Posts Tagged ‘Tangled’

Death and Self-Denial In Disney’s Tangled

Posted: November 20, 2014 by Blaine Grimes in Uncategorized
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MV5BMTAxNDYxMjg0MjNeQTJeQWpwZ15BbWU3MDcyNTk2OTM@._V1__SX1394_SY676_The titular protagonist of G.K. Chesterton’s Father Brown mysteries, an affable and astute priest, has a penchant for crime-solving. And while he always catches the perpetrator, the really fun thing about Father Brown is how he solves the mystery. More often than not, he does it by noticing the obvious—the things that are so overt they often go overlooked. In “The Secret Garden,” for instance, where a body and a decapitated head is discovered in a back yard garden at a dinner party, Father Brown is able to track down the murderer when he is the first one to notice that the decapitated head does not belong to the body with which it has been placed.

I bring Chesterton into the discussion for two reasons. The first is that if you have not read any of the Father Brown stories, you truly must do so … and soon. Second, is that I had my own Father Brown moment the other day. It happened when—for the I-don’t-know-how-many-eth time—my wife and I sat down to watch one of our favorite Disney movies, Tangled. Even though I have seen the movie multiple times, I—like so many of Father Brown’s laymen—missed one of its most astonishingly biblical motifs. Making my oversight all the more laughable is that it is announced in the opening scene (and not in a subtle and mysterious way).

Tangled begins with a voiceover by Flynn Ryder (Zachary Levi), a notorious thief who’s is depicted on a wanted poster. “This is the story of how I died,” he says. Those of you who have seen Tangled will recall (spoiler alert) that Flynn does indeed die after he is literally stabbed in the back by the villainous Mother Gothel (Donna Murphy). And while it is possible to take Flynn’s opening dialogue solely at face value, meaning that he was physically dead for a period of time in the film, I’m convinced that there is something much more significant—more spiritual—happening. Flynn’s line brings to mind the words of Christ: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24). It seems to me, then, that Tangled is a story about death and rebirth.

Flynn Ryder is introduced to us as a self-obsessed thief, a swindler and braggart. The first time we actually see Flynn, he is waxing eloquently to his companions, dreaming of a time when he will have enough stolen goods to live a life of luxury. He then proceeds to rob a castle and betray his friends by taking the horde for himself. Later, when Flynn and Rapunzel’s (Mandy Moore) lives become intertwined, his initial plan is to use her to help him accomplish his goals. But he changes. He begins to die. Slowly but surely, we see Flynn turn from his narcissism, pride, and greed, as he learns to love someone (Rapunzel) more than himself. Christ said, a grain of wheat only bears fruit if it dies, and so Flynn learns that true life—life abundant—comes paradoxically through self-denial. And his transformation culminates in his literal physical death, from which he is raised to walk in newness of life.

But why does Flynn change? What is that causes him to rejoice, singing, “at last I’ve seen the light?” Simply put, he discovers what the Puritan Thomas Chalmers called “the expulsive power of a new affection.” Flynn looked upon Rapunzel and found her to be exceedingly beautiful, kind, selfless, and everything else he was not; and his love for riches, fame, and his love for himself was overwhelmed by a greater love for Rapunzel.

Flynn is right; Tangled is a story about death, but not the kind of death we might first imagine. It’s about a man who dies to his old way of life and is born anew. In it we see a picture of the greater, transformative and saving power of Jesus Christ.

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princessNot too long ago I bashed a Disney classic (Peter Pan; even though I do like it), so I thought I would come to Disney’s defense in this post.  After all, we had an excellent time in Disney World this past October and we own/enjoy many of their movies.

We were recently watching The Princess and the Frog, and I noticed how this film contains some pretty dark themes in it.  Then, I thought about almost every Disney film having elements of evil depicted.  Let’s take a minute to reflect on a few of the films:

  • Finding Nemo – the mother and her litter (is that the correct term?) of fish are destroyed in the opening minutes of the film.
  • The Lion King – the father is stampeded by some gazelles, Scar makes us all cry, and the hyenas are just plain mean.
  • Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs – the scary witch still gives me nightmares and she poisons Snow White (whose voice drives me crazy, by the way).
  • Sleeping Beauty – has Maleficent who looks demonic prior to turning into a dragon, but drives further fear into the hearts of pre-schoolers by breathing fire.
  • Toy Story 1 – Sid
  • Toy Story 2 – Al of Al’s Toy Barn
  • Toy Story 3 – Lotso
  • Toy Story trilogy – all of them have some pretty terrifying/sad moments.  Sid’s toy experiments, a child who abandons her doll (Jessie) on the street, Lotso’s rebellion, toys descending into the pit of “hell”, and Andy making the entire audience cry by giving his toys away (be honest…you cried).
  • Up – everyone over the age of 25 was crying in the first 10 minutes
  • Tangled – “Mother knows best” Mother Gothel’s aging makes every child cower; not to mention her fall out of the tower is a little unsettling.
  • Frozen – the parents die and Elsa won’t build a snow man with Anna for Pete’s sake! (the huge snow creature is also frightening).

