Sometimes Oil of Olay is not enough. Sometimes all the Regenerist and Botox and plastic surgery in the world doesn’t get it done. Time waits for no man—or woman—and sometimes you gotta take matters into your own hands. In the world of Disney, that means putting young girls to sleep, poisoning them with apples, or, in the style of Mother Gothel, our Mad, Mad Weekend Part I villain, snatching them as infants and locking them in towers.
Mother Gothel is a desperate woman.
In the movie Tangled, Gothel is a witch (surprise, surprise) who discovers a flower with incredible healing properties, even up to reversing the damage of healing. Just when she gets her hand on it, the king’s people snatch it from her grasp to save the queen and her unborn child. Not to be deterred, Gothel decides the next best thing works. She pulls a Nicolas Cage in Raising Arizona and jacks the kid, Rapunzel, instead.
Now, I get it. Aging is frightening; you have to do whatever to maintain that bounce in your hair. Makes sense. Immortality is a human idea and a common theme in Disney movies—hell, it’s why Jack Sparrow does what he does for FOUR movies. What’s messed up is what Gothel does afterwards. Rather than just fess up and tell Rapunzel “hey, you’re special and you have the really cool powers and I need you,” or some other Lifetime shit, Gothel packs Rapunzel up in a tower with no stairs, no elevator and turns her into an agoraphobe. With 3 books. And a lizard.
A while back I talked about how Scar emotionally abused Simba by telling him he was responsible for Mufasa’s death. (Before I go any further, I have to dial back the intensity—these are Disney movies after all.) I thought that was pretty fucked up for a kid’s movie. Then my daughter begs to see Tangled and, as much as I enjoyed it (the horse was HILARIOUS!), it actually gets worse. Scar makes Simba run away, hopefully to die; Gothel keeps Rapunzel alive to take advantage her. Daily.
When you really think about it, Rapunzel becomes a really messed up example of emotional abuse. In an age of Elizabeth Smart and people locking mothers and daughters in rooms for decades, this is kinda fucked up. Look at it this way: Rapunzel’s whole existence is stolen and she lives in the company of those thieves for her ENTIRE life! Gothel steals her childhood and the power that makes her live, then steals her freedom and individuality, then steals her intelligence and life experience by tossing her in the tower. She turns Rapunzel into Nell so she can live forever. And who sets Rapunzel free? Another thief! A cat who has stolen the one thing that will make her free.
Gothel is foul because she makes Rapunzel a prisoner and calls it love. She’s extra raunchy because she’s keeping Rapunzel alive like a cow to take from her. She’s despicable because she keeps Rapunzel too stupid and naïve to figure out there is more for her. And she’s awesome because she makes Rapunzel call her Mother and Mother Knows Best.
Part 2 is coming…with Davey Jones!