Why Girls Like Rapunzel

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I like to read into things -- or, as I like to express it, I like to find God everywhere I can. Once I found the entire Gospel in a game of Sorry!, but that is too long ago to remember. I have a friend who reads into things more than I do. Whenever either of us goes down another bunny trail, the other is bound to jab her in the ribs and say, "He left the door open!" You see, in the BBC Emma, Mr. Knightley had a habit of leaving his door open whenever he went for a walk. My friend proposed that it was a purposeful, symbolic gesture to show that his heart was still open for Emma. Whether it was or was not, it was a clever observation. (At any rate, I laughed.)

Speaking of reading into things, I recently (and reluctantly) read another in-depth article exposing Rapunzel of Tangled fame for the rebellious, immoral God-defier that she was. This was not the first time she came under the radar; the last article I read accused Disney of blasting stay-at-home daughters. Disney knows about stay-at-home daughters?

In any case, the gist was that because Rapunzel resonated with so many girls, it meant her fans desired to escape their mothers (who they secretly believe are witches who kidnapped them at birth), run off with a thief and defy law and order. Hardly. 

I think Rapunzel resonates with girls for a deeper reason.

Think back with me to the days you watched Disney princess movies every weekend. Remember Ariel, the Little Mermaid? I am glad my gut recoiled at her and even more glad my mother threw the movie out. Ariel was a spoiled brat who had no purpose but to snag the handsome human she ran into while out on another night of disobedience. Her entire character was rebellious and shallow. I don't think Prince Eric would have noticed the difference had he married Vanessa instead. I rooted for her dad.

Rapunzel, on the other hand -- the differences are too many to count. Rapunzel genuinely loved her mother figure who was genuinely poisonous. She loved her repetitious life. She had a servant's heart. She kept her word. She was full of life, light and innocence. She saw the best in everything and everyone -- a fact her mother figure exploited. I think Rapunzel was the first Disney princess who was sweet without being a pushover (Snow White!) and strong without being a sass-mouth (exit in shame, Princess Jasmine). Rapunzel herself, regardless of her moral dilemmas, would have won any girl's heart.

It goes deeper than this.

If you love the movie, you will laugh at this, and if you are convinced it is raising up a generation of rebels, you will hiss and boo. Regardless, I will say it: I think Tangled has the whispers of the Gospel in it -- both in its plot and in its characters.

We start out in a tower, held captive by sin which both caresses and condemns. Our knowledge of an abundant life consists of a circle high above the ground. We pace it. We know there must be something more -- we can see the lights from a distance, lights that seem to be calling our name, lights that stir up a hope that we belong to a different life than the one we've lived since forever. We cannot express it; really, we don't have any solid evidence for it. We only know that we must find out what that call is: we must know if our life will change as much as we think it could.

The shame comes, plaguing us for wanting to move beyond the status quo, belittling our dream, belittling the desire in us to live fully, though we cannot express that life, indeed, is what we want. Mother Gothel fits the role of accuser to a T. Sometimes we work up the courage to fight for freedom: but then sin threatens us with our inadequacy or our fear. Then, when it has calmed our senses, it welcomes us back to familiar arms. The dream isn't fully dead, but it must stay down -- because how do we escape this tower?

This is where the story line and the Gospel part ways a bit: God sent us His perfect Son, not a thief with a Smolder. Thank goodness. In any case, our jaunt with freedom affirms that yes, we do want life; we were made for life. We're conflicted -- should we go back? Stay? Move on? Only by becoming the daughter of a King can we drink in that life fully. The desires He placed in us to love life and freedom and love itself all converge into the realization that we do belong somewhere else and we do not have to remain captive to sin any longer. The journey out of the tower once and for all requires a death or two and the sacrifice of all that made us powerful, but the joy after that journey -- it makes us want to dance for all eternity.

In other vein, I think Rapunzel represents the power of light, life and love in a dark world. Her appeal to mercy transformed a pub of bloodthirsty thugs far better than the law (even if Maximus is on its side) -- and that, too, is Gospel: though the Law is good and righteous, it is grace and mercy that transform hardened hearts. Touched by mercy, those thugs responded to Rapunzel's innocence and joy. Because of her message of life, they dreamed new dreams of a life unmarred by blood and gore -- a truly satisfying life. I love how Rapunzel makes friends and influences people through sheer hope -- no sassy remarks or dramatics.

Her biggest friend and influence was, of course, Flynn Rider. Initially I disliked how he was never brought to justice (and how she reformed him in one night -- maybe it was the hair), how he was welcomed into the family just because he loved Rapunzel and repented of his ways. Then it struck me as the picture of redemption. What else does God do but transform us with His love so that we repent, and then not only pardon us but also welcome us into His family?

Flynn Rider is the quintessential antinomian, breaking every law in the book and rationalizing it as just a part of life. Rapunzel is the fearful one, overshadowed by oppression and doubt. Both find redemption in love -- in family -- in joy -- in life -- in true freedom.

