It is not everyday that I can watch an animated children’s movie and be completely intrigued to the point that I do not even realize that I am watching a film that is intended for an audience nearly a fourth of my age. While I am a fan of most of the classic Disney princess movies, I would be lying if I said that I was 100% excited about watching a new animated Disney movie at a time other than when I was babysitting. Although I was a bit skeptical before beginning the film, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it only took about 10 minutes of watching to realize that Disney’s new twist on the classic tale Rapunzel was in fact a fantastic movie. The 2010 Disney production, Tangled is full of extraordinary songs, lovable characters, and powerful messages that are inspiring for both boys and girls of all ages.
Children’s movies are infamous for containing messages intended for their audience to take away and learn something from. Disney movies in particular almost always have one or more cliché message that is overtly stated and easy for all ages to pick up on due to the nature of their target audience. Some of these classic messages include, “believe in yourself”, “good conquers evil”, “true love conquers all”, “never give up” and several more. Although Tangled is unique in that Rapunzel is not the typical princess in comparison to many of the others before her, there is no denying that the film contains several cliché messages.
One obvious message that I picked up on after screening the film is “follow your dreams”. Tangled emphasis the point that we all have dreams and that we should do everything that we can to make those dreams come true. Since Rapunzel was locked up in a tower her entire life, she always dreamed of going into town to see the light show that she had watched every year on her birthday from a far distance. When the opportunity presents itself, Rapunzel defies her “mother” and goes on an adventure that is full of challenges and sacrifices. During this journey, Rapunzel encounters a group of male savages and although intimidated at first, music eventually cues and Rapunzel begins to sing the song, “I’ve Got a Dream “ which brings everyone together. The entire room joins her in song as they confess their own dream and everyone gladly accepts one another’s dream. When listening to the lyrics and watching Rapunzel, Flynn, and the Savages confess their dreams, one can clearly see Disney’s intent to profess the idea that everyone has dreams, everyone should be accepting of others dreams, and everyone should go after their dreams no matter how distant they appear. When looking at the movie as a whole, one can see that Disney appeals to ethos when constructing this message. According to Lunsford’s text Everything is an Argument, “Arguments based on character depend on trust. We tend to accept argument from those we trust, and we trust them in good part because of their reputations. Three main elements- trustworthiness/credibility, authority, and unselfish clear motives- add up to ethos” (Lunsford, 45). Throughout the entire movie, Rapunzel remains trustworthy and her motives remain genuine and clear. She is not manipulative, mean, and she is constantly helping others therefore her messages are credible and girls can relate to her in a positive way. An appeal to character applies to several of the messages beyond just follow your dreams and I found that virtually all of the messages that Rapunzel portrays are affective due to her positive character and likability.
Although Disney movies are known for embedding positive cliché in their children’s movies, they have also been criticized for portraying hidden problematic messages as well. While these messages tend to be far less overt than the cliché messages, they still have the ability to be just as impactful. One underlying problematic message that Tangled presents is that beauty and youth are everything. The reason that Rapunzel was ultimately kidnapped and held captive in a castle for her entire life is because she has magical hair that glows and brings youth and beauty to her “mother”. Her “mother” takes the child and manipulates her to stay locked up away from the world only for her selfish intentions to stay young and beautiful forever, which suggests the point that when you are old all you will want is to be young again. Although this is a problematic message, I believe that is not nearly as effective as the other positive messages because in the end this idea is completely contradicted when Rapunzel’s hair is cut off and no longer magical. When Rapunzel’s hair is cut off it is not nearly as beautiful, however, she is happier than ever to be with the man she loves and the family she was once taken from. This suggests another positive cliché message that looks are not everything and that what is on the inside is more important than what is on the outside. Also it is clear that Rapunzel’s mother, the ultimate villain, is bad/evil and that although she may be young and pretty again with magic, she is not a better or happier person.
Another underlying message that could be seen is that money and wealth will make you happy, even if you steal it rather than earn it. In the beginning of the movie Flynn is a thief who is used to winning over girls with his good looks. He is constantly running from trouble, which eventually leads him to Rapunzel’s castle. Again, this message ends up being contradicted into a positive message when Flynn ends up falling in love with Rapunzel for who she is, not for what she looks like (or because she has magic hair) and he goes back to his true self, Eugene. Unlike the classic fairy tail story where the man saves the princess, Rapunzel ends up saving Flynn by helping him find his way back to his true self and she even physically saves him at the end when he nears his death. In Tangled Rapunzel stays true to who she is the entire movie, which can also be seen as a cliché message appealing to ethos. This is a positive message for boys and girls because it suggests that good conquers evil and you should always be yourself.
In all I believe that tangled is an excellent movie for people of all ages and I believe the positive cliché messages far outweigh the hidden controversial messages. The movie is both moving and humorous at the same time, and there is no denying that Tangled uses emotional appeals to capture the audience. According to Giannetti, “the ability to blend comedy with pathos is unique” (Giannetti 270). While Tangled may be a love story about a princess, its humor and heart warming moments make it a suitable movie for people of all ages, male or female. This tale defies many of the stereotypes found in previous Disney princess movies making it unique and impactful for everyone watching.