Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Elsa?

Beware- Disney Lover Rant with Frozen spoilers to follow….

I was doing an internet search this morning to see if there were any Frozen items for sale targeted to boys because after taking my 3 year old to his very first movie in the theater to see it, he’s been singing several songs from the soundtrack and we watch the “Let It Go” sequence on YouTube almost daily.  I thought it might be cool to see what’s available, maybe for his Easter basket or just some summer wear, keeping in mind his birthday, etc.

The search I did was “Frozen for boys”, but forgot to hit the “shopping” tab instead of “web”, so I didn’t get what I had expected.

Here is what I envisioned and hoped to see; boy tees with Kristoff or Olaf, maybe a toy Sven or a foam ice pick, maybe some plush ice blocks or the trolls, even something with the North Mountain covered in snow or a sled with little plastic ice blocks, a Kristoff and Sven play set, maybe… even something with Anna and Elsa would have been fine- I’m not opposed to my son playing with dolls or “girl toys”.

Unfortunately, that is NOT what I found. (The fact that NONE of what I was looking for even existed is an entirely different rant)

My innocent search for merchandise pulled up the dark underbelly of the conservative world- the part I try desperately to stay away from and never even acknowledge is there, because I KNOW not all conservatives are that  close minded and crippled with fear of everything that is unlike their beliefs, but the reality is they do exist and to save my blood pressure and everyone else’s ear, I do my best to just stay away.  This time, I couldn’t help it and read the tags for each of the pages my search generated.  The farther I went down, the more it upset me.

The first page of my search was a list of movie reviews, the majority from conservative websites with such phrases as “too scary”, “Satanic”, “will teach them to be gay”, “misleading parents”.  Now, there were some nice ones too just to be clear, but I’m not going to talk about those because this comes a week after I read (then did my utmost to forget) what I can only describe as a horrifyingly real blog post by someone claiming to be “well behaved” in which she writes a gruelingly long post explaining how she has taken every one of her bazillion grandchildren to see it and as a result, has seen it multiple times- and yet- the movie is frightening, demoralizing, evil and will LITERALLY turn your children gay if you allow them to see it because the message is SO clear, they won’t be able to help but feel that it’s *gasp* acceptable, even fashionable… to come out and be gay.  She goes deeper and explains how Disney is going to destroy the world and morality as we know it.  It frightens me that people like this really exist.  It’s even more frightening to think people follow her blog and believe what she says, further corrupting America’s children with her prejudice, hate, and just plain stupidity.

So. Anyway. Piggybacking on THAT fun read last week, I was already building the soapbox in the back of my mind and today’s search just really nailed in the last board.  I am fiercely loyal to Disney, as a life-long pass holder, past cast member, and I feel no shame in voicing my feelings on this.

I have to… *ahem* let it go.  Yes. I went there.

Elsa is apparently terrifying the conservative community and this can be seen by all these crazy blogs explaining how Frozen is horrible in 87 thousand different ways.  All I’ve got to say to those people, is; just stop it.  Seriously.  You’re embarrassing yourself and it’s getting out of hand.

Those of you who see evil and darkness in a children’s fairytale, you are so quick to judge and to beg parents to shield children from this movie’s horrible message of thoughts like BEING WHO YOU ARE without fear of judgement.

You people, the ones who watch Frozen and judge Elsa as a selfish girl, willing to harm her family to “do whatever she feels like” at anyone else’s expense (and according to you, that obviously means this is a sly metaphor to explain that she’s gay and her disaster of a coronation party is just a clever way of depicting a coming out party gone bad) – yeah all of you-You’re nothing but bullies, clearly the ones who would rather see someone suffer, conform and blend to make yourself more comfortable and blame THEM for upsetting your perfect, skewed version of reality.  Anyone who is different physically or mentally, had better just shut up and be quiet, keep their differences away from the public, suck it up and be like the rest of the family because their uniqueness might inconvenience someone.

I AM SO SICK of people screaming about how they all think Elsa is gay and this is the coming out song of the century.

