In the song, Elsa sings:
"Don’t let them in, don’t let them seeShe mocks the people that she feels have wronged her, those who expect her to be a "good girl" and never show her feelings -- to conceal everything and be fake. She mocks them and turns away.
Be the good girl you always have to be
Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know..."
How often do we hear that, that we expect people to deny their feelings and just meet some artificial standard of "good"?
In response, she decides it's time to leave those expectations and those people behind, to "be her own woman". She goes on, during a high point of the song:
It’s time to see what I can doTo her, being free means having no rules. It means there is no longer anything "right" or "wrong". I'm free when no one can tell me I'm wrong, even if that's because no one else is there.
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me
The song is a paean to relativism and the unqualified rejection of authority.
So... Does this mean the song is bad and the movie is bad? Not at all.
It means that the song must be taken in context. When is the song sung? What is going on at the time? It's appropriate for a villain to sing a villainous song, or a hero to sing a heroic song. It's appropriate for a character that will grow by the end of the story to sound like she needs to grow.
Consider Hamlet's line, "there is nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so". This is close to Elsa's desire for "(n)o right, no wrong, no rules for me". Does that mean Hamlet is a relativist? Is Shakespeare backing that belief by putting in on the lips of his titular character? Not at all. We have to consider when and why Hamlet says it. Author and commentator Andrew Klavan put it well, in his own style:
"As Shakespeare put it 'there is nothing absolutely good or bad, but thinking makes it so.' Actually, Shakespeare gave those words to Hamlet, who was pretending to be insane when he said them. Which is to imply that moral relativism isn't just crazy, it's fake crazy..."
She sings about wanting freedom, but does she understand what freedom is? It is not a lack of rules--that's license not freedom. If I follow no rules, I'm not free to play football or drive or own a gun or vote. If I break enough rules, I may end up in prison--put there by my poor choices.
And where does Elsa end up? What does she make for herself? She shouts about freedom and builds herself a prison. Yes, it's a beautiful ice castle on a scenic mountaintop, but as Salmon Rushdie wrote in Joseph Anton*, "a comfortable prison was still a prison". How free does this look?
Her ending line, "the cold doesn't bother me anyway", isn't said with the attitude of a brave woman overcoming adversity. It's said with a certain self-satisfaction that isn't deserved, with the tone of a child who's been sent to her room. "I don't care. I want to be in my room!"
And there she'll stay -- at least until the story continues, and she changes for the better.
* And Captain Picard paraphrased in "The Hunted"--I have geek cred to uphold here.