Tangled is of course Disney’s adaptation of the classic fairy tale of Rapunzel. It fits right into the classic Disney animated musical style with princesses, love, villains, and a happily ever after. I’m trying to process what I think about the movie, which is the reason I’m writing this review.
I felt the way they portrayed Rapunzel was in many ways a fairly accurate representation of many young women in our culture. In one early scene we see Rapunzel cleaning, reading, playing music, painting, baking, and brushing her hair (I think maybe exercise is also mentioned), all within the course of a morning. Though we’re looking at women in particular her, I believe that many of us feel the desire and need to be good at everything.
I also found some truth in the balance between Rapunzel’s power and her timidity, between her strength and weakness, and between her boldness and fear. She knocks out Flynn (Eugene) when he enters her tower, yet is still scared of him even when he is passed out on the floor. And certainly she has good reason to be afraid. She, a young woman who has never been out of the castle, is surely no match for this hardened thief if they were to get into a physical conflict on even ground. I loved Rapunzel’s reaction to finally leaving the castle. The movie shows her wildly swinging back and forth between the exhilarating high of freedom and the huge guilt of going against her “mother’s” clear instructions. Again I think there’s a lot of truth in this. (Interestingly, I’m not sure that Flynn is as accurate a representation of men. However this movie does appear to be targeted to women.)
I also find it interesting that this young, vulnerable woman trusts this complete stranger of a man and begins to fall in love with him. Again, I don’t believe it’s far off the mark. Women, young women especially, often seem attracted to danger (probably for the thrill and excitement). Yet we have an 18 year old sheltered girl falling in love with a backstabbing, greedy thief who is probably a good ten years older than her, and we’re expected to believe that this is going to be a healthy relationship? This is one message I found concerning.
I think it’s clear that our culture has faith in romance to be the salvation for all our longings. What is the message in Tangled? Perhaps that falling in love with a beautiful woman can redeem a man from selfishness and a criminal history in oder to make him a respectable, responsible man. I also found it interesting that this “hero” rises from the dead in order to bring an assumed romantic “happily ever after” to Rapunzel. But does romance actually live up to this in real life?
Fairy tales and other stories can inspire us to something higher and better as they allow us to reframe our situations and see the bigger picture. However do they also have the potential to point us in the wrong direction at other times? Could this focus on romance give young women in particular a false hope in its power? Might she be tempted to think that her love and affection could save, redeem and change a bad man? Might it cause her to stay in an unhealthy relationship for too long?
I like and see a lot of wisdom in something that John Eldredge said: femininity can inspire masculinity, but it can never bestow it (Wild at Heart, p. 93). Romance can be a wonderful thing when you have it, but it can’t save anyone and it’s not available to everyone. I’ve always loved a quote from Cool Runnings: “If you’re not enough without it, you’re not going to be enough with it.” They weren’t talking about romance in that movie, but I think you can apply nearly anything to that “it”. Nothing in this world can save and fulfill us completely.
Beyond this, it often seems that romance is for the young and beautiful. While we all know exceptions to this, certainly there are countless people who long for romance but who have not found it. And I’m not just talking about the high school junior who has gone six months without a date. It’s easy to tell her that romance will come if she’ll just wait. But as many who have waited for many years—even decades—beyond this will attest to, romance isn’t guaranteed.
Fortunately I believe that there is a love which is for everyone and which will, in the end, be fulfilling. Unfortunately, the people who should have this love have generally done a terrible job of communicating and sharing it with others. But there is nevertheless a saving love out there, one which is full of struggle and conflict yet which will eventually lead to the peace and happily ever after that we all long for.