Delusional people, you’ve invented a story that isn’t there!  Even if it were- how sad that you missed the point of the movie- love and acceptance, patience and courage creates peace, unity and healing.   “Only an act of true love can heal a frozen heart.”

If you believe those ideals are wrong, I’m probably not going to say anything that will change your mind here today.  I am going to also go out on a ledge here to say it’s pretty obvious you have never been the unpopular kid.  You’ve never had to deal with being different, or made to feel like you had to hide who you were or what you believed in or wanted to do with your life for fear of what others might think.  You have never lived in fear of rejection just for being who you are.  You have always been 100% confident and cannot relate in the slightest to someone who has had a different lifestyle or struggled with being shut out or away from others because of your differences.

Listen, movie is not evil.  It will not “turn children gay”, it will not harm or undermine anyone’s beliefs, in fact, it can sit parallel to many of them and even reinforce them.  It will not teach your children to abandon their loved ones.  Here’s what ACTUALLY happens in this film and why it is so hard for me to understand how people are taking it so very wrong:

Two sisters love one another and are best friends.  Their parents love them, want to protect them and are genuinely caring people.  They have a beautiful family and are a caring unit.  Elsa has a gift that can be dangerous, and while playing, she almost kills her sister.  She’s terrified of her ability and her parents vow to help her learn to control it.

They don’t.

They teach instead, that she must HIDE it.  They rip her sister away from her and shut her away from everyone.

She isn’t allowed to acknowledge it or realize it’s potential, so she never learns how to control it, and of course- when tested in Elsa’s adulthood, it spirals out of control and almost destroys an entire town.  She runs away, afraid she will hurt someone because, like a self-fulfilling prophecy- the fear of not being in control and hurting someone is exactly what will cause her to hurt someone and she knows this.  As she is spiraling out of control, she locks eyes with mothers, children, babies, her sister… everyone she could accidentally kill and she does the only thing she can to save them… she runs. Wouldn’t you?

Now, I’ve heard all these people freak out about how “Let It Go” is sooooooo selfish and mean and what a jerk Elsa is for walking away and leaving everyone to deal with her mess.  I’ve heard it’s setting a bad example of doing whatever you want without consequence.  To those people, I ask- Have you actually SEEN THIS movie?  Or, are you just listening to the song and assuming you know what’s going on?

If you had actually watched the film and heard the song in context, you’d see that when she sings this song, she has run away in order to protect everyone from her out of control powers.  She realizes, as she walks farther into the wilderness, that she actually CAN control her dangerous abilities, but only when she’s not afraid of hurting someone.  She realizes that her fear is what created the danger.  Spending a lifetime in terror of herself is what made her power so dangerous.  She is LETTING GO of fear- Not of everyone else, but of the fear inside that caused her to want to keep herself away from everything that might make her happy.

The song she sings is that moment of a liberating peace she has never known before.  A peace many of us can relate to, when we realize it’s okay to be who we are and stop worrying about perceptions and what others think.  To stand, unafraid of ridicule and be who we are.  What beauty in this moment and what a moment of confidence!

Now, everyone is concerned about what that “REALLY” says to our children.  I totally understand that for some at face value, this song seems to teach lessons that are contrary to the lessons of responsibility and humility we want to teach to our children.  For you cautious ones, here are a few scenarios for you that might help put things in perspective, as I see them:

The song “Let It Go” can be sung;

When a child realizes that it’s okay to say “no” to peer pressure and bully mentalities that insist they look, talk, act and be a certain way in order to be liked, appreciated, found attractive or popular.
It shows kids that it’s okay to admit they are a Christian to their hard-core friends who don’t think it’s cool to be religious.
It shows a kid that it’s okay to be ANY religion in the face of ANYONE who might judge them for their beliefs.
It’s okay to admit they believe in fairies even if their friends all think only babies believe in Tinkerbell.
It’s okay to say they’re not ready for sex when all their friends stand around talking about what they did last weekend.
It’s that moment of strength when they open the door in an outfit that THEY LIKE and they know, for once, they genuinely don’t care what their friends at school will say because THEY are in control- they feel good in what they have on.
It’s the moment a young person realizes that the abuse they suffered does not define them and they give themselves that allowance to be strong, confident and beautiful.
It’s the moment of confidence when a child with a disability bravely walks onto a sports field and asks for the ball.