And, then we get to The Princess and the Frog, quite possibly the most demonic and frightening, because it does explicitly deal with demons, after all.  Dr. Facilier makes a deal with the Devil and uses voodoo throughout the film.  Demons dance around and then Dr. Facilier’s deal goes wrong and he is dragged to hell…literally.

But, all this talk may have sounded somewhat negative and I began this post stating it would be positive.  So here’s my assertion: This is all really good stuff.  I mean, sometimes I’d watch these films with my children and think, couldn’t they have left all the dying out?  Couldn’t they have left off that scary part?  Or, did they really have to make the moles on her nose that grotesque?  However, then I thought about the nature of evil and realized, it’s real.

The truth is, there is death.  The truth is, there is sadness.  The truth is, demonic forces are wagging war against us each and every day.  If that’s the case, then what’s my problem with these depictions?  My problem is the fact that my pre-fall nature is kicking in.  I want Eden.  I want the Eden that existed before that nasty serpent.  Or, I wan’t Jesus to be here…now.  I want to be in Heaven.  You see, these desires are normal.  The knee-jerk desire that hates evil, death, sadness, and demons is a good thing.  But, the cold harsh truth is the fact that we live in the “already” and the “not yet”.  Jesus Christ has already come, but he has not yet returned.

Therefore, Disney got it right!  We need children growing up with a sense of fear, sadness, and evil.  It is unloving to raise them without a sense of brokenness.  The more brokenness they feel, the better.  It’s just our job to let them know that there’s only one “magical spell” that can break this.  And it’s not a kiss from a prince or some incantation from a good wizard, it’s only fixed by the righteous blood of Jesus Christ.

Tangled up in Law and Grace

Posted: November 28, 2013 by jperritt in Action, Adventure, Animation, Family, Uncategorized
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tangledposterTangled has become a Perritt household favorite. There is no telling how many movies nights have featured this soon-to-be Disney classic.

There are many themes to explore in this film, but one scene that resonates with me is when Rapunzel (whom we got to meet at Disney world…not to rub it in) first leaves the tower. If you remember, her “mother-knows-best” Mother Gothel had confined poor Rapunzel to a tower, because of the evil that lurks outside. Of course we understand that Gothel has kidnapped Rapunzel to use her for her anti-aging powers and tells tales of evil to horde this secret. However, Rapunzel’s persistent questioning of “when will her life begin” were too much for the tower’s walls – and Gothel’s wishes – so she uses Flynn Rider, a.k.a. Eugene, to escape.

Once she escapes, she exudes jubilation. She runs. She dances. She sings…until she feels guilt. She feels guilt from disobeying her “mother”. Confinement to the tower was all she ever knew to be right, so while there is joy, it is fleeting because of the confused sense of right and wrong. This got me to thinking about the Christian’s misconceptions about the gospel.

In a sense we are just like Rapunzel, confused over our confinement and freedom. The gospel frees us from our legalistic ways of law-reliance. Prior to our understanding of the gospel, we think we need to observe a bunch of rules, do a lot of good, and abstain from this world to earn our salvation, however, all this does is enslave us further. Yet, this was the “gospel” Mother Gothel was preaching.

It isn’t until Rapunzel breaks free from the walls of legalism, that she sees the freedom she’s been blind to. But, just like all Christians, we go back to our legalistic lifestyle. We doubt our freedom. We feel guilt over the life Christ purchased for us. At times we desire to go back to our tower and just work out our own freedom by adhering to man-made laws.

What we need to be reminded of is the fact that all the law has been fulfilled in Christ’s righteous life. He lived the life we could not life and died the death that we deserved. This, of course, does not purchase a life of license to sin, rather it gives us freedom to obey. We do not strive to obey the law to get us right with God, we obey because we are right with God based on faith in Jesus’ perfect obedience.