Even before Frozen’s “Let it Go” took home an Academy Award for best original song, we were all belting out Idina Menzel and Demi Lovato’s versions of the free spirited single. As Elsa liberated herself from her lifelong secret, and frees herself to “let go” of the perfect image she was forced to uphold as heir to Arendelle’s throne we root for her to do just that, “let it go”. We cheer for Elsa’s new found wreckless freedom and apparent self-destruction.
Elsa says it herself, she’s left a life behind, and the life she speaks of is no ordinary life, it’s life as a monarch. Elsa may be too relieved to breathe, but how is Arendelle’s government doing? She has abandoned her responsibilities, left her obviously misguided baby sister all alone with only a predatory power hungry foreign prince to guide her, and oh yeah, she’s frozen the entire kingdom (although she doesn’t realize it at the time). Elsa’s young rebellion isn’t so different from many of Elsa’s “real-life” “non-Disney-fied” counterparts. Isn’t self-destruction part of the process of growing up? Let’s look at everyone’s favorite example, Miley Cyrus. Miley has certainly done everything short of freezing Hollywood, to shed her childhood “perfect” image. Miley continually crosses boundaries we deem inappropriate but in Disney’s watered down version of the common adolescent struggle, aren’t Elsa’s choices a bit too far as well?
Let me raise a broader question, one that goes beyond the animated realm of Disney and the superficial walls of Hollywood; do we all “shatter” a portion of ourselves in order to discover who we are? Sure, your version of rebellion may not include endless winter that jeopardizes an entire kingdom, or grinding your naked body up against an abnormally large wreking ball…is the result really so different? Must we all act a little too wreckless, and push our boundaries a little too far in order to reach a happy medium in the end? Isn’t that why, for the first time, this Disney ballad had been covered thousands of times and is replayed on adult radio stations and…hello, has won a major motion picture award?
As children, our values are sturdy and our dreams untouched, untainted and all entirely plausible. It is during this period we may have the clearest picture of who we want to become, and what we plan to achieve (I mean, I’m still planning on winning a gold medal in gymnastics, designing red carpet worthy gowns and opening a shelter for homeless puppies). The eyes of childhood are beautiful, but foolish, as most children have never been given the opportunity to push the limits of their values, or their identities as a whole. It’s not until late adolescence that we really come to understand that our personal identities are malleable. In high school and college we begin pushing the rigid beliefs that form the skeleton of our personal identities. On paper we may value honesty, friendship and true love, but as we begin to encounter more and more complex situations we learn that real life isn’t quite as “black&white” as the eyes of childhood perceive it to be. We start to realize“Maybe working as a doctor isn’t my dream”, “maybe a shot of tequila doesn’t make me an automatic alcoholic” and “maybe I don’t want the fairytale romance I envisioned for myself”.
Must we all “Let Go” of our perceptions of ourselves to push our limits and in turn build our own identities? How do we engage this human tendency towards positive self-destruction in a healthy manner? What are acceptable ways to “loose ourselves” as means of “finding ourselves”? How do we know when we’ve gone too far?