It is the moment when we realize we are a gift from the Divine, a power to be reckoned with, a force of nature and a powerful source of inspiration to others.  This song is that moment when we embrace that gift that is US, knowing only by living, do we show our true appreciation for that gift.

The song is in the context of Elsa walking away and for the first time in her life, not being afraid of harming another person because there is no one there to harm.  Can you even imagine how amazing that would feel? If for just one second, you could breathe- exhale and know that doing so was not going to literally kill someone?

No.

You can’t.

Why?  Because it’s a movie and Elsa has mutant powers that are imaginary in a cartoon Disney princess fairytale. Do you see how we are all over thinking this?

Going on…

Elsa realizes, as she builds bigger and stronger structures, she never learned to control her abilities before.  She only learned to hide them and to bury the fear of their potential danger lurking deep inside.

Many viewers get upset about the song itself because it says “I don’t care what they’re going to say” and it also says, “turn away and slam the door”.  First of all, just for argument’s sake, let’s evaluate this.  An adult, who was just crowned queen is singing this song because she realizes that she has to leave home and all she has ever known in order to save her sister and quite possibly the rest of the world… from harm and in so doing, she can let go and be herself for the first time in her life.  This is not a child singing this song.  This is not some headstrong teenager “railing against authority”. SHE IS THE AUTHORITY.  She is the queen. She is an adult, and has made the decision to protect everyone by leaving them and it just so happens that when she does this, she realizes what a joy her abilities can be if she can control them instead of allowing her fear to control her.

Next, let’s discuss this whole “selfish” notion.  Selfish, as defined by Google- “lacking consideration for others; concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure.” Elsa is none of these things.  Not once.  She leaves her home and her throne to save everyone.  Someone please tell me what is selfish about this? Because she actually enjoys being free of fear?  I’m not sure I understand.

In the western world, we have a horrible interpretation of what the world “selfish” means in our culture and this movie’s message rails against that a bit. I believe the reason why many feel a little uncomfortable, is because we’ve been taught to give of ourselves until there is nothing left for us.  We’ve been taught that we should deny ourselves to give to others at our expense and to do this is noble, but to allow something for yourself, even if it’s something beautiful, worthy or justified, is somehow wrong.  There is a whole argument (that I will NOT be getting into here) regarding the concept of what “selfish” actually means, but I think it can be broken down pretty simply. There is selfish- acting for yourself above others and knowingly doing harm to those around you just to make yourself happy- and then there is caring for the Self- which is necessary self-care and self-love that rejuvenates the body/mind/spirit and our connection with the Divine.

As a mother, I see this perspective daily in myself and other moms.  I am a stay at home mom and have only had someone stay with my babies when absolutely necessary.  I tandem nurse them both and the oldest is 3 1/2.   I get frustrated with moms who stop nursing because it’s “too much trouble” or moms who would rather hire someone to watch their kids so they can go out every Friday and drink with their friends.  I co-sleep and would never deny my kids the comfort of sleeping next to me, even if that means I sleep like crap because I’m smooshed into the edge of the bed with no covers and a foot in my eye.  I don’t understand people who force their children into bed at a specific time of night every day even if they are not tired when they are crying and just want to be comforted, and I have a problem seeing that behavior as anything but selfish. As a result, I sometimes go overboard the other direction.
I realize this is MY issue, though, and I have to be reminded that it is okay to take a break now and then.  It’s okay to ask someone to hang out with my kids so my husband and I can have a night together.  It’s okay for me to let go and say no to someone who is asking for a favor when I really need to take care of myself, my home or my family first.

The bottom line here, is there is a difference between being selfish and taking care of the Self.

In this song, Elsa experiences her first moment of self-care and is learning to love and embrace who she is in a moment that just happens to be surrounded by the tragedy of having to leave her sister for a second time.  It’s a beautiful moment encased in the pain of separation.

