A Disney song has always been there to move the story along. It can define a character or delve into their motivation, or further the plot. Of course, it’s also designed to stick in your head so that you will love the movie and rush out to buy the soundtrack!

Fair enough.

But I also happen to feel that any song that plays in a children’s movie should be socially responsible. The content of the lyrics should promote good behavior, sound principles, and motivate the listener to be better in some way. I speak of songs sung by the protagonist, or hero, and not the villain. A song sung by a villain is designed to explain their reasons for being nasty and the bad ideas within the lyrics are shown to be wrong when the villain gets his or her comeuppance in the end!

So why do I say that the song Let It Go from the movie Frozen is bad? I know I’m going to be in a minority on this but I feel if people actually read the lyrics instead of just singing along with the tune, they just might begin to see some problems.  So let’s begin.

Let It Go was written by Robert Lopez, Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Emanuel Kiriakou and is  Copyright © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, Walt Disney Music Company. I obtained the lyrics from Google Play Music and trust that they are accurate. I will show the lyrics one stanza at a time, analyze, then move on to the next stanza:

The snow glows white on the mountain tonight
Not a footprint to be seen.
A kingdom of isolation,
and it looks like I’m the Queen
The wind is howling like this swirling storm inside
Couldn’t keep it in;
Heaven knows I’ve tried

Things start off well with Elsa simply surveying her new surroundings and comparing them to her inner turmoil. Which is admittedly great and understandably so!

Don’t let them in,
don’t let them see
Be the good girl you always have to be
Conceal, don’t feel,
don’t let them know
Well now they know

Again, Elsa is honestly expressing her feelings about her treatment at the hands of her parents. Being told not to use her powers and then hiding her away from the world because of one accident was a knee-jerk reaction taken to an extreme level! Bad parenting doesn’t begin to cover this situation.

We begin to see a hint of the problem when Elsa callously flips off the line ‘Well now they know’. Yes they, her subjects, do, as their entire land is frozen, live stock and crops are dead, businesses are ruined, and if this was the real world, many are likely to die due to being completely unprepared for such a drastic change in the climate.

Let it go, let it go
Can’t hold it back anymore

This signature line from the chorus is the one sung heartily by everyone, even little children. But what are these lyrics actually saying? The idea is that when you can no longer handle a bad situation, let go (or lose control as Elsa does) no matter what the consequences are to yourself or others.

Let it go, let it go
Turn away and slam the door
I don’t care
what they’re going to say
Let the storm rage on.
The cold never bothered me anyway

And this is perhaps the worst part of this song! Slamming the door in the face of the problem is not going to solve anything. Not caring while being aware of the bad situation caused by one’s decisions and cruelly saying ‘let it go on’ because ‘it doesn’t bother me’ is again not a lesson to teach small children!

It’s funny how some distance
Makes everything seem small
And the fears that once controlled me
Can’t get to me at all

Here Elsa has run away from her problems far enough to make them seem small and trivial, when in fact they are big and impactful. She is happy to be safe while everyone else is still in great danger.

It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me,
I’m free!

So now that her powers are ‘outed’ she chooses to see just how much damage she can do with them instead of seeing if she can fix things and prove everyone wrong about her. We need to know and accept what is right and wrong and adhere to certain rules to have a safe and working society. Someone who feels ‘free’ from these concepts inevitably hurts others.

Let it go, let it go
I am one with the wind and sky
Let it go, let it go
You’ll never see me cry
Here I stand
And here I’ll stay
Let the storm rage on

Now Elsa decides not to face her issues but bury them deep inside her and simply let the world go on without her. She is also okay with the world having to deal with the mess she left behind, just letting ‘the storm rage on.’

My power flurries through the air into the ground
My soul is spiraling in frozen fractals all around
And one thought crystallizes like an icy blast
I’m never going back, the past is in the past

The past is never ‘in the past’ until there is a resolution to whatever the problem is. That is why we have coined the term ‘closure’. People spend serious time and money on trying to deal with traumatic events in their past so that they can have a better future. Elsa is in effect ceasing to live.

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
Here I stand
In the light of day
Let the storm rage on

The cold never bothered me anyway!

Elsa should never have been made to feel that she had to be perfect, nor that the way to achieve this was to hide who and what she was. But to decide to be, in effect, a bad girl, is not a healthy alternative!

Lastly, this final line is perhaps the most damaging lesson this song teaches. That if something doesn’t bother you, who cares about anyone else? Loving, caring, and well-adjusted people care about others, even if those people have made mistakes that hurt them or don’t seem at first to appreciate the effort.

This song seems to say that if you are treated poorly, become as bad as the abusers. Whereas I think we can all agree that the better path is to take the high road and rise above the crowd.

Does this look like a good attitude?

Conclusion: It should be noted that Elsa endured horrible treatment by the two people who should have loved and protected her, her parents. The damage that this would do to a young child is incalculable! So perhaps we can understand her position. But I put forth that her song is that of a villain explaining the reasons for doing what she does, and certainly not a song of empowerment. Remember that the Ice Queen in the original book was a villain and I don’t think Disney intended Elsa to be viewed as well as she has been, but has just run with it for merchandising dollars.

