Sunday, December 16, 2012

Movie WorldReView: Tangled (2010)

This is the first of my move WorldreViews. For those looking for a spoiler free and more basic review, go to this post.
A Movie
A Worldview in Review

It seems almost silly to want to analyze the worldview of a cute Disney Princess movie. It feels like maybe we should be able to just watch some movies for the action, the cuteness, the scenery, or the songs. And in the case of a non-philosophical movie, such as a Disney princess film, we have to be careful not to make sweeping statements of judgment that are really just based on the prevailing worldview of the age.
Let's warm up on some specifics before we get really deep on this film. The most obvious question to consider is what Disney is propounding as the role of women in society. After all, the main character is a girl seeking her place in the world after she enters it. What makes a woman a good woman? What is the social role of a woman in relation to those around her, particularly her parents, love interests?
Rapunzel is locked away in a tower with a strange old woman who pretends to be her mother. As far as Rapunzel knows until the very last few minutes of the movie though, she might as well be her mother. How does Rapunzel treat this woman, who loudly and creepily sings that "Mother Knows Best?"
I found it delightful that Rapunzel says, "Yes, Mother" and is very agreeable to her (kidnapping) mother, despite being given every "reason" not to. Her mother isn't exactly kind to her, often says some cruel things, and ignores the needs of her child (and we know she is also locking her away cruelly in a tower, lying to her, using her for her power, etc). I was expecting Disney to try to justify Rapunzel being rebellious; I was expecting some blow-up scenes where the kid is portrayed as justified because, after all, the parent is horrible. And since the world of animated movies has produced dozens of child-main-character's from single-parent, dysfunctional homes (How to Train Your Dragon, Ratatouille, Up) I got used to this. Yet event though Rapunzel is with a single-mom who obviously doesn't fill that role well, she grows up sweet and obedient. For this, I give Disney a Christian thumbs up. In the strange-to-imagine and purely hypothetical situation that I had a daughter, I'd be glad for her to learn from Rapunzel's example. Christians have long said obedience is immediate, sweet, and complete. Rapunzel wins on all three.
What about her rebellion in running out of the tower? I appreciate that the movie portrays it as unwise. They subtly but clearly make sure that we understand there is some foolhardiness in Rapunzel's plan to go running off into the blue to see the lanterns with (of all things) the most wanted rogue in the kingdom. And her mother is right, she is naive  and we see that in Flynn's various attempts to trick her or when he brings her into The Snugly Duckling.
I also appreciate that Disney doesn't use this classic story to create a female-empowerment nearly-feminist message. Rapunzel lives something like the conservative Christian's life, in general terms: a childhood obeying her mother and learning skills, eventually finding a man who becomes good enough for her, married into a happy family. That may be an oversimplification, but I would rate Disney's message here as a good one (not that that is the only good model).
Unfortunately, Tangled doesn't give much of opportunity to seek out the basis for the messages or beliefs. It's a fairy tale story, after all. So that is about the maximum extent of this first WorldReView. They will be longer and cooler for movies like The Dark Knight Rises.
So, we will call this a nice practice... and a chance to realize how big of a project set I have just bit into... and that I should write these without a few days going by after seeing the movie... Any suggestions for improvement/further questions much appreciated!

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed reading this! I find myself in slight disagreement with you, but I see your point. I find it a much more complicated message than many seem to think, with so many good elements and so many bad, that it's a mess for a kid to sort out. o.O But I personally enjoy it, and I think everything you said is true to an extent. But I won't make this comment into a counter-review. ;)

    (P.S. As this shows, I'm far more likely to read posts when linked to them, so if there's ever a post you want me to read for some reason, you know where to find me! Thanks for letting me know.)