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Rapunzel
,
Rapunzel
,
letdownyourhairsaidbyastraightwhitemaleprobably

Onceuponatimeinaworldfullofprejudice,racism,andlackoffeministattitude
societycoincidentlydisplayedtheseattitudesthroughmediaandfilm.Changesinthese
attitudes,progressionandreformofsocialchangesarereflectedinmediaandfilm.
DisneyhasoftenbeencriticisedforthesamerubricinsomanyDisneymovies.Thatis:
theevilstepmother,thebeautifulvulnerableprincess,andthedashingprincethatsaves
theday.ThesecharacteristicsareeversopresentinanumberofDisneymoviesthat
seeminglyonlyrepresentthearyanraceandshowonlyadominantmaleroleinsociety.
Yes,theserepresentationsareeversopresentinDisneyfilmsandyes,theycanbe
analysedtoscrutinizeasocietythatencouragesthisandallowsthesethingstohappen.
Letslookattheexceptions:Pocahontasempoweredfemalewhoisacceptedas
theleaderandrepresentativeofherpeoples?Or,womanwhoissubjectedtothecruel
intentionsofcolonizationofmen?Thisfilmhasbeenharshlycriticised,yet,thefactsare
itisbasedonhistoricaltruths.AnotherfilmisAladdin.Criticisedforitsattemptto
representanentirecultureandplace(Ayres).Yet,itdoesintroduceadifferentregionand
culturetochildren.SoareallDisneyfilmsmadewithunderlyingmaliciousthemes?
Maybenotnecessarily,butmanyDisneyfilmsareguiltyinmisrepresentation.
MorerecentlyDisneyfilmsseemtobemakingtheirwaytoamoresociallyaware
place.FilmslikePrincessandtheFrog,Brave,andtheupcomingfilmMoana
representmoregirlsandwomen.Disneyfilmsarebeginningtorepresentmorewomen
andarebeginningtocreatenontraditionalstorylinesthatchallengetheestablished
structureinwhatthefairytalestoryis.Onesuchstory,isthetraditionalfairytalestoryof
Rapunzel.OhRapunzel,Rapunzel,letdownyourhairisalineyouwontbehearingin
Disneystangled.Rapunzelisntyourdistressedprincessawaitingaprincetosaveher
fromthehightower.ThisDisneyprincesstakesfateintoherownhands.
ByexaminingthemarketingforTangled,itisalreadyclearthatthisfilmis
doingsomethingdifferentwiththetraditionalprincessstory.Rapunzelisfrontandcenter
inallpostersandholdsallthepower.Themostusedposteristheposterinwhich

includesRapunzel,FlynnRider,Maximusthehorse,andPascalthechameleon.Rapunzel
standsinfrontinaveryconfidentstancewhileholdingherhair.Interestingly,inother
countriesRapunzelismarketedinthesimilarways.OnesuchposterdepictsRapunzel
savingthedayandFlynnRider.Overall,thefilmisnotnamedRapunzel,but
Tangled.Themarketingattemptstoexpanditsscopetoalargeraudienceandbringin
moreinterestfrommales.AttheendofthedayTangledisnotamoviedrivenbya
damselindistressawaitingaprincetosaveher,insteadTangledisdrivenbyveryreal
lifeproblemsandayoungadultgirlwhodiscoversherindependence.
Interestingly,onethingDisneymovieshavehadsince1989istheincredible
composerandsongwriterAlanMenken.FromUndertheSea,BeOurGuest,to
Hercules,Menkenhascreatedunforgettableandawardwinninglyrics.AlanMenken
bringswithhimtheintroductionofwhatiscalledtheDisneyRenaissance.Menken
writessmartlyricsthatgivethecharactersmorepersonality.InTangledMenkenhelps
createaRapunzelthatisstrong,andindependent.Fromthestartofthefilmthevieweris
introducedtothecharacterthroughasongcalledWhenwillmylifebegin,inwhich
Rapunzelsharesherlifeandherdreamsandgoals.
Inthesong,Rapunzelsings
AndsoI'llreadabook...Ormaybetwoorthree...I'll
addafewnewpaintingstomygallery...I'llplayguitarandknit...Andcook.Sheshares
herdailyroutineandlistofchores.Itisacommentonherdimensionasacharacterbut
alsoacommentonthetraditionalroleofthewomaninthehouse.Rapunzelisliterally
lockedawayinatowermadetofollowroutineeachdaytosweep,cook,bake,read,sew,
andsoon.ButthenMenkensnextlyricsareandbasically
Justwonderwhenwillmy
lifebegin?Rapunzelcharacterisntsatisfiedwithherlife,shewantsmoreoutofitso
shetakesitintoherownhands.Hermaingoalistoseethefloatinglanternsthat
presentthemselvesinthenightskyeveryyearonherbirthday.
Thestepmotherfigureinthefilmisherkidnapped/adoptivemotheris
namedMotherGothel.MotherGothelinthefilmhasbeenusingthehealingpropertiesof
aflowerforhundredsofyearsinordertostayyoungandalive.Oncetheflowerisusedto
curethesickpregnantQueen,themagichealingpropertiesliveinthenewbornbaby

