A Persian Cafe, Edward Lord Weeks

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Review of Tangled

Last night I watched Tangled on Netflix, and having very much enjoyed it I thought I'd review it here.

I won't go through the plot in great detail, you can read it on Wikipedia if you haven't seen it yourself. This is more a collection of my thoughts on various bits of the film.

First, there's a philosophical question of who owns the magical, life-giving plant. If you believe that Gothel has a good claim to the plant, then she has a strong claim against the King and Queen to be compensated for removing her source of eternal life - ultimately, for killing her.

Near the beginning we are introduced to Rapunzel. What a girl! Pretty, nice singing voice, good at art, strong moral code (at least with regard to promises), strong-willed, enjoys dancing, and best of all she knows how to deal with intruders. (Oh, and remarkably logical with regard to her usage of Flynn when she has him captured). Flynn/Eugene is a lucky guy.

I enjoyed the sequence in the Snuggly Duckling pub. You have a room full of ruffians and quite possibly outlaws, and they are portrayed as good people. Indeed, everyone in the film seems to have a clear motive or dream, whether it's wealth, love, revenge, extended life and youth, or just to see "the lights".

Fourth, how feasible are prying pans as weapons in the real world? There's a common misconception about sword-fighting (that is, real sword-fighting, not fencing) exemplified by the phrase "a clash of blades" . If you block your opponent's sword with your own, then both swords will quickly go blunt. Ideally one would use both a sword and shield, attack with the shield, and use the sword to stab the opponent once their defences are down. In the absence of shields for either combatant, stabbing becomes high priority. A sufficiently resilient frying pan might be used feasibly as both a mace and a shield, but would suffer from a short reach. There'd be no worry of it going blunt, at least. Perhaps the biggest risk would be that the enemy could grab it and wrench it out of your hands. I'd guess it probably wouldn't be all the good, but still I'd take a frying pan over a switchblade any day.

The lanterns are very nice. Apparently in real life they're a far-eastern tradition, we should totally copy that.

All that subtext relating to virginity! Even if Mother Gothel were not an abusive kidnapper, there would be a huge problem with her parenting in that she prohibits Rapunzel from taking any risks at all. The rest of the movie, however, seems to advocate the extreme opposite, of taking wild risks with regard to your personal life as a teenager/young adult. Rapunzel runs off with a guy she's never met before, they go off in a boat together to watch the lanterns, they release their lanterns together, almost-kiss and then she gives him the crown he's been after all this time (Mother Gothel having warned her "He's only after one thing... You give him that crown and he'll no longer have any interest you," or words to that effect). And okay, immediately after that he suddenly seems interested in something else entirely and runs off away from her, but it turns out that he is actually trying to save her and they eventually end up married, happily ever after. No. Girls, if you want a relationship with a guy, and then you sleep with him and suddenly he's distracted and runs off... you probably made a mistake in sleeping with him. He's not trying to save you both, he was genuinely after only one thing, i.e. sex. Even perpetually-single virgins such as I know that. In that sense, I don't think that this is necessarily a positive message Disney is promoting - there is a fine balance to be trod between enjoying yourself, gaining experience of the world and staying safe and it doesn't seem obvious that downplaying the risk of the first and demonising advocates of the latter is a useful signal to send to children.

The whole tear-healing thing seemed rather deus ex machina to me. It turns out, however, that this is a reference to the original story by the brothers Grimm, in which this mechanism happens to repair the Prince's eyes after they are pierced by thorns. The original also featured teen pregnancy but little else to concern, which marks it as remarkably mild by the standards of historical culture. There are some brutal songs celebrating domestic violence, and anyone who thinks of Shakespeare as good, clean fun has clearly never read him.

The end really put me in mind of a gospel classic entitled "Soon and very soon". I can't find any sufficiently celebratory performances on Youtube, so you'll have to sit through mine. (Technical note: that is, when I can sort out the upload, the server keeps disconnecting, possibly as a public service to protect you from my playing).

I recommend the film to anyone reading this, and I intend to watch it again.

PS. I forgot to mention the music. It's by Alan Menken so of course it's good, but he has written better. "I've Got a Dream" was very fun, as noted above.

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