Those who see this scene and see her as a child, (which again, she is NOT), we see her as an entitled, selfish brat slamming the door in our faces, as we tell her to stop being disrespectful and come have dinner with the family.  Selfish and self-loving acts are not interchangeable scenarios and those who see Elsa as the bad, childish, selfish girl, need to understand the context.

Elsa is not a child.  She is the queen.  She is giving up her authority and giving up everything that makes her happy so she can protect others and while doing that, she realizes the beauty of what she has always considered a curse.  It’s magical and worthy and she deserves to be happy.  She has done nothing wrong.

My advice, if parents are concerned their children will use Elsa’s song to inspire them to be disobedient, be a responsible parent and have a conversation with your child about what Elsa has had to deal with in her life and help your children understand the value of doing what is right for them, while respecting others.  Elsa never disrespects anyone, she isn’t mean-spirited, there is no attitude or evil in her.  Parents need to help their children understand that sometimes doing the right thing actually can have positive consequences for us, too- its not all martyrdom in good decisions.

Another issue is people consider her rejecting her sister who is begging to help her a poor example to kids because Elsa is rejecting help from someone who loves her. Remember, Elsa doesn’t have the connection to others that you or I would have.  She grew up with no friends, locked in a castle with barred doors and windows.  She was taken from her sister and told she couldn’t have a relationship with her anymore and her parents died when she was young.  She had no one and lived her life in her room, shut in and away from the world.  She couldn’t even grieve her parents’ death openly or attend their funeral for fear of hurting someone she loved.  

Yet- she DOES love her sister and strangers in the street, enough to run when she needs to protect them from her power. Somehow, even though she lived in isolation because she might hurt someone, she doesn’t turn cold and evil, she doesn’t blame others, society or her parents or even her sister.  Elsa realizes she holds danger inside of her and she is deeply aware of how much damage she could do.  The responsibility of her power hurts –her- daily.  She doesn’t reject Anna. Elsa loves her and is willing to selflessly deny herself the love and companionship of her best friend- her sister- in order to keep that sister safe.  Throughout the whole movie, Elsa denies herself to protect others.  The ONE MOMENT she is allowed peace and happiness, people get angry and think it’s bad? I just … I can’t even begin to understand that logic.

Another thing that makes me think those who don’t like the song’s meaning haven’t actually seen the movie… Elsa wasn’t “selfishly running away” after she hurt everyone, but this is how they see it.  In the story, Elsa believed she had spared them by running- she didn’t know about the ice storm.  Once Anna reaches her in the tower, Elsa begs Anna to go home, be happy and live a wonderful life, believing Anna will be better off without her, as she always had been.  Anna explains that the world has turned into an eternal winter and Elsa is genuinely hurt, terrified and remorseful for what her actions have caused, but she doesn’t know how to help except to stay hidden and keep everyone at arm’s length.

Once again, this is because she was never taught to control her power because her idiot parents rejected her gifts and shunned her, hid her and told her she had to pretend to be someone else.  So…. she doesn’t know what to do- all she ever learned to do was hide.  She doesn’t know HOW to reverse it because her parents. in their “deep love and concern” for her, only taught her to keep it locked inside.

If we really want to be honest with ourselves, this story is teaching us- the parents- a lesson in acceptance.  Her parent’s fear is what causes the eternal winter.  Her parent’s rejection of her abilities is what causes her to never have control over them.  Their desire to “protect” everyone from Elsa, to teach her to “conceal, never feel” does nothing but hurt EVERYONE in the long run because they only taught her to reject who she was, the gifts she was given and to hide herself and her gift from everyone.

This movie is not about a selfish girl who destroys the world then runs away laughing to build a tower of ice and live alone, hurting her family and almost killing her sister.  This is a story about a girl who was shut away, her best friend and sister taken from her, brought up to believe that what was naturally within her was evil, dangerous and wrong, then orphaned and left to become queen with no social interaction or understanding of how she was supposed to BE a queen with uncontrollable powers.  She was afraid of herself.  She was never taught to love herself or to learn to control her abilities. What results, is a child inside a woman’s body, living in fear of herself and accidentally hurting those around her as a result.