Rapunzel.MotherGothelkidnapsRapunzelandlocksherupinatower.DoesMother
GothelpresentherselfasthestereotypicalevilstepmotherinDisneymovies?Perhaps.
Butistheremoretoher?Yes.MotherGothelisacomplexcharacterwhoisfarfrom
onedimensional.MotherGothel,contrarytopopularbelief,lovesRapunzel.Rapunzelis
likeMotherGothelsdaughterexceptsheisnt,andonlykidnappedherforhermagical
hair.
WeareintroducedtoMotherGothelthroughthetraditionalbstorybooknarrative
atthebeginningofthefilm,thenthroughsong.ThesongiscalledMotherKnowsbest,
andinitMotherGothelexplainsherfearsforRapunzelsleavingthetower.Halfofher
fearsmakesensewhentheaudiencerealizesthatMotherGothelgrewupinthedarkages
whereplague,illness,anddeathwerecommon.Herdressthroughoutthefilmalso
representsthedarkagesthelongsleeves,andromanticmarooncolorgiveawayher
background.Shesings,Motherknowsbest...Onewayoranother...Somethingwillgo
wrong,Iswear...Ruffians,thugs...Poisonivy,quicksand...Cannibalsandsnakes,the
plague...Yes...Alsolargebugs...Menwithpointyteethand...Stop,nomore,you'lljust
upsetme.ThereisanelementofwhatMotherGothelactuallyfearsmixedwithliesin
ordertokeepRapunzelinthetower.
Whatisalsofascinatingaboutthisfilmisthatthe
villainess(Gothel)maskshervillainyintheguiseoflove.Shedoesnothavethewealth
ofCruellaDeVille,northemagicofSleepingBeautysMaleficent.Sheisonlyequipped
withanarsenalofemotionalmanipulationandselfesteemgrenades,designedtokeep
Rapunzelafraidoftheworldandherself.Assuch,sheisanamazingarchetypeforthe
devouringmotherthatmanywomenmust(togreaterorlesserdegrees)faceinorderto
getfree,andfullycomeintotheirown(Cornet).HesaysitbestwhenhesaysMother
GothelisoneofakindVillain.HerdistinctwayoftalkingtoRapunzelisinteresting
especiallywhenoneconsidersthatchildrenhaveparentsandmotherswhotreatthemthis
way.
MotherGothelshiftsbetweeninsultingRapunzelthentakingitbackandhiding
abuseinhalfheartedcompliments.Forexample,atthestartofthefilmMotherGothelis
beingpullingupintothetowerbyRapunzelandthefirstthingshesaystoheris,How

youmanagetodothateverysingledaywithoutfail!Itlooksabsolutelyexhausting,
darling.Rapunzelpolitelyresponds,Ohitsnothing,towhichMotherGothelthen
saysinajokinglytone,ThenIdontknowwhyittakessolong.MotherGothel
continuouslymakesslightinsultssuchasthese.Anotherexampleinthefilmiswhenshe
tellsRapunzelsheisgettingkindachubby.
MotherGothelinhernatureisselfobsessedandnarcissistic.Whichis
understandableafterall,shehasgonesofaralengthastokidnapachildinordertostay
young.HerselfabsorbednatureisshownwhenherandRapunzelstandbeforeamirror.
MotherGothelsays,youknowwhatIsee?Iseeastrong,confident,beautifulyoung
lady...Ohlook,youreheretoo.MotherGothelspersonalityissoquicklypresentedin
thefilmandmayallowchildrentorelatetoRapunzelsrelationshipwithMotherGothel.
IsMotherGothelallevilthough?Itmaybepossiblethereisaloveshehas
formedforRapunzeleveninasortofcruelandtwistedmanner.MotherGothelleaves
thetowertogoonalongjourneytoretrievepaintsforRapunzelsbirthday.
Athiefrunningfromthearmedguardsclimbsupthetowerseekingaplaceto
hide.ItisatthispointofthestorythatRapunzeldecidesitistimetotakeherfutureinto
herownhands,anddecidestousethethieftotakehertoseethefloatinglanterns.
ThethiefFlynnRiderthinksheissafeandalonewhenRapunzelcomesupfrom
behindhimandhitshimintheheadwithafryingpan.Rapunzelisdefinitelynotyour
averagedamselindistress.OnceFlynnRiderisunconscioushewakesupinachair
tangledupinherhair.Rapunzelthensaystohimthatsheknowswhyheisthere.She
believeshewantshermagichair,buthetellshertheonlythingIwantwithyourhair,is
togetoutofit.Literally.Rapunzeltakeshissatchelinwhichastolencrownisinsideof.
Rapunzelthenoffershimadeal,andforceshimtotakehertothefloatinglanterns.This
isquiteinteresting,especiallyforaprincess.Rapunzelactslikeamoderndayheroin
(Cornet).
Thefilmdealswiththestoryofayoungwomanbecomingindependentandgoing
onajourneyofselfdiscovery(inthiscase,selfdiscoveryintheliteralsense).Inthis
way,tangledcreatesastorynotonlyforchildren,butforadultstoo,andmostcuriously

