What I Wish I Could Tell the Children Singing "Let It Go"

By the time my husband and I watched Frozen, the film had broken all the records surprising everyone- even the marketing team at Disney. The hype for the film was layered on our own excitement for a new Disney film. After Tangled, we had renewed hope that Disney was returning to the style of their beloved late 80s/ early 90s films. Circumstances prevented us from seeing Frozen in the theater so we waited until Brandon's folks came in April to watch it with them.

In case you didn't know, my in-laws are enormous Disney fans. They visit several times a year, wear clothing featuring Mickey and Minnie and don their mouse ears with pride. We have gone to Disney World as a family several times now. I understand the magical appeal of Disney and the escape it provides work-weary vacationers. Having grown up in Orlando, Disney is less magical for me. What I do not love are the long lines, the intense heat and the culture of materialism and overstimulation. I do appreciate the elaborate rides, enjoy some of the treats (I'm looking at you, Dole Whip!), fantasize about the lounge chairs by the resort pools and love the Disney films from my childhood. 

Tangled really seemed to hearken back to the style, animation and tone of the Disney films I grew up with; I was excited about the direction Disney was taking with their films. This anticipation was compounded by learning the story for Frozen was a retelling of a Hans Christian Anderson story. The theme song, "Let It Go" had been prominently featured on my Facebook Newsfeed for months and had won an Academy Award. I heard the Oscar performance and the thousands of remakes and was not very impressed. Several people reassured me to wait until I watched the film. So I withheld judgment and I waited. 

Then I watched and while I enjoyed the film, what disturbed me (still) was the theme song "Let It Go." Uncomfortably, I sat through Elsa's betrayal and abandonment of her sister and family, culture and kingdom. Elsa declares "I know I left a life behind but I'm too relieved to grieve... Let it go. Let it go. Turn my back and slam the door." I was stunned that this was the scene I had been encouraged to wait for; it explained away none of my concerns. 

In case you have not seen the film, here's a recap. Elsa and Anna are sisters. Elsa has magical powers enabling her to turn things to ice and snow. When they are little, Elsa hurts Anna by accident and her parents decide it is best if Elsa does not practice her magic anymore. She is hidden away in the castle (voluntarily) until she becomes queen. Through a series of events, Elsa's power is discovered and she runs away in fear and embarrassment to the mountains to hide from everyone. "Let it Go" is the song she sings during her escape. To be fair to the story, Elsa returns, owns up to her mistakes and restores her relationship with Anna. But the song being sung is not the restoration song. The song on every child's lips is the one detailing neglect, selfishness and overall indifference to hurt, loss and sorrow.

I understand that this scene was instrumental in Elsa learning how to embrace her hidden identity-- but I cannot support teaching our children to embrace who they are regardless of the results. We are encouraging and doting on these adorable children - 5, 8, 11 year olds - who are loudly (and naively) declaring their indifference to their history and family. Teaching them to ignore the past and slam the door in the face of their problems will only make matters more difficult. Teaching them to give in to their impulses and abandon self-control is teaching them to justify sin and turn from God's instruction.

The message to "be yourself" is the loudest admonition being heard in America today. But what we need is less "do your own thing" and more "let's live together in the messiness of now." We need less entitlement and more humility. We need our past, we need traditions, we need to know our history because it is what makes us human. We need community and family and laughter and tears because they make us human.

The irony is Elsa is just as alone in the mountain kingdom she celebrates as she was in the family castle. Hiding in shame and rejoicing in self-indulgence are equally isolating. I do not expect Disney to convey this idea to my children for me; that job is mine and Brandon's. But this is a battle pervasive in American Christian culture. In a world of overindulgence, we Christians hide our sin, we hide our temptation, we act like it does not exist and then we fall hard. We are not meant to do this alone.

Talk with the children. Remind them that we cannot run away. Tell them we are nothing without Christ. Show them that being a Christian- heck, being an adult- is about taking ownership of our shortcomings and handling trouble with grace and gentleness. Tell them we are all sinners believing for grace. Encourage them to be brave. The world can surely use more gentleness mixed with courage. Give them a restoration song. 

1 comment:

  1. I just found a stash of "old school" children's videos! You will have to peruse the stack. It includes Disney's Alice in Wonderland and the Fox and the Hound. Charlotte's Web too, tho not Disney, it is so childhood.