This is a cautionary tale to parents, reminding us how VERY important it is for us to be partners with our children, to teach them to love themselves, teach them to embrace their differences, the differences in others and to be the masters of their hearts, bodies and minds.  Maybe that’s why it hits so close to home and seems to offend so many people.

If you believe all of this is wrong, that in spite of all Elsa has had to endure that she does not deserve to be happy and that she is wrong for finding a moment of peace in her abilities, then this movie is not for you.   If you believe a child should live for the sake of others’ expectations and deny who they are to be what you want, instead… again, this movie is not for you.

This movie is for your children who will hopefully use it to see through your limitations, your hate and your fear and give them the confidence to be who they are, in spite of you and those boxes you want to hide them in.

You know what? Maybe you should be afraid of Elsa.  Maybe winter is coming to your home soon, too.

All I have to say is, good luck when that door opens and the gloves come off.

Hopefully your love can be stronger than fear…

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3 comments

  1. Great blog.

    I want to reiterate that I actually love this movie and the overall message that it is important to be confident and loving and that true love is found in well developed relationships. Plus, it is just fun and beautiful to look at.

    But to address the point, I guess we disagree about the reason why Elsa leaves. You see it as a grand gesture to save and/or protect the people she loves after the powers/gift she has been forced to hide have gotten out of control. I think it is more about a frightened girl (yes, she is a woman chronologically – but as you said, she was never given the opportunity to mature and grow because her parents were misguided dillweeds who locked her up for being different) who flees an outraged mob because she is afraid (rightfully so) of their equally misguided response to her powers. Her powers get momentarily out of control because she was never able to learn to control them, the mob gets nervous because she is different, and she run out of panic and fear. It is a reasonable response to the situation and the song Let it Go comes out of her pain/fear/frustration with her situation. I get that. Sometimes momentary selfishness get us to a place of clarity, which is what ultimately happens with Elsa. I don’t think she is a selfish, bad person. I think she has a moment of selfishness born out of a lifetime of solitude and misunderstanding.

    But, to me that is only one part of the story. The story, to me, is about discovering what true love is, and learning that kindness covers a multitude of sins.

    I was never the popular kid but I have never felt like an outcast. Either innately or due to circumstance, I have always had the uncanny ability to not give a crap what other people think of me. I can honestly say, I don’t ever remember feeling peer pressure or feeling awkward or inadequate because of what others thought of me. I realize that that is highly unusual and that, ironically, sometimes it causes me to be insensitive to others feelings. Maybe that is what is happening here and that is skewing my perception of the movie. Either way, it is a great flick and I now own it. 🙂

    Again, good blog.

  2. Danelle, thank you for your thoughtful reply. After reading this, and your own blog on the topic here;
    http://buffythebillsfan.blogspot.com/2014/03/her-frozen-heart.html?showComment=1395946587054#c6440029693101006628

    I do understand where you’re coming from and where our opinions differ. To briefly recap what I wrote on your page, where I see a woman who was trapped as a child and taught a way of life that she did not know how to free herself from, you see a woman who had the ability to free herself and actively made the choice not to.

    You see an angry mob- where I see a community of concerned people trying to wrap their minds around what they just saw- and Elsa seeing how quickly things spiraled out of control and in fear of THEM, and possibly also herself, she fled.

    I absolutely agree that at some point in one’s life, they MUST take responsibility for their lives, actions and ability to be happy and it is important to instill this power in our children as early as possible, so Elsa may not be the best roll model before she learns to do this.

    Where I differ in my opinion, is to me, the story shows Elsa was taught as an impressionable child that in order to save her sister, she must hide from her. Forever. That lesson is all she ever knew; “Conceal, never feel, don’t let it show” and it was strictly because she could harm someone. Elsa believed she was protecting Anna, and everyone else, by hiding who she was and keeping the gates,and her own heart, locked. She was never taught to try to look beyond that and she was too terrified of the consequences to attempt to do it.

    Sure, she was a little paranoid, obviously afraid of people, having always had a limited exposure, not trusting of anyone new or anyone’s intentions… but for people who live in fear, guilt and pain, they can’t see the forest for the trees and they lose sight of the fact that they actually CAN control their lives.

