(Warning: Mild Spoilers. )
I want to talk today about one of the most amazing characters to be cranked out of Disney.
Though she has definitely been embraced by the LGBT community, in a very strong way she also represents anyone who has ever had to suppress a part of their true nature. Perhaps as simple as having to push aside artistic drive because we’ve been told it’s a fruitless endeavor, to as complex a scenario is having to hide sometimes crippling emotional anguish, a lack of self confidence, depression, and so on. The creative team has confirmed that this was all intentional. And though perhaps saying we are all Elsa is a bit of a stretch – there are probably a lot of Anna’s out there – we’ve all had a point in our lives where we’ve felt we’ve had to hide something about who we are, out of fear of rejection, social outcasting, or failure.
Elsa’s entire existence is this very basic human tale. She’s spent her entire young life hiding, isolated in a room with an intense fear of human contact enforced by less-than-stellar parents whose decision was to lock her away rather than find ways to explore and control her gift. That inner storm may rage more intensely for some than others, but it’s still an extremely relatable conflict.
That brings me to “Let It Go”, and why a song that is so upbeat and empowering could also bring tears to people’s eyes. That’s because the song revolves around a very alluring yet very frightening concept – complete freedom of self.
Let’s face it – being truly, all-encompassingly free is something that human beings crave but are actually extremely terrified of. Think about it – what’s holding us back, really? What’s stopping us from upping and following our dreams or just being ourselves? Technically, nothing. Nada. Zip. But the chains of social conditioning are hard to break – and that’s why “Let It Go” is such a powerful song to consider – because here is a woman who is finally able to do just that. She’s stopped giving a crap. She is all about being who she is. We all want to be there. But that power has consequences, and that aspect of her awakening was also not ignored.
It’s the lesson Elsa has to learn by the end of the movie. The decision to change her character from the main villain to someone who instead found peace in her power, but also needs to learn how to be responsible for it, is a decision I can’t thank Frozen’s team enough for for. It made Elsa one of the most realistic characters I’ve ever encountered in a Disney film – we feel for her, we want to sing right beside her as she embraces her true self, but at the same time we also recognize her desire to ignore the consequence of her actions on the world is not a good thing.
Yes, she is free, but her state of being is still damaging and she has to learn how to take that freedom and make it work with her environment. Not caring at all is not ideal – and Elsa almost pays a very dear price for her negligence.
So we come full circle with Elsa’s development. Yes, Anna is charming and lovely, but she stays true to her nature, already mostly balanced, throughout the film. The love she has for her sister never wavers – even if at times she is frustrated or fearful. Her romantic flaws are a lesson, but a sideline to her true quest. Elsa, on the other hand, goes through an entire arc of change, allowing her to be imperfect but perfect at the same time. She learns that although she has embraced her true nature she still has a lot to learn, she can still hurt people and that’s not the right way to go, and to move on she needs to allow the people in her lives – loved ones current and future – and take that journey without having to be completely alone.
Without a doubt – Frozen is a beautiful story that is surprisingly complex, and words can’t truly express how wonderful it is that Elsa exists not as a villain, but as a sensitive and flawed being who is able to break through her inner turmoil and reveal the real beauty that she is.