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How Elsa's "Let it Go" Should Challenge Complementarians




How Elsa's "Let it Go" Should Challenge Complementarians

Jessalyn Hutto

So, let me get a few things out of the way before I go any further:

  1. I know, I know, Frozen has been talked about and talked about. The Gospel Coalition has had its say and with the Oscars quickly approaching there seems to be no respite. I offer this little article in the hopes that it will give you something new to think about: something that hopefully hasn’t already bean said.
  2. Like many, many people, I loved this movie. From the animation to the story line to the beautiful songs, there was much to be praised in Disney’s latest offering. I’m a huge fan of musicals and honestly found myself tearing up at the emotional climax of Elsa’s hit song “Let it Go.”
  3. I try to take a storyline at face value rather than placing my own spiritual, biblical, or personal ideologies on the work. For instance, I did NOT see an anti-homeschooling theme in Disney’s previous hit, Tangled (as some amazingly enough did). I saw an evil kidnapper who wanted to keep her ticket to immortality hidden from the world portrayed as an evil kidnapper who wanted to keep her ticket to immortality hidden from the world–that simple. Perhaps those who felt offended by that story line need to consider whether there’s a good reason they were offended by that storyline. Ahem. My argument below isn’t that Frozen is speaking specifically to complementarians, but rather that the overarching themes can be applied to complementarians.
  4. I am a traditional complementarian. Hopefully, if you read my blog often you are already aware of this. I believe the Bible teaches that men and women were created equally, but differently and that both bear the image of God. I believe that a husband is called to lead his wife as Christ leads and loves the church and that a wife is called to submit to and follow her husband as the church is called to do so to its Savior, Jesus Christ.

Okay. Now that you know where I’m coming from, let me tell you how I think Elsa’s “Let it Go” should challenge complementarians like myself.

This powerful song takes place after Elsa’s powers–which were previously a secret–are made known to her kingdom. Up until this point in the movie, she has tried with every morsel of her being to keep her magical “freezing abilities” (for lack of a better description) to herself. The desire to hide her powers began as a young girl, when she accidentally almost killed her little sister with them. Since that experience as a child, she has chosen to suppress her abilities, and in many ways she suppressed herself. Once she is outed for having magical powers, she runs away to the mountains where she feels free to use her powers and test her limits–which turn out to be very impressive. Of course, what she doesn’t know is that her uncontrolled powers have forced her kingdom into an eternal winter, and thus the story unfolds.

The moment that Elsa “lets go” of her powers, allowing them to flow freely, is a very powerful moment. You can feel the unadulterated joy and relief flowing from her as naturally as the snow flakes do. She’s exploring a part of herself that she had never dared to explore before and it is glorious to watch as she realizes just how powerful she truly is. In epic musical and visual crescendo, Elsa transforms before our very eyes into a confident and self-satisfied woman (complete with a sexy, hip swaying walk).

Now, obviously there is good an bad in this picture. Trevin Wax has already addressed the obvious problem with little girls clinging to this song as a personal manifesto. As with all musicals, the song in the middle of the movie rarely captures the overarching theme of the film. This is when the characters are developing, learning, and growing. The story simply isn’t done yet. And on another note, I was more than a little annoyed that Elsa’s transformation resulted in a more “sexy” version of herself as though self-confidence and sex appeal are intrinsically linked. There is nothing wrong with celebrating her womanhood (on the contrary, this is a very good thing), but showing off more thigh and walking around like Miss America in a bikini contest isn’t the way to do it. This is not what I would want my children to take away from this story.

What I would like for them to think about is how we deal with our talents and abilities, or in other words: how we make the most of them under the authority of God. Most specifically, I would like for them to contemplate how powerful and talented women are and the inherent difficulty we face in learning how to use our abilities within the biblical framework of marriage.

You see, I think it can be very easy for us as complementarian women to fail to use the gifts and passions God has given each of us as unique creations. We become so concerned with fulfilling our good and biblical role of helper to our husbands that we forget that we are also given unique gifts and passions for the betterment of our marriages, families, and churches.

Rather than doing the hard work of seeking to use our specific gifts for the glory of God, we can easily fall into the trap of thinking we need to conform to some false, static, one-size-fits-all image of the Proverbs 31 woman. This natural tendency is not only detrimental to us women who can begin to feel trapped–or might I say “frozen”–by our marriages and the biblical role God has called us to in them, but it is also detrimental to our marriages and churches: realms of our lives that are meant to benefit from our unique giftings.

So what can be done about it? Should all women just “let it go,” plunging themselves into their passions and talents no matter the consequences of their actions? No, even the worldly wisdom of Disney’s Frozen shows the inherent faults of uncontrolled abilities. Our actions have consequences–for good and bad. Just as a particular talent may benefit your marriage, family or church, it may also be a huge detriment to them if not controlled and brought under the lordship of Christ.

Our gifts and abilities were given to us for a purpose, but that purpose certainly isn’t meant to subvert or contradict the revealed Word of God. Rather, our talents are meant to be used under the authority of the One who distributed them. We must pursue the difficult task of using them responsibly and biblically for his glory and for other’s good–not for self-fulfillment or self-gratification. Ironically however, it is in using these gifts for others that we do find great satisfaction and fulfillment, because as those who have been redeemed by the blood of Christ, our greatest joy is seeing him glorified and made much of.

My point in all of this? There is no one-size-fits-all complementarian Christian woman. In many ways we will look similar, but in other ways we will be very, very different. If you are trying to conform into the image of your pastor’s wife or close friend–shaping your marriage, mothering, and service within the church to hers–you may be missing out on the specific ways God is calling you to serve others. We are all given a framework for gender and marriage and family life in the Word of God, but we must seek guidance from that same Word and from the indwelling Holy Spirit as we figure out how our unique giftings are meant to operate within these realms. After all, this is the wisdom that the ideal woman in Proverbs 31 possessed: the ability to use her gifts and resources for the good of others.

Perhaps like Elsa, there is a part of you that has been suppressed because you were afraid that it didn’t fit into the mold of what everyone around you expected. But let us not forget, there is only one whose opinion matters and he cares very deeply about what you do with the gifts he has entrusted to you.