    I believe this is what happened to Elsa and the message in the story is not for girls to emulate her in her fear of Self, fear of connection and fear of love or even the selfish abandon she exhibits when she decides to leave- it’s to be reminded of the true power we all posses to take control and not allow our fears or limitations rule our lives.

    If our daughters want to emulate Elsa, I would hope they see how she was able to rise above her pain and take a risk- take the chance to change and to give themselves over to unconditional love BEFORE their isolation harms someone they love, and themselves. I would hope they emulate the Elsa at the END of the story- the Elsa who has traveled the hero’s path alone and come out on the other side realizing how important it is to love, to open up and to do what is right for others, not just for yourself, out of fear of the unknown.

    I agree her song is purely selfish and she, in her belief that she is now free to be herself is incredibly self-centered. I also believe however, even as a stand-alone song, it can be incredibly empowering and teach a very positive lesson in personal empowerment, which is why I believe it is so popular. That, and it’s just a really catchy tune- even my 18 month old who can barely speak had the darn thing memorized after we saw it one time!!

    Anna, I agree- is the true heroine and I believe most people actually do see it that way. Elsa was originally supposed to be the villain and is sort of a secondary character. Elsa is as Buzz is to Woody in Toy Story. Anna is the true focus of the story, but her actions are motivated by Elsa who is both the antagonist, and a secondary heroine. They wanted to show the love of sisters and the bond of TRUE, unconditional love as the prevailing force, so they changed it half way through. This tells me they were headed down that road when developing the character, with her selfishness which would have eventually turned to rage, then to pain for others as means to make herself feel better. They chose to go another way and turned what would have been apathetic selfishness into compassionate sacrifice- because she was brainwashed by her idiot parents to believe that the only way she could protect everyone was by staying by herself.

    Now, if she were a woman who was immersed in the modern world, maybe she would have seen she had a choice and taken steps to actively control her life, but she never did. She was never given a chance to learn she even HAD another option, so I don’t begrudge her for not stepping up and doing better for herself on her own. She was still living in the illusion that solitude was the only thing keeping her sister safe. She simply didn’t know that was NOT the case- this is seen in the flashback to how she hurt Anna when she asks her why things can’t go back to the way they were. She doesn’t say, “oh well, because I like being alone because no one is repressing me”, she has a vision of almost killing her sister and then begging her to leave so she doesn’t get hurt. The Trolls tell her as a child, that if Anna even has a memory of the magic, she could die. So Elsa has that weighing on her heart her entire life as something she can never share with her no matter how much she might want to help Anna understand.

    This reminds me of a few Angel episodes; one, when he and Buffy get their one, beautiful, perfect day together where all wounds are healed and their love is stronger than ever because of the demon with the green blood that made him invincible. At the end, in order to save everyone, he has to relive the day a different way and Buffy can never know what happened or it could kill her. He does it again when he wipes everyone’s memory of Connor and has to live with the horror of the reality that almost was, even the beautiful parts… because it will save everyone’s lives and protect his son. He lives with that burden of truth and bears the pain, because he believes he is saving everyone.

    Elsa’s issue is exactly the same. Just because she is wrong in her assumption, does not mean she is a horrible person for doing it. Her intentions are good… she just didn’t realize she didn’t HAVE to be alone when all her life, she thought she did.

    So, while I agree with nearly everything you’ve said on a fundamental level, I still maintain that the motivation is coming from a place of love and sacrifice and not from apathetic selfishness. Elsa is a worthy character and while I will stand with you, 100% against the idiocy of teaching children that being the victim and allowing others to control your life and blaming others for your circumstances is acceptable- I just don’t see that in her character.

    LOL I don’t know why this is so much fun to talk about… but thank you for sharing your thoughts and opinions and this excellent conversation with me! You are awesome!

    • Damn it. You win. I ‘get it’ now, see your point and agree. It is the wrong thing for the right reason. And yes, the parents are idiots.

      It is so annoying that you are all reasonable and willing to engage in debate, minus attitude and defensiveness. Ugh….lol.

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