The Real Message Behind Disney's 'Let It Go' in 'Frozen'? Not So Cool.

Beth Greenfield, Shine Staff


It’s no secret that Disney has another crazy hit on its hands with “Frozen,” which has raked in more than $300 million so far, putting it on track to becoming the highest grossing Disney animation film in history.

Also not a secret: that the film has been a media darling, with reviews proclaiming it “wonderfully enchanting,” “delightful” and “moving,” with “positive messages.”

What doesn’t appear to me to be known — or noted, rather, even by the typically reliable feminist bloggers who have joined the ranks of ravers — is the real, subtle message behind the film’s viral-video scene, “Let It Go.” And that, as far as I can see it, is this: “Get it, ho.”

Sorry to be harsh. It’s not that I’m unable to recognize the power-girl messages, catchy tunes and cool animation of the film (or that my 5-year-old daughter didn’t go gaga over it). It’s more that I refuse to accept as “feminist” and “empowering” more tarted up, oversexualized crumbs. I mean, are we really so desperate? (Don’t answer that.)

Here’s the deal with the mostly beautiful, practically perfect “Let It Go” scene: Elsa, the princess-turned-queen who can freeze anything with just a flick of the wrist, flees from her royal kingdom, where she has had her potentially dangerous powers stifled by others for too long. Once she’s safely up in the mountains, away from everyone who’s afraid of her, she’s free to be herself, which she sings about (“That perfect little girl is gone”) while creating an elaborate ice castle for herself out of thin air. It’s all pretty awe-inspiring and exciting — until it’s made darn clear that, in order to be truly “free,” Elsa has to also transform herself into a total vamp, in all the most tired and sexist of ways.

It doesn’t veer into pole-dance territory until three minutes into the 3:38 video: that’s when the crown comes off, the hair gets taken down, and the queen transforms her perfectly lovely green gown into a sparkling, off-the-shoulders, breast-hugging confection that’s now got a slit up to her right thigh. And Elsa works that skirt like a Victoria’s Secret Angel on the runway, swishing her hips with the exaggeration of a seasoned drag queen! Then comes the kicker, when we get a close-up of her formerly innocent face, now suddenly bearing a boatload of makeup — oddly jarring smears of bright rouge, deep-red lipstick and shocking-purple eye shadow. 

Why? Who’s it for? Why can’t Disney convey to its target audience of young girls the notion of female self-empowerment — even sexual strength, which I’m all for — without relying on the same tropes and trappings that it’s been using since forever? And why are we all supposed to overlook it just because some of the messages have improved?

I’m not against making “Let It Go” a metaphor for sexual awakening; I’m simply yearning for the day when Disney figures out how to break its heroines free from the male gaze. Because, listen: I know this nonsense is not new and I know it’s been way worse. But just because it’s relatively better doesn’t make it all OK.