Why this song is held in such a high regard is that somehow Elsa has been cast as a suppressed victim who has every right to act as she does. And she doesn’t act well! In fact, she accidentally freezes Anna’s heart, and instead of trying to help, creates an Ice Monster to remove her from her presence. This monster then goes on to immediately try to kill Anna. I guess that didn’t bother Elsa either?

Also, many fixate on the ‘sisterly love’ angle of the movie, but again, I contend that there is no sisterly love, just one sister’s love (Anna’s) for her sibling (Elsa), which is not returned.

Now that we have analyzed the lyrics stanza by stanza, I would like to recommend that you consider Anna as the true hero of Frozen and consider looking to her as a role model for your little girl or boy, and not Elsa, even if she does have a catchy song.

FUN FACT: Note the shape of the balusters in the railing in the above picture. Does the repeating shape remind you of anything? It resembles the chest insignia of Wonder Woman, the ultimate symbol of female empowerment. Coincidence, or subliminal message?

Comments

comments

About the Author

Lee Beatens ()

I have been blogging about Disney since 2007, contributing to several sites and also hosting my own site called Disleelandia. I have since rebooted that site and relaunched it as Disney Nouns. I love Disneyana, the Parks, and finding obscure Disney references!

Website: http://www.disneynouns.com

12 Responses to “Why Disney’s LET IT GO Is a Bad Song”

  1. I agree that Anna is definitely the hero of this movie, and that the song really isn’t a good example for little kids. It’s so darn catchy, though, you can’t help but sing along!

  2. For me, Lee, I’ve always read the intent of the song to be one of Elsa saying to Let it Go as in her way of telling herself to drop it, not lose control. Maybe I’m wrong on that. However, the other aspect when it comes to Elsa is that she is definitely in a conflicted role here — from innocent child to heartless queen to loving sister. Her parents certainly didn’t do her any favors telling her not to use her magic, you are right, but there aren’t any user manuals for children either, and then, with them being lost at sea (whether or not they are the parents of Tarzan) she had no one to go to for help, so obviously mistakes were made as a result. I wrote about Elsa’s character way back when the movie was out, you can check it out here if you are interested: http://www.mydreamsofdisney.com/2013/12/diving-disney-characters-elsa/

    Great post, my friend, and thanks for making me use my brain on this Tuesday!

    • Thanks for the input, Mike! I definitely think Disney needed to work on the story a bit more. And thanks for the link, I’ll check it out and hopefully others will too.

  3. Really interesting read. I can see that if you maintain a Disney movie should have black and white heroes and villains, then this isn’t really the most appropriate “hero” song. But the reason I like it, and like Elsa’s character, is because she is not a black and white hero.

    Elsa takes the idea of “let it go” too far, but I do think that concept can be empowering at times. She’s letting go of fear and that’s huge. As you said, she has basically been mistreated by her parents. No doubt this would result in lots of mental damage too. As someone personally who does struggle with mental issues, I find a lot of encouragement and empowerment in a song like this. The whole “turn away and slam the door” aspect to me has always been Elsa overcoming the fear and difficulties she previously faced.

    And Elsa learns in the end that maybe “let it go” wasn’t exactly the right mantra. The part you reference with freezing Anna’s heart and the ice monster is done out of fear and frustration. In her heart she knows it’s wrong but she doesn’t know any other way to deal with it.

    I think you could argue that the problem isn’t with the song or her character, but just how other people might be interpreting it. I think Elsa is a wonderfully complex character, and her song reflects that.

    Thanks for letting me share :)

    • Thanks for sharing! I’m glad the post is getting such insightful feedback. The movie is definitely a love it or hate it kinda thing! I just wish Disney had handled Elsa as a character better.

  4. Interesting perspective, Lee! For me, this song is about learning to embrace who you are and being yourself. It’s about not letting your fears or your past control you. Elsa learned to get past her fears and embrace who she really is. At the end of the movie, you can see how many people in the kingdom embraced Elsa’s powers as she created an ice rink and a beautiful frozen fountain for them to enjoy.

    • Thanks for your thoughts! It is good that she decided to move on but it would have been nice to fix some problems first. At least there was a happy ending!

  5. I think you have to also consider her perspective when she sings this song. She has NO IDEA of the turmoil she had caused. We know this because of her surprise at the news when Anna arrives at her ice palace. She tells Anna to leave and go back and enjoy the sun. Therefore, she can’t possibly be singing about the damage during “Let it Go”.

    In that light, I think the storm she is singing about is the storm of ridicule and public opinion now that her secret is out. She claims “cold never bothered” her anyway, referring to the treatment she expects. That continues the theme of isolation from the first verse.

    At This point in the movie, Elsa still had a lot of growing and discovering to do, but Let it Go is the moment her story begins to shift. It is the force that propels the story forward for better or worse, and puts Anna in position to grow as well.

  6. Definitely an interesting perspective! One can understand it to mean just not care about what people say or do and how your actions affect others. And if so, yeah, I agree that it’s a dangerous way of living and one that is sadly popular nowadays.

    • It is good to move on and embrace who you are, but Elsa definitely forgot about the rest of the world. Unfortunate she felt she had to isolate herself to solve her problems. Thanks for commenting and for your thoughts!