I’ve watched the movie Tangled quite a few times now; it’s gorgeously detailed and the protagonist comes a close second to Prince Eric from The Little Mermaid, and I love the scene where Rapunzel, out for the very first time, is at war with herself because she is torn between following her heart and obeying her mother (been there, done that, still at war. Sigh.)
But one thing bothers me every time I watch the movie: why are we compelled to hate Mother Gothel when the real villain of the piece is Rapunzel’s own mother?
Shock, horror, denial? Make a club.
Mother Gothel is an awful person because she hid the sun’s flower instead of sharing it. By singing a song to the flower (how did she know about the song? Did she make up the lyrics herself? Did somebody tell her the secret? Who was this “somebody”? Disney’s evil, subliminal “enlightening” messages strike again!) she selfishly used its powers to keep herself young. And after accomplishing her mission she covered the flower with a basket, so no one else would find it.
She probably watered and fertilised the flower regularly, too, so it wouldn’t shrivel up and die. Maybe she even salted the neighbourhood slugs, before they could feed on its stem. Oh, what a terrible, terrible person, to take advantage of a magical flower and not share its benefits with others! Somebody call the police and haul this woman to jail!
The Queen, however, is portrayed in the movie as a lovely person. Admittedly she’s sweet, pretty and kind but she picked the flower, and drank it down. Did she bother to make sure somebody grafted a new shoot, so that another sun flower might bloom in its place? No. Did she stop a moment to think about the consequences of her very definitive actions (kill it, swallow it, leave no trace of it behind)? No. Did she care to share? Not really. She was sick, she was the Queen, she wanted the flower, end of story.
On the contrary, Gothel is depicted as a vile person for kidnapping the infant princess. But she didn’t set out to do that. All she wanted was a lock of hair. Snip, snip, and I’ll be on my way, she had thought. However, while cutting the flower’s stem doesn’t reduce its restorative properties but cutting hair apparently exterminates the lock in this case. What kind of gene mutation is that? Blame the parents, I say.
What choice did poor Gothel have other than snatching the child? She didn’t have a job. She didn’t have a kingdom which she could tax and then use that tax money to make oversized mosaics of the family photo. She didn’t have a husband to mope with her. All she had was a song that kept her young, and the evil Queen wouldn’t even let her use that. Plus, Gothel raised Rapunzel; changed her diapers, wiped her nose, probably stayed up all night dealing with colic and puke and measles and all the hoopla that comes with a baby. She brought Rapunzel paints and books. She made Rapunzel’s favourite hazelnut soup! I think Mother Gothel was a reasonably good mom, but sadly according to conventional wisdom, blood’s thicker than water, yadda yadda.
Just because the Queen was “good”, we fail to see that it was actually she who set in motion the wheels for Rapunzel’s kidnapping. On top of that, she was a loser; were she really that strong and heroic, she would have pulled herself together and tried for another baby, because every kingdom needs an heir to the throne. And if you say, “Well, maybe her insides got messed up and she couldn’t have another child,” then do remember that she had drunk the sun flower — a flower that could heal anything and everything.
Yet, in the end Gothel is mercilessly destroyed. Just because, like every parent, she wanted security in her old age and some gratitude in return for all the work she put into raising Rapunzel. Surely, given enough time the two could have discussed their issues and come to a reasonable agreement (Something to the effect of “I’m 18 now! Please let me go out with my friends!” followed by “Well, alright, but I will need everyone’s parents’ names and phone numbers, and be back by 7 pm.”).
But that doesn’t matter, because intentions don’t matter. In our world, we live for appearances. If it looks good, it is good — no two ways about it.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 5th, 2011.
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Frankly, I find the whole idea of a privileged monarchy offensive! lol.
What are we teaching our little boys and girls...to be spoilt Prince and Princess brats?! I'm not going to do the dishes, where is my nauker (servant)?!
Down with the colonialist Queen! Occupy Wall Street...or Karachi Stock Exchange! We are the 99%! Say no to elitism and feudalism! Say no to Disney and Mullah Mickey Mouse!
Loved the cartoon, btw, and nice take on the good guy vs bad guy paradigm, though disagree, as saving life trumps prolonging life...can't believe I just analyzed a cartoon and said that seriously! Maybe it's just inherent racial bias playing against the black curly haired woman against the blond (or brunette?) green eyed Queen?!
Besides not saving the flower...another question...why was there only one flower? Global Warming that's why...and no re-imagined modern take of a fairy tale is going to tell me otherwise!
Both mother Gothel and Queen/King showed selfishness in using the flower, no question about it. From what we are told, people were generally happy with the King implying he dealt them with justice while there are numerous clues that mother Gothel was so obsessed with her beauty that she ignored Rapunzel's feelings (the scene where she sees a kind good looking strong woman in the mirror, actually admiring herself while claiming to joke).
Uh, i saw Tangled the other day and as far as i know the Queen did not order for the flower to be picked and brought to her. The King and the kingdom wanted to save the Queen and the baby which is why the flower was picked. Hiding the flower under a basket so no one can reap benefits from it is not synonymous to saving two lives.
In order to protect your vanity and youth, it is not ok to steal someone's baby. Yes, Gothel took care of her but if she did not, she could not have had Rapunzel's consent to let her brush her hair or to continue living with her. She had a selfish motive. You should remember that Gothel was not a witch but a human , therefore she could use no special powers to keep Rapunzel imprisoned in the tower. She had to play mind games.