My all time favorite Disney movie is Tangled. When I first watched it, I cried and cried. I couldn’t understand how anyone could produce a movie like this without knowing about the stay at home daughter movement, because in my eyes, that’s what this movie was about.
Rapunzel has grown up in a tower, secluded from the world. She has now about to turn 18. The movie begins with Rapunzel’s routine housework, which sounds exactly like the life of a stay at home daughter, minus the caring for younger siblings. So yes, this whole song felt eerily familiar.
Rapunzel wants to leave her tower on her eighteenth birthday. She wants to see what is beyond her window. Her mother will not allow her, and why? For the exact same reason stay at home daughters are kept home: the world is a big and scary place, and they need protection! Again, so very familiar…
Just before her birthday, Rapunzel secretly leaves her tower without her mother’s knowledge. She is torn between joy for her freedom and the new things she is discovering and fear and guilt for leaving. Again, so familiar…I’ve been there too.
Next Rapunzel visits a tavern full of scary characters and initially finds her mother’s predictions true. But then, she realized that they are all really no different than she is inside. They’re just people, with hopes and dreams and families. I had this realization too, and it was just as dramatic.
On her travels, Rapunzel falls in love with her male traveling companion. After following her for a while, her mother finds her, but rather than taking her back to her tower by force, she employs emotional manipulation, telling Rapunzel that there is no way the young man she loves cares anything about her, that she’s too naive, that all he wants is “her tiara,” which she has promised to give to him at the end of their journey. Once he has the tiara, Rapunzel’s mother tells her, he will leave her without a thought. For tiara read “sex,” and I heard this spiel many a time, almost word for word.
This is why you never should have left. Dear, this whole romance that you’ve invented just proves you’re too naive to be here.
This [holding up tiara] is why he’s here, don’t let him deceive you, give it to him watch you’ll see! Trust me my dear, [snaps] that’s how fast he’ll leave you, I won’t say I told you so!
Rapunzel ignores her mother’s advice and continues on to the kingdom’s capital. She arrives in the middle of a festival with throngs of people, and her arrival there is very representative of my college experience. Notice that at first she is completely out of place, until four little girls braid her hair up for her so that she doesn’t stick out so much. Those little girls were the evangelical friends I made in college.
That night, Rapunzel watches the lanterns, something she had wanted to do her entire life. This song made me cry. I have been there. This was me.
The world has somehow shifted. All at once, everything looks different.
All those years, living in a blur. All that time, never truly seeing things the way the were.
At last I see the light, and it’s like the fog has lifted.
Finally, there is the clip where Rapunzel realizes that she’s been lied to, that her mother is an impostor and that she, Rapunzel, is the lost princess. On her journey, Rapunzel had picked up a small flag bearing a star, the symbol of the princess. Then, back at home with her mother, Rapunzel looks up at the ceiling of her room and suddenly realizes that the star is painted all over it, but that she was unable to see it before. That moment of realization, when she suddenly sees what she was before unable to see and realizes that she’s been lied to – I’ve been there too.
One last parallel to draw. Many, but not all, daughters of Christian Patriarchy escape with the help of young men we’ve met. Like Rapunzel, though, having a young man to give the impetus for escape does not mean depending on that young man to do everything for us or not thinking for ourselves. Rapunzel knew there was something wrong with her life in the tower and wanted out – Flynn just happened to be there and be a handy guide to the outside world. His presence made it so that she dared to leave. While our young men are generally not liars and thieves like Flynn, they do give us an extra ounce of courage and support, and they also have WTF moments just like Flynn did when he first realized that Rapunzel’s hair glowed – though rather than repeating “her hair glows?! Why does her hair glow?” over and over, it’s generally more like “you were taught what?!” Start the following clip at 1:20:
I love Tangled. It’s my story. To be perfectly honest, if someone wanted to understand my journey in a nutshell, I would recommend this movie. This is me, and I have watched it so many times.
I’m not the only one to notice these connections. Indeed, Ladies Against Feminism posted a whole article called Mangled: Stay at Home Daughters on the Silver Screen. In response, No Longer Quivering posted an article called That Evil Feminist Movie, “Tangled.”
Tangled isn’t the only movie that makes me cry because of its parallels to my own life. Fiddler on the Roof does that too. I think if someone wanted to understand my life, I’d have them watch both Tangled and Fiddler on the Roof (and maybe Cheaper by the Dozen too).
Start this clip at 3:00 and you will see why I find Fiddler on the Roof so hard to watch (Tevye’s daughter Chava has just married the man she loved, a man who happened to be outside of her family’s faith). I literally can’t watch this movie with company, I just can’t handle it.
Do you have any movies that speak to your life and experiences in this way?