An Exercise in Not Giving a ****
There are many lessons that may be gleaned from the Disney canon. One may even suggest that there’s little need to look any further. This notion was confirmed yesterday in my theology class when we watched Elsa’s iconic “Let it Go” scene from Disney’s 2013 instant classic, Frozen.
It was in this context that professor Doug Shirley introduced the framework of an importance continuum. And yes, it is a continuum of how important you are. You personally. Or as a courtesy, let’s say me personally. Whatever. Anyway, according to Mr. Shirley, our lives are lived on a continuum between “I’m utterly unique and amazing and my existence is miraculous” and “in the grand scheme of things, my life is really inconsequential.” Ultimately and paradoxically, my life is so important that it’s no longer about me.
What’s so gratifying about Elsa’s song is that it captures a deep-seated longing to say “fuck this shit” to externally imposed, soul-crushing limitations. She’s testing her own strength and agency and in so doing flings herself to the far end of the continuum. If I were a psychologist (you know I’m not, right? I’m not.) I’d explain that this is a critical stage in development not only for Elsa, but for every person. However, whereas most of us feel out the edges of our world a little more subtly, maybe experimentally reaching out with a toe or two, Elsa takes a more full-body, full-force approach.
Unfortunately, at this point in her story Elsa is so caught up in the Letting Go that she ends up precisely back where she began: in isolation. In her eruption, Elsa simultaneously breaks out of the prison of her home and social convention and bursts right into her own self-imposed prison (albeit with better lighting and saucier décor). And key for her own process, she’s there by choice.
While the resonance of “Let it Go” clearly runs deep for many, we lose something when we stay in this part of Elsa’s story. (Which is why everyone simply must watch Frozen in its entirety a whole bunch of times.) In letting go, Elsa gains some parts of herself and loses others. It’s not until she returns to her family and community that she is able to feel her way to that sweet spot on Doug’s continuum where she simultaneously embraces her gifts and her calling as the leader of her people. Finally, Elsa is able to utilize her power for the benefit of others as well as herself and truly live into who she was created to be.