foryoungadults.Youngadultsleavinghighschool,goingtocollege,youngadultsin
college,andyoungadultsfacingreallifeaftercollege.Thisisastoryforeveryone,anda
storysomanycanrelateto.Rapunzelisnotjustaprincess,sheisaheroin.Sheisayoung
womanwholearnswhatitmeanstobeindependentanddoubtherself.Shedoubtsher
decisiononleavingthetowersoonafterassheimagineshowupsethermotherwouldbe.
OneofthefirstsequencesonRapunzelsjourneytakesplaceatapubcalledThe
UglyDuckling.Allthemenarelarge,rugged,andRapunzelquicklyfearsthem.Inthis
sequenceRapunzellearnstonotjudgeabookbyitscover,thateventhescariestlooking
peoplealsohaveaheart.InthesongIhaveaDream,theruffians,andthievessing
abouttheirhopesanddreamsinlife.Disneyisabletomakearuleybarscenebecomea
funnyclassic.Onesuchthugsings,I'mmalicious,meanandscary...Mysneercould
curdledairy...Andviolencewise,myhandsarenotthecleanest...Butdespitemyevil
look...Andmytemperandmyhook...I'vealwaysyearnedtobeaconcertpianist.Thenin
theanimationweseethecharactertakeoutabunchofkeysonthepianowithhishookas
heplays.InthesceneDisneyemphasizesdontjudgeabookbyitscoverphilosophy.
Eveninthepubsname(TheUglyDuckling)thestoryofwhatisinsideiswhatcountsis
somethingDisneyrelaysinthissceneandthroughoutthefilm.Thethugsthenhelp
Rapunzelescape.
RapunzelfrequentlysavesFlynnthroughoutthefilm.Thefirstinstanceiswhen
sheusesherhairtotieupflynnandmovehimacrossajunction.Thesecondinstanceis
whenthetwoaresubmergedinwaterunderrocksandarescramblingtofindanopening.
Rapunzelrealizesifshesingshersongherhairwilllightupandthetwocanseeifthere
areanyopeningsunderwater.Thetwofollowwhereherhairmovestowards,andfindsa
spotwheretheycanpullthemselvestothesurface.ThenRapunzelusesherhairtoheal
FlynnRiderswoundonhishand.Rapunzelshairisapowerofhersthatshehasandisa
partofher.Feminismentailsthesupportofwomenandequalityofwomen.Therearea
lotofsexistundertonesintodayssocietyagainstwomen.Especiallyinthebeauty
industrywherewomenaremarketedbeautyandhairproducts.Womenaremorethan
theirlooks,morethantheireyelashes,clothing,andespeciallymorethanhair.Yet,these

