I just watched Tangled with the girls, Santa having brought it for them because he was under the impression that Rapunzel was depicted as a go-get-’em female, a strong girl, a heroine to be heralded.
What a stupid, infuriating movie. I don’t know why I periodically bring in these Disney princess movies to show Saoirse: The Princess and the Frog was a recent one, Tangled the newest. Actually, I do–I worry that I’m so massively enthusiastic that she’s (and, really, Quinn) not into princesses that I then worry that I’m swaying her with my pro-Thomas enthusiasm and in turn pressuring her to not become a tiara-wearing, makeup-wanting, prince-coveting household diva that she may or may not secretly want to be.
I really don’t need to worry. The kid likes what she likes, and what she likes is healthy. If I keep this up, she’ll be 16, focusing on her studies, and I’ll be hanging outside her bedroom door begging her to just give the tattooed 20-year-old who keeps driving by our house flinging empty beer cans from his souped-up motorcycle a chance.
But back to these stupid Disney movies. Have you seen this Tangled? Well, a couple of high points: there’s the romantic love interest that breaks into Rapunzel’s tower, whom she beats over the head with a frying pan, then chooses to befriend and trust with her life because he’s her ticket out of her mother’s house. She’s just about to turn 18, mind you. His overly muscled animated biceps and digitally enhanced facial hair imply that he’s a wee bit older.
There’s her magic, healing hair that’s long and blond and lustrous. There are Rapunzel’s big eyes, that are so frighteningly large in proportion to her head I felt like I was watching anime in IMAX.
There’s the hideous mother figure who controls her stolen daughter, overprotecting her to the point of abuse, all in a lifelong, concerted effort to persevere in the fulfillment of her own dreams and vanity. She does all of this while while periodically springing into a song called “Mother Knows Best.”
There’s the same hideous mother who stabs and kills her young stolen (chained and gagged) daughter’s love interest right smack in front of her.
And we can’t leave out the end of the movie, where Rapunzel gets her magical hair cut off, leaving her liberated with a shaggy, short, mousy brown hairdo reminiscent of the Alice character in the first Twilight movie (yes, I’m referencing Twilight in a rant against Disney movies, because why not refer to yet another piece of storytelling that tells young girls to expect that in the course of their lives they’ll have to be in a relationship–parental, romantic, whatever–where they’ll be controlled? Hey, it’s a slow day over here, what can I say?), leaving her much less aesthetically appealing but able to bring her destined love interest back from the dead with her magical teardrops instead.
Saoirse is a bright, loving, almost-four-year-old who doesn’t miss a trick. She is the same girl, who, after being disciplined for trying to hit her sister over the head with a toy golf club, was so upset that I was angry with her that she cried, telling me that “I don’t want to run away from you” (not quite sure where she thinks that running away is inevitable, other than we’ve been talking about growing up a lot and she’s realizing that her twin bed with the Thomas the Tank Engine comforter won’t be hers forever). The child loves me as her mom, and honestly–selfishly, even–I’d like to not mess that up until at least she goes off to school, finds girlfriends, and thinks that her mother is a giant dork. But you remember when you were a kid, right? Most likely, you thought your mom was the prettiest, kindest, best woman in the whole wide world. Tangled‘s depiction of the mother figure (albeit false, since she sort of stole the kid) just doesn’t jive with a 4-year-old’s view of her mom, and that really made me want to throw my not-withered, non-bitter, non-sadistic self at the screen.
After we watched the movie, I asked SK what she thought of it. She wrinkled up her nose, and took a sip of her milk. “I didn’t like it,” she said. “I like my movies the best.” I asked her what she liked about her movies, and all she could tell me was that she liked Thomas and Toy Story. Later, I was thinking about what made the movies Saoirse likes so different from these Disney princess movies, and I realize: the stories to which Saoirse is drawn focus on friendships (Thomas and Percy), and family groups (Andy’s toys), and parent figures who are kind and decisive and know what’s best (Sir Topham Hatt, Andy’s mom). As I said, my daughter is in preschool. She’s at that age where she wants to be reassured that her world is safe, and that her mom and dad will never leave her. She thinks dressing up is fun, not a necessary act in order to be attractive. She giggles when I get lip gloss on her when I kiss her goodbye at school, but never asks to wear it. She changes into her play clothes as soon as we get home, and her most favorite thing to do is–still!–playing by herself on the playroom rug with Lighting and Thomas. Why would I even try to change that? To “offer” her the opportunity to like what stupid catalogs and parenting magazines and TV commercials tell me she should like? I must be out of my mind. Either that or I’m more easily impressed than my kid.
So, no more of that stupid movie. Santa better get clued in really quickly before next Christmas. To be fair, I had liked the part where Rapunzel was reunited with her parents, only if I can’t help but tear up at the idea of a parent being unfairly separated from her child for 18 years, creepy anime-eyed kid or not. And Mandy Moore, the singer behind Rapunzel, really does have a pretty voice. But I’m finished even trying with Disney movies. The Lion King, I can take, only because the animals and scenery are cool, and the music’s all lovely and sweeping. But if Tangled is the movie that was promoted as having an “okay, okay, she’s a little better” type of princess, well, I’m just going to be happy when SK requests Cars for the 425th time (we seriously don’t watch that many DVDs around here–you guys know how little TV my deprived, sheltered [oooh, maybe I am like Mother Gothel after all! Oh dear golly, except that instead of locking the kids in a tower, I just never turn on the television! Gah!] little girls watch–but when we do it’s always, always one of the Thomas/Cars/Toy Story rotation, and frankly–unfortunately–as Saoirse told me this morning, I have Mater’s accent down pat. That’s called osmosis, not on purpose.
But I’m not trying to shake it up anymore. I’m going to let SK watch Day of the Diesels over and over again. I’m going to continue to think it’s hilarious when Quinn runs around saying “Toot! Toot!” all the time, and pushes her sister’s cars around on the floor. This is what I was hoping for–that our girls wouldn’t get swept up into this princess idealization. So why am I? Stupid Disney and it’s really excellent marketing. It got me all (horrible pun coming up…wait for it…) Tangled up in a fairy tale.
Bah dum dum.