Tangled: Obsessive “Love”

I love you.

I love you more.

I love you most.

The above lines sound sweet, if a little sappy. They sound like something a mother might say to her child, and indeed, they’re what Mother Gothel and Rapunzel say to each other in Disney’s Tangled. But there’s nothing sweet about this relationship. After a liquid drop of sun falls to the earth and a flower blooms with magical properties, Gothel uses those powers to keep herself young. She has no interest in sharing these powers, but when the young queen needs a miracle and the palace guards take the flower , Gothel is determined to find a way to keep using this power.

When a baby is born to the king and queen, a baby who bears the powers of the flower, Gothel sneaks in at night to steal a lock of the child’s hair, hoping to keep using the power of the flower. To her surprise, the hair loses its power when cut. That’s when she steals the child. The guards search far and wide, but there is no sign of the lost princess. The royal couple mourn their daughter. Every year on her birthday, they release paper lanterns in the air, hoping one day she will see them and come home.

18 years later, the princess, Rapunzel, has grown into a sweet and lovely young woman. Kept in a tower her entire life, she fills her days with painting, baking, and reading. This year she wants something new. She wants to see the floating lanterns! When she tells Mother Gothel, the witch refuses to entertain such an idea. This results in Rapunzel sneaking out of her tower when Gothel leaves for a few days. Though she’s naïve, Rapunzel able to get where she needs to with the help of an outlaw, Flynn Ryder. Their friendship grows quickly as they both evade the palace guards and learn to trust each other.

The day of the release of the lanterns, Rapunzel and Flynn dance, eat cupcakes, and enjoy themselves before flying their own lanterns that night. When Flynn betrays Rapunzel, she flees to Mother Gothel with her heart broken. Later, in her tower, Rapunzel is looking at a piece of cloth with the kingdom’s emblem of the sun on it. While staring at it, she realizes she has painted that same sun countless times on the walls of her towers, and then a memory of herself as a tiny baby bursts into her mind. She is the lost princess!

When Gothel first found the magical flower that grew from a drop of the sun, she would sing to it, causing its power to flow into her, reversing the ageing process. She taught that same song to Rapunzel, and not only did it reverse ageing, it also cured cuts and healed broken bodies. Though Gothel cared for Rapunzel for 18 years, there was no more love for the girl than you’d have for a cow you raised for its milk. Gothel constantly belittles and insults Rapunzel, then brushes off the comments as jokes. She refuses to let Rapunzel leave the tower, insisting others would only want to use the girl for her hair.

She rarely refers to Rapunzel by name, instead calling her by the pet name, Flower. She constantly strokes and touches Rapunzel’s hair, and when Rapunzel returns from her time with Flynn with her hair in a braid, it’s not long before Gothel has Rapunzel’s hair down. But it is the witch herself who wants the power. Though the movie doesn’t explain how she knew how to coax the power from the flower, and later Rapunzel, she must have sought out dark magic. And when she sensed Rapunzel was going to get away from her, she planted the idea in Rapunzel’s head that Flynn would leave her. But she is the one who made it so he couldn’t come back. Gothel did whatever she could so Rapunzel could never escape. And when Rapunzel realizes who she really is, Gothel chains the girl so she can never leave.

Merriam-Webster defines obsession as “a persistent, disturbing preoccupation with an often unreasonable idea or feeling.” Gothel never loves Rapunzel. She only loves what Rapunzel’s hair can do for her. When she thought she might lose that power, she did everything she could to keep that for herself. She lied, cheated, and would have kept Rapunzel locked away forever.

I think the combination of Rapunzel and Flynn is why I love this movie so much. Because Rapunzel is so good and so kind, she can show Flynn there is more to life than money and a cushy life. And in the end, when Flynn is dying, he saves her life rather than allow her to remain a prisoner. In doing so, he breaks Mother Gothel’s hold on her.

The movie begins with two people obsessed with different things: Gothel craved power and Flynn craved money and comfort. But at the end of the movie, it is only Flynn who gets rewarded. Though Rapunzel loved both Mother Gothel and Flynn, only Flynn allowed that love to change him. Gothel lived for hundreds of years, but she never really lived. Her entire life was wrapped up in keeping the flower safe, and keeping Rapunzel isolated in her tower. I do not know how she planned to keep the power of Rapunzel’s hair forever. But Flynn and Rapunzel lived. They chose love, friendship, and family. As a result, they both grew and had full lives. Gothel’s obsession did not bring her happiness, but eventually, Rapunzel found hers.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Carol Starkley lives with her husband, three daughters, and numerous pets. She likes to read, write, bake, and dabble with the clarinet. She also infrequently blogs.

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