That is why girls like Rapunzel. They're hoping that life, love and liberty really do win -- and not just in Disney fairy tales.

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18 impressions

  1. Even guys can associate to this if you look at it in a gender neutral setting. After, we break free from the "Tower of Sin" we sit and struggle between the way God wants us to be and going back to our tower to live as we have in the past. In this way, Rapunzel also shows the path of the Christian that sticks to God's plan and becomes His child in the end.

    I'll be quiet now and let you ladies continue your conversation on Rapunzel.

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  2. I love this post. :) I think you're right about parallels between Tangled and the Gospel- maybe I'm an overthinker, too, but I believe they're more common in books and film (non-Christian ones) than people realize.

    I have been a huge Disney fan my whole life (though I was, I'll admit, a Little Mermaid fan when I was little, Belle has always been my favorite). I think it's funny how the world and the conservative Christian group both tend to have issues with Disney princess films...the world complains about the "weak-girl stereotypes" (waiting for a prince to come, etc.) in the classic films, and the conservative Christians complain about the "blatant feminism" in the newer ones. Come on...they're good stories and beautiful films (in most cases).

    I know that even seemingly insignificant things can influence young girls (I'm a bit anti-Barbie, myself :). But if a girl is being raised in a godly home environment and taught to recognize the truth, I don't think you have to worry about her becoming a rebel because she watches Tangled or falling in love with a handsome stranger in the forest because she watches Sleeping Beauty. :)

    ~Kristin

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  3. Ah! Rapunzel! By far one of the best Disney movies to come out in a long, long time. Well, in my opinion any how.

    Maybe this is completely beside the point and goes down a different vein than a picture of the Gospel, but I found the movie refreshing in its lack of any real references to witchcraft. While it does have a "magic flower" there are no spells, cauldrons, or warty witches looking to own a young girl's soul. I don't remember any talk of "calling on friends from the other side" or conjuring up the powers of darkness. It's references to magic are not nearly as direct as most Disney movies seem to be and remains light, airy, and innocent throughout the whole film.

    That, for me, was a big deal. :)

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  4. Ooo, I like this. I read things into books and movies all the time, too. I was, in fact, doing it to Tangled the first time I watched it and more seems to come to light every time I rewatch.

    For some of my own meanderings, my post this week about messages in Tangled:

    http://worldofmelodyjoy.blogspot.com/2012/06/join-dance.html

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  5. What a fun article, Bailey. =) I love Tangled and while I certainly don't believe that the film maker's intentions were to display the beauty of the Gospel, it is funny how many parallels there are.

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  6. As a big "Tangled" fan, I liked this post a lot. =) I think it's so cool that you look for God in everything. It was fun to see how you found bits of the Gospel in this movie!

    I was fascinated by your last post. I have not been subjected to much pressure to always look my best. I think it's partly because my family and I are not presently involved in "a" church and partly because my dad loves me, and my mom, and my siblings for who we are and not how we look. That's not to say that I haven't felt pressure to look beautiful, but it's heaped on far more by the culture around me than other believers. I'm grateful for that. Thanks for opening my eyes to another one of the blessings in my life. =) I look forward to the other things you have to say on this subject!

    I just wanted to add, I am impressed over and over again by your posts. I am amazed at all of the new subjects you come up with, and each piece you write possesses the same depth and potency as the one before it. I don't know how you do it, but keep it up! You have a real gift, girl! =)

    P.S. Have to ask - what's your favorite movie? =)

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  7. I am going to paint this post on my wall. It and Tangled are that awesome.

    (Okay, so not really. But still.)

    Thank you so much, Bailey! You put it all into words.

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  8. How very interesting. I saw a lot of little messages in that story, but I didn't thread it all together like you did. I think I'll go re watch a few movies, and see if I can pull out the underlying story...that might be fun!

    On a different note, I've been meaning to ask you a question.
    How far do you think a girl should go when she's trying to show others why she believes, what she believes? I mean, I'm not very brave, but I can see you boldly standing outside the grocery store telling a homeless person about the saving love of Jesus Christ, plastic bags hooked on one hand, little sister gripped firmly in the other. Would you dare to go toe-to-toe with an older married woman who just can't seem to grasp the concept that mankind needs a savior?
    Would you debate heatedly over any subject that you feel strongly about..namely most subjects?

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  9. That Disney movie is my favorite--for all the same reasons!! I think it does a really good job of showing how sneaky evil is--how it masquerades as light. And how it tricks us into living in fear our whole lives when our God is a generous, loving God!! For so long, I lived afraid, thinking, "God's withholding something from me. I can't really trust him, something bad will happen." When in reality, that's a LIE and actually, he's 100% good and great and totally worthy of my trust!! Why do I think there could be ANYTHING good apart from God? Of COURSE trusting him is best. :) So when Rapunzel breaks out of the tower and stands up to the evil mother I'm like, "Yipee!! Say yes to FREEDOM and no to lies!!"

