I have now watched Tangled five or six times. The first time was in the cinema, and I enjoyed it, although was disappointed in it because the awesomeness of Rapunzel's Revenge (you can check out my review of this excellent graphic novel) set up expectations that Disney was never, ever going to meet. As for the multiple viewings, they were part of my research for my thesis. I will probably have to watch it a few more times before the year is out. This review was quite hard to write, because I have so many thoughts and things to say about the film, but they are going into my thesis, and condensing that into a short review is not easy. Instead I've tried to give a bit of an overview into some of the issues particular to the film.
- Like quite a few Disney movies, Tangled is reasonably enjoyable if you are not critically analysing it.
- There are aspects of the plot, and of Rapunzel's character, that are positive towards gender representations.
- Rapunzel has a personality: hobbies, skills - some of which are outside of traditional gender binaries, and she has a dream she sets out to fulfil.
- I don't know much about animation, but it was quite visually impressive, especially detailed shading and lighting on her 70 ft of hair.
Having seen the film as many times as I have means there are a lot of little things that irritate me about it. From Max the horse behaving like a anthropomorphised dog, to the frying pans (it is still violence!), to the complete lack of reason behind Rapunzel's name. However, there are also some major ideological issues in the representations in the film:
- Every single character is white. There is absolutely no diversity in any way unless you count a few characters having different hair colour as diversity (I don't).
- There is very little diversity in female body shapes, they are all slender, with very fair skin and big eyes. There is much more diversity in male body shapes.
- While there were shades of grey when it came to some characters' morality, it was not in a complex way - the rogues and Flynn needed Rapunzel to inspire them to goodness, and then they became good. Gothel was completely bad.
- Gothel (the unnatural mother) wasn't kind or a good mother to Rapunzel. The King and Queen (the natural parents) loved Rapunzel, and as soon as they are reunited every thing is happy again.
- While it wasn't love at first sight, Rapunzel and Flynn fall in love within the space of one day and there is an imbalance within the relationship.
Tangled is a reasonably fun movie, so I wouldn't say don't show your kids. But if I had kids watching it I'd want to be very careful talking to them about representations of women, and particularly female bodies and the way films (Disney often) tie beauty to worth. I'd also want to talk about the lack of diversity, which is very troubling, especially since there seem to be no signs Disney will be doing anything differently in the future.
[2015 edit] I'd like to write a new review based of my honours thesis when I have some time, but I do want to note now, that the representation of Mother Gothel is actually anti-Semitic as it plays into the long history of connecting Jewish women and their appearance to representations of witches.
this review was originally posted on http://thoughtexperiences.blogspot.com.au