Emotional Abuse, “Tangled”, and a Revealing Comment
For those of you who have seen the movie “Tangled,” you know that the underlying conflict is one that is very familiar to us here at ACFJ: emotional abuse. Many survivors find healing while watching this movie and seeing Rapunzel break free from her abuser; and when she does and is wracked with the overwhelming and simultaneous emotions of guilt and excitement, we all know exactly how that feels.
The power of the emotional abuser and the failure of the Christian Church to recognize the effects on a victim were driven home when I read the following on an otherwise positive review of the movie by a Christian movie reviewer:
There’s also a moral conflict that’s not quite resolved positively. In a way, it seems as if Rapunzel is rebelling against her mother. That’s because the wicked hag, who pretends to be her mother, is not that wicked. If she had been a little bit more mean, there would be no confusion about Rapunzel’s decision to disobey her or rebel.
Notice they say that Gothel is not that wicked. They feel Rapunzel would seem less rebellious if her mother was more overtly “mean”. This is significant because it is a clear indication of how the Christian culture is missing the point, and badly. We are blind to emotional abuse, and that blindness is what leads Christian leaders to talk about “a tough marriage” (instead of abusive one) or imply that only physical abuse is real abuse. In fact, it seems that to the part of the Christian culture that emphasize patriarchy, submission, and obedience, emotionally abusive behavior is seen as normal and acceptable.
Gothel is perhaps one of Disney’s most evil villains because she has no special powers – her power is to control and abuse and make it seem acceptable to her victim (and parts of the Christian culture).
- She locks the poor girl in a tower for her entire life, and this can somehow be seen as “not that wicked”?
- She diminishes Rapunzel with hurtful jokes that can allow her to say a put down while simultaneously making any offense seem like an overreaction (“When I look into this mirror I see a strong, beautiful women- oh look, you’re here too!”) and this isn’t “mean” enough?
- She can switch into the role of the victim without blinking (“Oh great, now I’m the bad guy!”) and there’s “confusion about Rapunzel’s decision to disobey her or rebel”?
Disney wrote Gothel with eerie accuracy, so much of the early parts of the movie might even serve as a list of triggers for some. But the real testimony to her abusive nature is that she deceives not only Rapunzel, but also real life people who should know better – that is scary indeed.