In 2010 Disney released Tangled. Even before the movie was released in theatres, the advertisements displayed the female lead in a tight pink dress showing off her breasts and her waist. Her hair is long, blond, and beautiful, which is to be expected because it’s the story of Rapunzel, but it is often getting in her way. Many women who have long hair can attest to the fact that it is often in the way. In Rapunzel’s case she has so much hair that it has a significant effect on her ability to move. Not only does she have to pick her hair up and hold it to run, but it also gets tangled and stepped on so that she can’t move.
Although Rapunzel does use her hair to her advantage at various points throughout the movie, she spends a significant amount of time taking care of it. This movie, along with most other Disney princess movies, sends the message that girls are really supposed to be focused on the way they look. Disney also encourages girls to think of themselves as princesses, and princesses wear dresses, have long flowing hair, and always look beautiful. When you think about it, this is a very damaging message for young girls to be consuming. Tangled, along with most other movies, establishes a very limited definition of beauty. Not only do all of the women look “perfect” in the sense that they have done their hair and they’re nicely dressed, but they are all very small and thin. Compared to the male characters in Tangled, the female characters have ridiculously small body parts, especially their waists and hands. If we take a look at the high rates of eating disorders and depression in our country we can see the effect that these messages have on consumers, in this case young girls. They are constantly consuming these messages about “ideal beauty,” but in reality they’re physically impossible to live up to.
Another thing that struck me about Rapunzel’s hair in this movie is that it was very much the source of her power, but when she lost it she quickly got the man. After her hair is cut off Finn states, “I have a thing for brunettes” and then they kiss. Although an inconvenience, Rapunzel’s long hair had given her a lot of power but it is her short, dark, non-magical hair that gets her the man. This seems to be reinforcing the idea that men need the power in the relationship and that a submissive woman is more attractive.
The messages we get from movies are almost always telling us that women are supposed to be submissive, gentle, and caring. Throughout the movie Rapunzel uses her “feminine touch” to attend to housework, children, and injuries. These “motherly” tasks are then contradicted by the childlike behaviors she exhibits. Multiple times in the movie Rapunzel is shown covering her face with her hands and she frequently stands with her feet turned in and her shoulders slumped forward. Both of these features make her seem very childlike, especially in relation to the strong, independent man she depends on.
Tangled, along with other PG rated Disney princess films, are heavily consumed by our society’s youth. When we really look at the messages these movies are sending to young girls about their bodies and their role in society it’s distressing. Not only are we relating them to children that need to be taken care of, but we are also setting impossibly high standards for them. Of course we can see these same features in most of today’s media, but Disney is marketed to a very young age group and because of that it is especially dangerous.