arethesamethingsthatcanempowerawoman.Femininityshouldnotbeviewedasevil
andinconducive.Womenshouldbeallowedtobefeminineandstillhaveequalpay.
Rapunzelshairempowersher,andisliterallyandnonliterallyherpower.Hairin
thefilmisofcourseanintegralelement.Rapunzelisthestoryofayoungwomanwith
incrediblylonghairthatshecannotcut(becauseifshecutsit,itlosesitspower).Disney
createsanewprogramjustforRapunzelshair.Eachstrandisuniqueandasthefilm
movesalongherhairbecomesmoreandmoremessy,andmorestrawnapart.Onceinthe
kingdom,Rapunzelfindsthatherhairisconstantlybecomingentangledandstuckon
things.Agroupofchildrenbraidherhairforherthatallowshertomovearoundmore
easily.
Themostpopularandincrediblybeautifulsceneinthefilmisstagedaroundthe
songtitled,IseetheLight.Thetwositinaboat,givinglifetoafloatinglanternoftheir
ownwhilewatchingtheincredibleviewofthenightskylightupinlanterns.Itisinthis
scenethattheirrelationshipisrevealedtobeprogressingpastasimplefriendship.Disney
doesnotspendtheentirejourneyandfilmsettingthepairup.Itisnottheultimategoalof
thefilm,andisnotemphasizedasthetrulyimportantresolve.
Thepowerofherhairanditshealingpropertiesareexplainedattheverystartof
thefilm.Thepowerbelongedtotheflowerwhichwhensungasonggavehealingtoits
singer.Asingledropofsunlightdroppedfromtheheavensandfromthissmalldropof
sungrewamagicgoldenflower.Ithadtheabilitytohealthesickandinjured,Flynn
explains.Inthismannerpoweriscontainedinnature,andnaturalforces.Throughoutthe
film,Disneystressesthethemebeautyandpowerisselfcontained,andwhatis
importantiswhatisinsideofus.
Rapunzelscharactergrowthsgrouchiestthefilmbringsherindependencefrom
motherGothel.Rapunzelrealizeswhosheisasthelostprincessandconfrontsmother
Gothel.GothelinreturnhandcuffsRapunzelandstabsFlynnRider.FlynnfreesRapunzel
frommotherGothelbycuttingherhairinwhicheliminatesthehealingpropertiesit
contained.MotherGothelthenquicklybeginsagingandasshefallsoutthewindowof
thetowerturnsintoash.Rapunzelreachesouttoherinanattempttocatchher.This

actionbyRapunzelrevealsthementalmanipulationinwhichmotherGothelhasimposed
ontoher.
Towardstheendofthefilmthesingledropofsunlightisechoedandreappears
throughRapunzel.FlynnRiderisdyingafterhehasbeenstabbedbyMotherGothel.
RapunzelrealizesshecannolongerhealFlynnswoundwithherhairsinceitnolonger
containsitsmagicalproperties.RapunzelholdsFlynninherarmsandatearfallsonto
Flynn.Itisinthisinstanceinwhichoneofthemajorthemesofthefilmfullycomesto
life.AmagicoccursaroundthetwoasthereismagicinhertearthathealsFlynn.Itis
whatisontheinsidethatcounts.Thetruepowerthatapersonpossessesisontheinside.
ThisisultimatelydepictedasRapunzelsworthisnolongerequatedtoherpowerfulhair,
butequatedtowhosheis.
ItjustsohappenswhoRapunzelis,isaprincess.Whatisthenintriguingisthe
factthattheprincessinthefilmdoesnotfallinlovewithandmarryaprinceattheend
butisanaverageman.FlynnRiderscharacterprogressiontakeshimfromawantedthief
whodreamsofenormouspilesofmoneytoamanwhosavesthegirlhelovesby
destroyingperhapsthemostvaluablething(Rapunzelsmagicalhair).FlynnRideris
selfishatthestartofthefilmwhereheoftenstopstoanalysesketchesofhimselfin
wantedpostersbytheendofthefilmFlynnisabletodiscernwhatistrulyimportantand
putRapunzelbeforehimself.FlynnlearnsasmuchfromRapunzelasRapunzellearns
fromFlynnandgrowsasaperson.TheonlyreasonFlynnagreedtotakeRapunzeltosee
thefloatinglanternswasbecausehewouldgetthelostprincessesvaluablecrown(thathe
stolefromthekingdom).BytheendRapunzelgiveshimthecrowninhopesthatitno
longerwhatmatterstohimanymore,anditisnt.Itisironicthatattheendofthefilm
thatFlynnactuallygetswhathehadwantedintheformofbecomingaprince.Flynn
RiderisnottheaveragedashingprincejustasRapunzelisnotthetraditionaldamselin
distress.
UltimatelyTangledbyDisneyisclearlydifferentthantheconventionalDisney
princessmovieandhelpedpaveanewstandardforwhotheprincess/heroinis.
DisneysTangledcanbelookedatcloselyunderthescopeoffeminismandbe

consideredtohaveembeddedinitfeministideals.Thefilmcreatesanewmodelofa
princessforchildrenandwatcherstolookupto.Rapunzelisbynomeansaprincessat
thestartofthefilm.AttheendofthefilmRapunzelsfactofbeingaprincessisnot
heavilyemphasized,butovershadowedbythefactthatRapunzelhasbeenableto
discoverwhoshetrulyis.TangledbyDisneyreflectstodaysmodernsocietyandits
progressioninfeminism,anddemonstratesajourneyofselfdiscoverythatanyviewer
canrelateto.

ByMelissaMolina

WorksCited

Ayers,Brenda.
TheEmperor'sOldGroove
.N.p.:PeterLang,n.d.Print.
Cornet,Roth."'Tangled'Review."
Screenrant
.N.p.,n.d.Web.
<http://screenrant.com/tangledreviewsrothc89088/>.

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