Tangled (PG)

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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One thought on “Tangled (PG)

  1. Rachel says:

    I’m going to stop reading these analyses because parts of them are frankly ridiculous. I agree that princesses should not be so skinny because that sends a bad message about body type to little girls. But the hair? She’s Rapunzel. They show her brushing the hair because she’s Rapunzel and has a lot of hair. By her struggling to keep it from getting tangled or caught up in things Disney isn’t saying girls should care more Disney is making a funny about how anyone with hair that long would have serious difficulties moving around. I’ll give you Rapunzel’s body image, because she’s too small for a normal human being. But the hair is just part of the story, not a statement about women.

    I also can’t help but think that the statement about her hair as submission being ridiculous. I don’t agree generally, but even if I did, it contradicts your previous statement. If her long, blond hair leads to girls caring too much about her image, then shouldn’t the happily ever after being associated instead with her short brown hair be a statement that girls should be less concerned? After all, Mother Gothel is the one who takes the most care of Rapunzel’s hair, and she’s the villain. I think it’s fascinating that you see Rapunzel as submissive after she saves Flynn, kisses him first. The movie starts with her using her frying pan to knock him out, which he later uses and loves as a weapon.

    Finally, I think that you guys need to reconsider what a strong woman character is. Every strong woman character does not need to be an Amazon. I think that’s a mistake that many feminists are making today–a girl cooks on screen and she’s sexist. Women are strong. Women who cook and sew and are childlike and hide behind their hands and cry are also strong. Please let’s not say Rapunzel is a weak female character because she sometimes needs help from Flynn. She’s been manipulated to be weak and nervous from her birth and finds the strength at the end to rebel against the mother figure she’s known and had to trust above all her entire life. Mother Gothel is one of the most threatening Disney villains there’s been because of her psychological manipulation of Rapunzel. And Flynn’s tough guy protecting her gets turned on its head and shown to be pure and simple manipulation, it’s when he lets that go that he turns into a good guy. I think that if we take Rapunzel as a weak, sexist female character, we’re missing the point of feminism all together. Maybe she could be a normal sized human being, or maybe we could change her hair, but she is a complex 18-year-old girl with real problems and personality and that makes her Strong.

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