‘Let it go,’ sisters
Let’s have a roaring Women’s Month!
“Let it go, let it go/And I’ll rise like the break of dawn/Let it go, let it go/ That perfect girl is gone/Here I stand, in the light of day/Let the storm rage on!” That’s from the Oscar-winning song in the movie “Frozen.”
In her groundbreaking book “Kiss Sleeping Beauty Good-Bye,” Madonna Kolbenschlag writes: “All fairy tales are about transformation, metamorphosis. There are two recurring variations on the theme: One, in which the heroine’s situation is suddenly, dramatically and instantly changed for the better—usually by some extrinsic intervention.” (Our Filipino “Darna” must belong to this first kind.)
“The other, in which the change or revelation takes place after a long, arduous struggle and is the result of the heroine’s own growth in self-knowledge and moral capacity. ‘Beauty and the Beast’ belongs to this latter kind.”
And so does “Frozen,” the 2013 blockbuster Disney animated movie (grossing more than $1 billion at the box office as of today) that is gaining a cult following and has enthralled kids and adults alike. It merited three whole pages in Time magazine.
The movie’s signature song, “Let it go” by Fil-Am composer Robert Lopez and wife Kristin Anderson-Lopez, was named best song in last Monday’s Oscars; the movie itself was best in animation (more than 85 million hits on YouTube).
“Frozen” is a screen musical adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s 1845 Nordic tale “The Snow Queen.” It begins with the story of two sisters, Elsa and the younger Anna. They are very close as kids but when Elsa discovers that she has a gift or power to create ice and snow, she slowly becomes distant. It is during her coronation as queen of Arendelle (their parents died in a shipwreck) that this power is almost exposed when she disapproves of Anna’s immature infatuation with Hans, a visiting prince charming who later turns out to be a prince scheming. (Sorry if I am exposing him so early.)
Anna needs to get this in her head: You don’t marry the first man you meet. The sisters have a spat and Elsa’s awesome power is about to break out. Afraid of her own power, the newly crowned Elsa flees to another realm, an icy one, to contemplate things. The kingdom that she leaves behind experiences what looks like a perpetual winter.
In her remote ice palace, Elsa sings: “The snow glows white on the mountain tonight, not a footprint to be seen/A kingdom of isolation and it looks like I’m the queen/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!”
But she also belts out a telling refrain: “Let it go, let it go!”
Daring Anna sets out alone to search for her sister. She traverses the frozen landscape, has her share of mishaps, but along the way she meets Kristoff and his reindeer named Sven and other characters, among them Olaf, the snowman of Anna and Elsa’s childhood.
Kristoff is not exactly a dragon slayer rescuing a damsel in distress. That would be such a cliché and stereotypical for today’s empowered women. He is a regular chap with the heart of a Good Samaritan, while Anna is a headstrong young woman with a mission. But together, with their sidekicks in tow, they cover quite a distance.
There is a race to find Elsa. The ill-motivated Prince Hans wants to get to Elsa, too, and searches. After the melee among contending parties, the captured sisters are each made to believe made-up stories about each other. No-good Hans makes Elsa believe that Anna (held captive, too, somewhere) is dead and that she is to blame. Then the prince blurts out to Elsa that all he wants is to be king of Arendelle, for him to mine its resources.
He is about to slay Elsa when Anna, who has escaped, runs between them and turns into hard ice, blocking what could have been a deadly blow.
To make a long story short, it is that act of love—Anna’s—and not a man’s kiss as she had wished, that would begin unfreezing so many things, her own heart among them. There is so much more about the freezing and unfreezing than can be told here.
And what of the good-hearted Kristoff? Well, “Frozen” is not about man and woman happily-ever-aftering at the end of the story. At least, not yet. It is about sisterhood, empowerment and being fearless in using one’s power for the good. But many gifted women first need to unfreeze themselves from the confining cold storage.
Indeed, the stories we read and movies we watched as children have influenced our world views. The fairy tales that seem innocuous are, in fact, full of values and meanings. Creators of animated films and writers of children’s stories are now injecting modern-day transformative and liberating themes, whether these are about women, the environment, indigenous groups, or the animal kingdom. I have written one of my own: “Bituin and the Big Flood/Si Bituin at ang Malaking Baha” (Anvil, 2010) illustrated by Jess Abrera.
Years ago, Remy Rikken of the National Commission on Women bought up all the copies of Kolbenschlag’s book she could find to give to women. She held workshops that tackled the fairy tales discussed in the book in order to break the spell of feminine myths. My own copy is full of underscoring. That’s how much I liked “Kiss Sleeping Beauty Good-Bye.”
Kolbenschlag, a doctor of clinical psychology, women’s advocate, academician and member of a Catholic religious congregation, has written a number of books with feminist themes. She died in 2000. She would have liked using “Frozen” as a heuristic device to interpret the experiences of women.
Let it go, let it go.
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