I’m as devoted a Disney fan as they come. I grew up taking the Mickey Mouse Club in high dosages, I wrote my senior paper on the man, himself (and received a perfect grade for it), and rarely does a day pass that I don’t quote The Emporer’s New Groove.
Having said all that – it’s taken me over a year to write this review of Tangled, Disney’s animated feature released in theatres for the 2010 holiday season. If I could have watched the movie superficially, I’m sure I would have loved it, like almost everyone else I know who saw it. It’s quite possible I’m the only one with a negative review. But I couldn’t watch like everyone else. I saw it all through my own tangled past.
Superficiality aside, Tangled delivers a messy message to the viewers (mainly children) trapped in the story as lovely as the golden hair of its heroine: Rapunzel, and as light and airy as the lanterns that glitter the sky each year on her birthday. I played along, too, for about the first ten minutes of the movie. Then the entire tone of the story changed dramatically as I witnessed the abduction of the baby girl, Rapunzel, by the perverse and wicked Mother Gothel.
Freakish parenting nightmares, yes, but the fairytale drama was working for me until. . . their song. It’s the song Mother Gothel sings to Rapunzel upon learning Rapunzel’s only birthday wish is to leave the tower for one day. “Mother knows best,” is what she reminds Rapunzel, while deliberately using words of affection and endearment like “dear,” and “darling.” Interestingly, only in these two instances does Mother Gothel use a kind term when addressing Rapunzel, while the majority of the song is used to deride and insult the very child she professes to love. Compare these words: fragile, little, pet, sloppy, under-dressed, immature, clumsy, gullible, naive, grubby, ditzy, and chubby.
When Mother Gothel falsely croons the words, “Oh, I love you very much, dear,” no one doubts Rapunzel’s melodic reply, “I love you more,” is genuine, sincere, and heartfelt. Therein lies the rub. I realize my issue with Tangled is my own, and potentially anyone else’s, who just like me, lived in an unhealthy and abusive relationship where love was used as a weapon. Because that is exactly what Mother Gothel does. She uses love as a tool to get what she wants, and in so doing instills in Rapunzel a tangled lullaby of love that is not loved.
Rapunzel’s lullaby can belong to any of us that have been hurt by what we thought was love, and the imprint on our lives cannot be reversed, no matter how many times we sing it to be true.
Flower, gleam, and glow
Let your power shine
Make the clock reverse
Bring back what once was mine
Heal what has been hurt
Change the Fates’ design
Save what has been lost
Bring back what once was mine
What once was mine
While this tale of misappropriated motherhood shows a triumphant Rapunzel cutting her hair in an attempt to claim her independence, I know from personal experience that just because you cut your hair after you are physically free, it does not cut through the larger tangled mess that remains inside. I won’t hold my breath for the movie sequel highlighting Rapunzel’s visits to the royal therapist.