Yes, I am going to talk about Let it go.
Some would say that is as productive as digging up last year’s corpses in a futile attempt to ask them out to the prom – and maybe they are not that far from the truth. Yet as a true past-clinger and always-late-to-the-party kind of gal, I cannot, well, let this one go. Everything has already been said and everything has already been proven; but it has never been said by me (not true)… on this blog, so I am afraid we have to do it all again.
My vision of reality may be a bit skewed, but, believe it or not, I don’t think I have gone a week without hearing about Frozen pretty much since I went on my last holiday. You see, I work with an awful amount of fathers and they all have daughters on top of that; a funny coincidence, isn’t it? I guess I should not complain – they could all have sons, and I know absolutely nothing about Star Wars or Pokemon – but the truth is, even if I’d like to, I could not escape Frozen, not even now.
Years after its release we are all still kind of stuck with it. Disney considers it its number one IP and for good reason too – even Zootopia, quite a fantastic piece of entertainment in itself, could not knock it off its icy throne. So here comes merchandise, toys, cosplay, apps, a futile attempt at a spin-off short (dreadful) and a sequel (yet to be judged)… Frozen is everywhere. And, as it starts my sacred shower songs playlist, so is Let it go.
As the good scientist that I am, I could now go through the full list of reasons why other people think Frozen was (is) popular and why I disagree with them. But at the end of the day I am not here to talk movie sales or mass market preferences or any these sorts of things; I am here to tell you that no matter how much this film and the hype around it annoys us, no matter how much we hate it and how much we deny it, at the end of the day we all have a little bit of Elsa in us.
We are all very much our own Elsas
This being said, let me start with Mulan.
When I was a little tadpole, I’d always tell you that although my favourite cartoon of all time was The Hunchback of Notre Dame (still not that far from the truth), my favourite cartoon character would always have been Mulan. I am kind of glad I got to be a little tadpole in the 90s as I am pretty sure Mulan would never be made today, not in its original form. What a shame, because as far as I am concerned, it represented quite an important side of life.
You see, now that I am considerably older and way grumpier, I still watch Disney princess movies – live action included – and I cannot help but notice just how many of their protagonist are just so… well… liberated. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing strictly against people who always go against the crowd and fight for what they want and who they are; it is just the way the contrary is described that bothers me. As if being part of the community, the plan, the norm, society was something inheritably bad.
And it is not.
Mulan to me represents not only someone who proved to be capable of more than was expected of them, but also something much less talked about – someone who does not want to fight against the system. Someone who cares not only about freeing themselves, but also about the way it will impact the people and the world around them. Someone who understands that their freedom comes with a hefty price tag.
Not wanting to disappoint can be a powerful motivation. So can the need to belong and to be a part of something greater. Sure, we can argue whether particular expectations are healthy or not, but that is a completely different debate. At the end of the day accepting the role family, society, the Universe is sending our way can and often is a rather noble cause.
Countless hours of my life have been spent on singing Mulan’s Reflection; also on my shower playlist. To me it will always be a piece of music that although coming from a rather… unusual place, will ring too many truth bells. This is the point in her story when Mulan finally realizes that no matter how hard she tries she will always disappoint. This is the moment she realizes she will never be what is expected of her.
Mulan does not rush off to the war to redefine herself. Mulan does not want to be truly herself. She decides to sacrifice her future and possibly her life to save her family, partially out of guilt and the feeling of not being good enough.
Now think about Elsa.
She spent her entire life trying to concede and forget and deny and pretend. She spent her entire life slowly killing who she was for the sake of not only all her family but her country as well. She was ok with it. Although inspired by her parents, it was her choice and her sacrifice to make.
Why do we love stripping people of their right to sacrifice so much? That question always puzzles me, but we do, indeed, as a society. We choose to think that being oneself is the highest of all the high stars to reach for and that doing the opposite makes us somehow unworthy. Makes us plain and stupid and sheepish and simply wrong. I am not exaggerating . Read any comments section on a social justice driven article.
But the truth is, we all do take these sacrifices – often not as grand as Elsa’s one, but nevertheless we do. Most of us live with a dark secret. We all hide from the world our deepest wants and fears, and we often do so for very good reasons. We gave up on ever showing our true face – we settle on something in between. There are different reasons for this, of course, sometimes it is just embarrassment, sometimes it is plain dangerous. There is nothing strange about it; in the real world actions come with consequences and sometimes finding ourselves is not just worth it, as hard as it may be for some to accept.
Let it go and its magic
Let it go is the very heart of Frozen. Not just because it is one of the best songs ever written for Disney (it is). Let it go is the only moment in the film when Elsa is truly free. And as she achieves her freedom we can all feel for a brief moment what it is like to have the shackles off our arms and legs, to forget about consequences, to do what we want to do. At the end of the day it is we who lock ourselves away. No one else can free us as we hold all the keys.
Sooner or later reality catches up, and Elsa realizes that there is a price tag for this moment of pure content. Just like for Mulan the Let it go sequence comes to Elsa as she falls – as she realizes she could never be the good girl she was raised to be. And so she chooses isolation. She chooses yet another sacrifice. Because letting it go, as much as we would love to believe in it, is not always the answer. But for 3 minutes and 38 seconds Elsa is just herself – and so are we. We love singing Let it go as it is often the only time we can show our true colours – even if it is just in our imagination.
My very favourite scene in Frozen is the moment when Elsa hold her crown in her hands and makes a vow that she will never go back to the life that was, that the past is in the past and there will be no more suffering, and hiding, and lying. Am I the only one who finds this particular scene touching? I doubt that; all over the world people are making songs (like the absolutely touching Of course I want to build a snowman), fanfictions, pictures full of this very longing to be free. We want that so badly. We need that so badly.
So we sing along and imagine this is us, and our life, and all these things we have always wanted. We dream of a different life where being ourselves would not hurt anyone. And then we go back to our lives and our own sacrifices a tad lighter.
A tad like we did really let it go.
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