    Second thing: This movie has skylanterns. Skylanterns have become a huge metaphor for me too. Sometimes I am afraid of good things, thinking, "This is too good to be true. I can't enjoy this, because then God will take it away from me because I am being selfish and loving a thing more than him."So then I cling to it even more (because I am afraid it is the last good thing I am going to get) and it kind of becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. I have this weird idea that I have a quota of nice things God is going to do for me, and when I reach it, oops, too bad, they are all gone.
    But REALLY, every good and perfect gift comes from God, cascading down from the Father of lights in whom there is no shifting shadows (James 1). Soooo, when I get good wonderful things, I can accept them, and enjoy them, because they are from God and made for me to enjoy!! AND I don't have to be afraid to open my hands and let them go again, because there are a bajillion more that are going to float down from him. But when I cling to it, it will burn up and disintegrate, and maybe even burn me.

    See, I also read waaay into everything. It's called being a Literature Major. ;) Love you Bailey!!

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  10. This is one of the best articles I have read on Tangled. Thank you for your thoughts. Personally, :) I always thought that Flynn and Rapunzel modeled true love in the tower when they are both willing to give up their lives for the other. *happy sigh* That's one of the reasons I love the movie so much.
    God bless, Rose

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  11. I love this post. I loved your insight into things. Thanks!

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  12. Great thoughts, Bailey. I really appreciated the movie as having such a good emphasis on the importance of family, but I'd never looked at it as in-depth as you have. Whether the Christian themes were intended by the filmmakers or not, it's beautiful to see them there.

    God bless you!

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  13. I love this - I've always read the anti-Tangled opinions at the urging of my mom, who took them full-swing without consideration. I never really agreed.... I love how you put this, though. It makes so much more sense.

    (This is the article I read, in case you were wondering: http://www.ladiesagainstfeminism.com/uncategorized/mangled-stay-at-home-daughters-on-the-silver-screen/)

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  14. Beth -- Oh, my goodness, you're so right! For some reason it never occurred to me that much of the innocence of the movie came from a lack of magic. Good observation!

    Julia -- Very tough question. Tangled and Captain America are pretty big with me right now. Shallow? Maybe -- but hey, I've got to read a biography on George Washington and a book by Aristotle for school over the summer...I'm entitled to watch mainstream movies. ;)

    Stephanie, yes! So true! I think I'm going to email you before I head off to camp, since there are some pretty exciting things happening. ;) Love you so much! *HUGS*

    Alexxus, yup -- that was the first article I read about Tangled. Interesting how people react to different things due to different beliefs. Ironically, I thought Rapunzel made a beautiful stay-at-home daughter...she truly loved her home, "mother" and gifts. *shrugs*

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  15. So, Jillian...your question. I've been thinking about the same thing, actually. I'm not as bold as you may think -- I cannot see myself striking up that sort of conversation. I'm shy (read: self-conscious). But certain things trigger the ability to go toe-to-toe without fear -- sometimes I feel possessed, almost, snapping into an impassioned dialogue on something I didn't even know I cared that much about. Sometimes I get really irritated, crabby, sarcastic and short -- not with strangers, but with the radio and people I know. :P

    But I try to avoid arguing altogether, especially when someone's salvation/transformation is on the line: when I have an opportunity, I get all lit up inside, very passionate, very sincere and very in tune to the other person's beliefs and life story. But it's one-sided: they want to listen, I want to share. Quiet passion, I think, is a good balance. Authenticity is so important. Sarcasm and heated debates...eh, not so much.

    I really don't have much personal experience with arguing for things like that (except online); I don't like it. I only like arguing when people agree with me.

    I think a girl can be as passionate and forceful as she likes within the bounds of compassion and love for the other person. Different times call for different measures...I think, for the most part, you'll be sensitive to know. That's what the Holy Spirit does.

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  16. "...Quiet passion, I think, is a good balance. Authenticity is so important. Sarcasm and heated debates...eh, not so much."

    LOVE this statement! I am acquainted with some pretty smart guys and girls (older sisters included), who are confident and eager to share what they are passionate about. I am sometimes (OK, almost ALL the time) afraid that my unwillingness to argue a subject or my silence in an exciting, Christ centered conversation will bring me across as uncaring, shallow, and perhaps a slow, unlearned thinker.(You said something about self consciousness? Yea.) Perhaps I'm not as smart and book stuffed as all of you. (Yes, I'm including Bailey in that group) I wish I could retain all I learned as well as you, and patch things together in a convincing five point package. I wish everyday I had the some of the winsomeness in my dialect that you and other authors have in their writing. And then you wrote this:

    I think a girl can be as passionate and forceful as she likes within the bounds of compassion and love for the other person. Different times call for different measures...I think, for the most part, you'll be sensitive to know.

    Perhaps I'll find a way to show my passion with out thrashing it out sarcastically at someone.

    Thank you.

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  17. You will, Jillian. You've already got the heart for it. Words flow from the heart. So there you go...you're set.

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Hit me with your best thought! I'm very interested in your unique perspective. If you'd like to discuss things in private, feel free to email me! :)