20 April 2014

Frozen warmth

Last year's musical Disney film Frozen was a monster hit.  Globally it made well over a billion dollars, becoming the sixth-highest-grossing movie ever, and the highest-grossing animation.  Its fans, however, decidedly did not include many among the Christian Right in the US, who accused it of clandestinely promoting the dreaded gay agenda.

I haven't seen the movie, only read about the controversy; but I recently ran across the video of the film's most popular song, "Let It Go", which stimulated some observations.

First, here's what the controversy is about, in brief.  The character of Princess Elsa was born with an awesome power to control ice and snow with her mind, and is able to feel comfortable in extreme cold.   Her power is presented as something dangerous and "weird", a deep dark secret which has to be hidden lest people outside the family find out.  Eventually she is no longer able to hold her secret in; being found out for what she is, she flees the town where she grew up for the snowy mountains where she can be herself.  A summary is here; the Christian viewpoint is given in detail in this blog post.

OK.  This storyline does somewhat parallel the experience of a young gay person growing up in a repressive environment and eventually rebelling or escaping.  I think Christians of an earlier era would have complained that it was promoting sympathy for witchcraft, not homosexuality -- but as you'll see, that relates to what I think is the real point here.

On to the song.  I chose this version because it shows the words in writing, and the words are important.

First off, this is one hell of a song.  The meditative beginning relies heavily on the piano (the most emotionally-resonant instrument, as I observed here); then it builds up into a rousing celebration of personal freedom.  As for what she's saying:

The wind is howling like this swirling storm inside
Couldn't keep it in, heaven knows I tried
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!

I don't think it can be denied that this is a deliberate expression of what it feels like "growing up different" and having to hide what you are.  If you haven't had the experience of going through life having to hide something important about yourself, you simply can't know what it's like.  I suspect the liberal writers who dismissed that interpretation are mostly people whose core personalities don't include any seriously unconventional elements, and thus did not have that experience.

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!

And now we're right past lamentation of having to hide and straight into antinomianism.  Elsa proceeds to build a magnificent ice palace for herself using sheer force of will.  She's no longer a victim or even a liberated ex-victim.  She's powerful.

I suppose one could argue that that reflects the current reality for gays.  At least in liberal parts of the United States, gays don't need to hide; on the contrary, the balance of power has shifted enough that the CEO of Mozilla could be forced out of his job for siding with the bigots years ago, and some Christian conservatives are talking about terms of surrender in the culture war.  But that can't be the movie's point, or it wouldn't have made such a big issue of Elsa having to hide the truth about herself.

I don't think the message here is about gays specifically at all; it's something much broader.  There are a lot of ways in which an individual can be different from the norm, and spend a lifetime struggling to balance being true to oneself with the need to hide that truth from the world for fear of ostracism or worse.  Gays are an exceptional case in having won so much acceptance and freedom to openly be who they are.  Atheists have begun to make the same kind of progress, and there are those who argue that we should consciously model our own fight for acceptance on the gays' successful strategies.  Some other taboos' death grip is still hardly challenged; the world is full of people who disapprove of things.  Elsa isn't the gay kid who has to hide, or at least not only that.  She's everyone who has to hide.  If you're an atheist who arrived at that viewpoint still young, in a religious environment, couldn't the song lyrics above apply just as well to you?

I'm glad that message found such a wide audience.  Someday we'll all be powerful, and build that magnificent palace.


Blogger Shaw Kenawe said...

I've heard that Frozen was a huge box office success, and I've heard about the Christianists' complaints bout it "promoting the gay agenda."

It's not surprising to read how accepting people for who they are would be very disturbing to those people. That appears to be against their beliefs.

21 April, 2014 08:12  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Like primitives, they believe there's only one correct way to live, so they'll always be on the side of the bullies who enforce conformity, and against the individualist.

21 April, 2014 10:40  
Blogger Daniel Wilcox said...

You wrote, "If you haven't had the experience of going through life having to hide something important about yourself, you simply can't know what it's like."

Growing up always a run-at-the-mouth about anything and everything, this was never me. Rather I got in trouble often because everyone knew exactly what I was thinking, and they didn't agree.

Maybe that's why I don't identify that much with the song, "Let It Go." It's alright, but not that different from other Disney musical animated movie songs.
Also, I'm not much for musicals in general; not my sort of music.

As for weird Christian takes on secular media, consider this sad event I put my young son through years ago because I had read in Christian news that Tim Burton's new movie A Nightmare Before Christmas was satanic.

Even though my son so much wanted to see the movie, I didn't let him at the time. Not that I worried that it was "satanic" literally, but that the movie much have dark themes I didn't want my son to experience.

Was I ashamed, befuddled, and angry, when later we actually saw the movie, and it was perfectly innocent, not dark at all.

14 January, 2018 10:22  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Again, I think an individual's background has a lot to do with how they react to things like this. If you didn't have that experience of feeling "different" and feeling you had to hide it, "Let It Go" probably wouldn't mean as much to you. It's interesting that a lot of fundies perceive it as so threatening, though.

14 January, 2018 11:07  
Blogger Daniel Wilcox said...

Oh, I felt very "different," extremely so, and was born with a "why" in my throat and heart, but I didn't hide it. I proclaimed it. It's not every Baptist's preacher's son who ends up living on the streets in San Francisco the spring of '67:-) who doesn't do drugs, hasn't even tasted alcohol. No matter what anthropological grouping, I always saw reasons to doubt.

Later when I went back to the Cheyenne Indian Reservation where I had been a missions worker, I participated in the Native American church one chilly night in a tepee under the Montana starred sky, taking peyote, etc.

As a teacher, lay counselor, etc.for many years, I tried to understand introverted young people, but it wasn't easy since my temperament is the loud mouth who tells everyone about everything, even when they don't want to hear it:-)

Fundies and Evangelicals, like Atheists and Buddhists and so forth, are a lot more diverse than is generally realized.

There is definitely a general trend in much of Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism which is very tribal, with huge barriers between its "true religion" versus the "world."

14 January, 2018 11:56  

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