And if I sound like The Grinch, you are right.

But Frozen didn’t fire on all cylinders for me for more than just the inundation of the song. I wasn’t wowed by the story. Now, mind you, it’s a stunning film and I could have my arm twisted and see some of its appeal. Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s go over the film. Frozen centers around Princesses Elsa and Anna. Elsa has ice powers and Anna has BenDelaCreme’s terminal delightfulness. Elsa does her best to hide her ice powers and Anna continues to be painfully optimistic. After one party, Elsa’s ice powers are outed, she runs away dramatically and  builds an ice palace (as you do) and Anna has to go on a mission to “save” her sister. There’s a boring subplot about Anna wanting to marry the first man she meets, Hans, and another boring subplot of Anna trying to rationalize her dumb choices to male lamp that carts her around. Hans ends up being an Alex Jones-style false flag villain and Elsa nearly kills Anna with ice magic. Elsa laments this and the moral of the story that the truest love possible is one between sisters despite the fact that Anna still shacks up with the male lamp.  

This movie just dances along the line of being obviously made for children while also being aggressively allegorical for the adults in the room in parts. Disney has recently been very meta with its movies and Frozen really kicked off that trend. Anna’s determination to marry the first man she meets is a staple plot point of the 90s Disney movies and every other character around her is insistent on telling her that her assertion is wrong and is bad and she should feel bad. The abundance of cute sidekicks is also very 90s Disney, so all the terrible ways Olaf is maimed and damaged during the film is an interesting inversion of that trope.

But we’re here to make amends to Let it Go, the breakout anthem of the entire damn film.

It was actually another Idina Menzel song that made me forgive the transgression that was Let it Go.

It’s Defying Gravity from Wicked. Many of you will know I am a huge musical theater person which makes the next statement a little strange: I don’t like the musical Wicked. Now, I do love the music of Wicked. Popular makes me smile, For Good makes me cry and Defying Gravity…let’s get into that.

Defying Gravity is right towards the end of the musical and it’s all about Elphaba breaking free of Glinda and her narrow view of how to do things right. The song is triumphant and beautiful and I do relate to on so many ways. Elphaba uses this song to finally free herself of the expectations set upon her by society, Glinda’s gaslighting and her dead-end relationship with The Wizard. It’s beautifully sung and beautifully performed and it does all the right things for me as a nerd, musical theater person and person who loves Idina Menzel.

My relationship to the song is a little more than just appreciating a damn fine musical number. As someone who felt held down by a hometown littered with ghosts, a family that was prone to gaslighting me into staying in one place and a myriad of societal expectations that only exhaust me, I wanted to defy gravity. I wanted to fly free. I wanted to reconcile all those feelings and be the best me I could be from precisely 278 miles away.

And it was as I belted the lyrics to this song at the bus stop before the sun rose just outside of my tiny apartment, I realized something: this is what the people who so passionately sang Let it Go must feel like. This feeling must be the exact same of finding form to the feelings you’ve had for so long and finding a song that so perfectly illustrates your desire to just break free. Disney has plenty of anthems like that from Part of That World to How Far I’ll Go; every generation of Disney fan has theirs. For me, it was Reflections because of course it was and for a whole generation of children, it’s Let it Go. And the parallels to Wicked and other coming of age narratives don’t stop there. Frozen allegorically can be seen as one of the best metaphors to coming out as LGBT+ put to film.

As Elsa becomes comfortable with her powers and who she is, she stops concealing and not feeling and lets it go. For many that had to remain in the closet, it’s liberating to live your truth and not have to hide who you are. Many find a family or build one of their own, they find safe places that do not make them compromise and they relish in being who they really are; just as Elsa did when she built her ice castle, built her minions and changed her clothes and let down her hair: she became the most free version of herself and that’s wonderfully powerful to those who have felt that way or are trying to feel that way.

Just because at first it didn’t do anything for me does not mean that I can or will continue to deny the importance of this narrative to a new generation. Just because something isn’t my cup of tea doesn’t mean I have to demean its importance to others.

And for being a stick in the mud about Frozen for literally years now, I do apologize. It’s not my job in this world to steal someone’s thunder. It’s my job to be understanding, as those have been with me. To be critical without being cruel. To be skeptical without being cynical. To be intelligent without condescension. That is what I am here to do.