Yesterday, we finally went out. We went to see "Tangled" the new Disney movie that's a riff on Rapunzel. And what a riff it is. As a fairy tale fanatic, I was pleased with the depth of the interpretation and the symbolism. And I'm usually not all that pleased with Disney's take on some of my favorite stories. The witch is not a witch at all, she's a crone. And as a near-crone myself, I was delighted. She was selfish and vain and desperate to stay young forever. She tried to keep Rapunzel innocent and isolated from the world for her own ends. Gee, there's no metaphorical meaning to this, is there?
Unfortunately, they did too good a job with her character. She terrified Miss E to the point where she had trouble sleeping last night. As I watched the film, that was exactly what I was concerned about. She sings "Mother Knows Best" and acts for all the world like a parent to Rapunzel. My heart skipped a beat seeing that, wondering how Miss E would interpret it. So many of the lines and actions required subtlety to see the difference between true parental discipline and the wrongful actions of a selfish woman. And then, when her 'Dorian Gray' youthfulness is threatened by Rapunzel's jump to freedom and YA independence, she takes out a knife. She seeks to use violence to control a situation that has already gone out of her control. (No metaphor there, either.) Not violence against Rapunzel, of course. She needs her alive and under her thumb. But Miss E was terrified by this image of a knife-wielding mother figure. And it's all very well to say that Miss E knew all along that she wasn't Rapunzel's mother, but the movie didn't play her as out and out evil. Maleficent is out and out evil. Cinderella's stepmother is evil, not a nice bone in her body toward Cinderella. Ursula, the Sea Witch is powerful and evil. But 'mother' as she's referred to? She's selfish and vain and afraid to grow old...until she picks up that knife. She actually, in a selfish way, cares about Rapunzel. Rapunzel has everything she could want, isn't a slave in any way. She's happy in her tower until she grows up and wants to leave the nest, as children do.
I had to climb into bed with Miss E last night and talk her to sleep because she was afraid that the 'witch' was under her bed with a knife. I explained what a crone is. I explained what the fairy tale trope is all about. I explained that no one will ever do that to her, try to keep her from realizing her full potential. I explained that the old woman wasn't a witch, she didn't do any magic, she was just a woman who was afraid to grow old, who tried to hold onto her youth. (again, no metaphor there, is there?) I explained that Miss E is surrounded by women who aren't afraid to age and by women who want her to become independent and strong, realize her potential. (I still had a few issues with the Disney movie as a feminist, but not as many as I usually do.) I explained that Miss E is guarded by good karma at Walkabout Farm, that karma is my magic and I spread it as far and wide as I can, even while admitting my own imperfections. And that I hoped she would learn to work the same kind of magic when she grew up.
She fell asleep (I have a soporific voice), but this morning she was still afraid that a knife-wielding crone was under her bed and climbed out over the end of it instead. I told her this was a time-honored tradition. I had alligators under mine for years and would take a running jump to get into my bed at night. But I did explain that once the sun was up and one could switch on one's light, well, these monsters under the bed can't stand light. She says she's not sure she wants to own a copy of the movie when it comes out on DVD. Too scary. We'll see. She just finished the first Harry Potter book, old enough for it at long last and then watched the movie from start to finish. Miss E has her mother's wickedly strong imagination, I think, and that means 'scary' things are only too real, they're not fun at all.
One high point in the movie is Maximus the horse. Miss E and I laughed at him, but for different reasons. She found him funny in a slap-stick kind of way. He's a white horse and I kept seeing a Lipizzan, courtesy of the horses at DHF. He was something of a cross between Khepera the clown and Pooka the stallion, with some of Camilla thrown in for good measure. He was clever and silly and devoted to what he saw as his job, catching the bad guy, and loyal to the palace guards. But when an unknown young woman talked to him, he melted into a puddle. Oh yeah. Someone who knows a thing or two about horses wrote that part.
Thumbs up for Tangled if you're a fairy tale nut like I am. One of Disney's better efforts.