One of the most beloved films of all time is Disney’s Tangled (2010). Loved for its stunning animation, magical soundtrack, and powerful storytelling. It’s been over a decade since Tangled has graced the big screens. Yet it’s still in a league of its own compared to other Disney animated feature films. Truly a timeless classic.

As a huge fan of animation, Tangled is one of the most perfect animation films. Animation is a medium in cinematic storytelling that is often overlooked. When in fact, the power of animation is limitless. This is explored to its fullest range in Tangled, which makes use of creative storytelling.

I mean does it get more romantic that *that* lantern scene?

More to Tangled than meets the eye

Tangled tells the classic story of Rapunzel (Mandy Moore) with a twist. Rapunzel has been locked away in a tower for 18 years after being kidnapped by the evil Mother Gothel (Donna Murphy) since she was a baby. Her magical long blonde hair has the power to provide eternal youth, which Mother Gothel uses to keep herself young.

Mother Gothel has convinced Rapunzel she is her mother. As Rapunzel grows older, she grows more curious about the outside world. Once Rapunzel meets Flynn Rider (Zachary Levi), things take quite a turn.

Now, Mother Gothel is far from the traditional Disney villains we’re familiar with. She possesses no magical powers. However, this arguably makes her, in my opinion, the scariest archetype of a Disney villain yet. She uses the very worst human behaviors, abuser tactics, and gaslighting as her driving force. These signs of gaslighting that she exudes are so subtle that it’s very easy not to acknowledge them as wrong.

Why is it important for children to recognize this?

Upon multiple watches, it soon becomes clear that Tangled offers a layered viewing experience. Covering topics with very surprisingly dark undertones such as abusive relationships, child abduction, and gaslighting.

Gaslighting is defined as the act of manipulating a person into questioning their own sanity. It’s difficult to recognize the warning signs of this form of psychological abuse. Therefore, victims are often left feeling anxious and unable to trust themselves. Gaslighting often occurs in abusive relationships and also in male-dominated environments.

In Tangled, gaslighting is depicted through the lens of the mother-daughter relationship between Mother Gothel and Rapunzel. Furthermore, the effects of gaslighting on the victim are shown through Rapunzel’s behavior as she explores the outside world.

Disney’s largest and primary target audience is undoubtedly children. Therefore, it’s significant that with each viewing experience children can recognize the signs of gaslighting. As well as learn that this behavior is harmful and wrong from an early age.

Examples of gaslighting in Tangled

There are many examples of gaslighting displayed by Mother Gothel towards Rapunzel. Below are five notable examples:

  1. Floating lights – Mother Gothel convinces Rapunzel that the lanterns, which Rapunzel refers to as the floating lights, are, in fact, stars. Anything other than that is simply ludicrous.
  2. ‘Oh great. Now I’m the bad guy’ – This iconic quote comes from Mother Gothel soon after she explicitly states that Rapunzel will never be allowed to leave the tower. Quickly playing the victim.
  3. Mother knows best – This song by Mother Gothel severely picks apart Rapunzel in hopes to maintain and keep her self-esteem staying low.
  4. Reality is distorted – Over the 18 years, Mother Gothel has exaggerated many horror stories to Rapunzel about the outside world’s dangers. Rapunzel has been conditioned to believe these lies.
  5. Falsely portrays Flynn Rider – The first person Rapunzel has met other than Mother Gothel is Flynn Rider. As a love story unfolds between them, Mother Gothel works to put a stop to this. She creates a false narrative leaving Rapunzel to feel betrayed by Flynn.

Towards the final act of Tangled, we see Rapunzel slowly realize how Mother Gothel has been manipulating her the entire time. Being able to recognize this is a tremendous first step that should not be overlooked. Tangled portrays one of the most accurate representations of gaslighting in cinema. Thereby providing an important opportunity for children to learn about the signs and effects of gaslighting.

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So You Want To Talk About Gaslighting