Why Girls Like Rapunzel1:34 AM
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.