Song Challenge Day 5: New meanings

“A song that has a new meaning to you every time you hear it”

Most of the time, a song will have at most two meanings to me; my initial impression and one that hits me listening to it later. If there’s ever more than two it’s probably because I never thought that much about any of them.

And I was shocked when I realized that the biggest exception to that was something so well-known and widely heard.

In case you’ve been living under a rock in a parallel universe, that was Elsa’s character-defining movie-defining  song “Let It Go” from Disney’s Frozen, sung by Idina Menzel.

(“Movie-defining” is not hyperbole. They actually rewrote the whole movie because this song changed the directors’ perception of Elsa’s character.)

I mean, the surface meaning and the context within the movie are clear enough, and more than sufficient to explain the rewrite.  But it’s so easy to see additional meaning in the song, in individual lines, or in the accompanying visuals.

It’s a power ballad about being true to oneself, of course…

…but yet the line “no right, no wrong” (and the fact that Elsa’s actions here turn out to have unintended consequences) suggests that maybe it’s also saying it’s possible to take “don’t care what people say” a little too far…

…yet maybe the line “you’ll never see me cry” (and other later developments in the movie) suggests the real problem is that Elsa still hasn’t gotten comfortable with all of her emotions.

Though, maybe Elsa really is supposed to be above morality, because it’s also possible to see this song as about ascension to godhood. (Also not hyperbole; Elsa gives Olaf life without realizing it.)

At the very least it’s about embracing what you can do even if no one else can.

Probably needless to say, it works very, very well as a metaphor for coming out. (It helps that Elsa is the first Disney princess…, er, Disney queen I guess, who doesn’t have a male love interest. And the only guy she’s commonly shipped with is Jack Frost from Rise of the Guardians, which if anything only demonstrates about how far from canon any actual evidence of her liking guys is.)

And what to make of the fact that the line “that perfect girl is gone” is accompanied by a visual change that was almost certainly intended to be, and is certainly widely perceived as, Elsa becoming more beautiful? Well, I think that’s because the “perfection” she’s rejecting is the same as what she’s rejecting in the rest of the song: hiding her emotions in the name of “control”.

Or you could just say this song is about how Elsa becomes the Snow Queen by refusing to be an ice queen.

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