My girls loved Frozen. I loved Frozen. It was a great story that carried great lessons. It was also funny and entertaining. Ultimately, I loved it because it conveys a powerful message about personal growth and fighting for love. And perhaps the best part is that the type of love most exalted in the movie was that between two sisters, rather than romantic love, which triumphs in most Disney movies but actually gets ridiculed a bit in this film.
But Frozen also carries a warning about the importance of stories. Of whole stories. Of individual pieces of stories being set in their proper context.
My daughters love the song “Let It Go,” which is the most compelling song in the film. So we downloaded the song and have been listening to it. On repeat.
Here’s the trouble. The song features these words:
“It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrongNo rules for me
Before you stress out too much, let me assure you that Disney is not denying absolute truth here. Nor are they trying to teach our kids to disregard rules. But this song illustrates the need for stories and context.
In the context of the overall story, this song fits in perfectly. The character (Elsa) has been repressed, she’s had to live a lie, and at this point in the film, she “lets go” and finally owns up to who she is. It’s actually a freeing point in the story, and in some ways a truly healthy development. But as the phrase “no right, no wrong, no rules for me” illustrates, she carries her authenticity too far and her desire to stop restraining herself ends up hurting herself and many others.
So in the movie, the naïve folly in these lyrics gets exposed, and she learns to be herself within the context of right and wrong. The film sorts all of this out in a powerful way.
The problem is created by the fact that this song is too good. It’s the standout single. So people (like my family) are going to buy this one song and listen to it apart from its story, apart from its context. And as a stand alone single, it’s implying that freedom comes from shirking rules and denying the distinction between right and wrong.
To be clear, Disney isn’t implying this, because they created that song for its context in the story. But listeners will infer it because they’ll be listening to the song without regard to its context.
There’s no villain here. It doesn’t upset me at all. But it struck me as a good reminder. Now, my oldest daughter is 4 years old, so we’ve haven’t been able to have a deep talk about relativism and how one might mistakenly infer this worldview from the song she loves. If you have older kids, you may want to have a conversation like that. But for me, it stood as a reminder of how important stories are.
It’s not the individual elements that make a story good or bad, it’s the relation of the characters and events to the overall plot. This is as true of stories in the Bible (like David and Bathsheba) as it is of Disney films. So go ahead and enjoy your favorite scenes and singles, but make sure you pay attention to the whole story.