Everyone (and by everyone, I mean a small portion of the Internet) is going on and on about whether Disney movies, and specifically Frozen, and even more specifically “Let It Go,” are secretly pro-gay propaganda. To which I say: obviously they are, if by “pro-gay propaganda” you mean that they forward a generically digestible message of self-acceptance and self-actualization.
The problem with insisting that “Let It Go” is a coming-out anthem is that, as an interpretive move, it replicates the errors of undergraduate literary criticism by insisting that texts are encoded messages that can be unlocked with a secret key, like a treasure map or a cipher. Even a mediocre-but-catchy Disney song is more complex than that. Personally, I find it more compelling as an expression of puberty–moving from the trope of virginal and untouched childhood to the so-called “natural” rhythms of womanhood (“I am one with the wind and rain”, and so on), but I’m certainly not going to deny anyone their interpretation.
Instead, I would suggest that reading Disney movies as pro-gay is just a little tired. It’s much more interesting to turn the analogy around–to reverse the vehicle and tenor–and say that “gayness” is the dominant trope of 21st century America. Thanks to a long tradition of American Protestantism, we’ve been conditioned to value a radical individualism that insists each person has a unique soul and a special set of gifts (a “talent,” in the Biblical language of Milton; a “power” in the language of today’s oh-so-popular superhero movies). In fact, by denying her family in order to live true to her own principles and values, Elsa is actually performing the radical severance that Christianity requires: “And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.” In the logic of the movie, she’s mistaken, but I think the comparison stands.
“Let It Go” might be a coming-out anthem, but only because it uses the tropes of coming out as shorthand for self-acceptance. It certainly says something about contemporary culture–both religious and not–that sexual behavior is the most available way to represent being true to one’s self.