Friday, September 9, 2011

Heaven's Light: The Supernatural In Disney's Tangled - The Beginning

So, turns out the Disney Film Rankings need to be updated a bit. Tangled is definitely Top 10. I'm gonna go ahead and put it in between Peter Pan and 101 Dalmatians. Yeah, #5. It's that good.

The first thing I have to say is "Wow!" It's kitschy, I know, but really. I'm not the first person to talk about Disney Magic, but it really is apt here, seeing as Tangled is the first Disney film since The Lion King to have it. Hunchback, Mulan, and Tarzan come close, but they don't quite get there. Mulan and Tarzan try and fail by being derivative, and Hunchback, while suffering from some of the same issues, fails in the end by being quite unlike any other Disney film.

So far, most of the features which have had that magical quality have done so on account of their romance, by which I mean to refer to the genre of Medieval, Renaissance (and, later, Romantic) literature and NOT contemporary "romance" novels. The classic fairy tales on which many of the great Disney films are based can themselves be considered more or less great romances: Beauty and the Beast, Snow WhiteCinderella, Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid, and, finally, Rapunzel.

Though the specific works from which Disney draws its material are individually more or less directly connected to these Medieval and Renaissance tales, all of them can trace their lineage, at least stylistically, to these works. It is the Medieval romances which are responsible for our (rapidly disappearing) cultural association of the Middle Ages with daring knights, evil witches, and damsels in distress; or, to quote Belle, "far off places, daring sword fights, a prince in disguise!" Through revivals in the Renaissance and the Romantic Age the specific form of the romance shifted quite drastically, several important elements remained the same.

The most important of these is a preoccupation with the supernatural and fantastical. The Middle Ages lived in a world alive with divine and demonic power, in a world where otherworldly forces intervened regularly, pulling Mankind back and forth between Heaven and Hell. What we consider "fantastical" was not at all so for them. It was simply life. There is something to be learned from this perspective.

Tangled begins when a drop of sunlight falls from the sky and enchants a flower with endless healing powers. This flower is later used to heal Rapunzel's mother in order that she may successfully deliver Rapunzel, who then inherits the flower's abilities. Whenever a special song is sung, Rapunzel's hair begins to glow with sunlight and heals anything it touches.

There was once another Woman who received a drop of Son-light (sorry) and was henceforth granted the ability to heal all she touches: "And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. ...She brought forth a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron." (Rev. 12:1,5). This "woman" may be interpreted as the nation of Israel, from whom Christ the Physician issued:
"Surely he has born our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with he stripes we are healed," (Isa. 53:4-5).
The Incarnation is the single greatest event in history. God, perfect Love and Being itself, descended from Heaven like a drop of light, and became Man, taking a body like ours. This body was that of an Israelite, fulfilling the Old Testament prophecy that Israel would become "blessed above all peoples," (Deut. 7:14).

But, the redemption Christ brought is not just one of ideas and abstract principles, it must be a bodily one as well, for we are persons composed of body and soul. As such, Christ took a body, and by it, he heals our bodies, along with our souls, if only at the end of time when all shall be brought to glory as his body was at Easter.

The Woman can also be the Virgin Mother, whose God-given virtue allowed her to become the very vessel of redemption and grace:
"My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generation will call me lessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name," (Lk. 1:46-49).

It is through the Blessed Virgin that Christ's spiritual and bodily health was made able to come to us. As Catholics, we believe our Blessed Mother sits at the right hand of her Divine son in Heaven, interceding to him on our behalf, raining showers of love and grace down on us all the time. It was us to whom Christ was speaking when he uttered these last words upon the Cross, "Behold, your mother!" (Jn. 19:27).

She may also be the Bride of Christ, the Church, within whom Christ resides, and thereby grants the ability to transmit his healing grace to the world:
"Jesus said to [the disciples], 'Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.' And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained,'" (Jn. 20:21-23).


  1. See, that one is amazing, too. Its so cool to see a Disney princess movie that not JUST six year old girls could be excited about and relate to :)

  2. I wouldn't put Tangled in a class with the great filmographic works of art like Lawrence of Arabia or Gone with the Wind, or even Disney's Beauty and the Beast. I would, however, call it art.

    I find it's often true that depth of meaning and truth can be found in the most unexpected places if only one will look. Like a manger in Bethlehem, for example.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...