Tangled gets grieving straight

It's not exactly a newsflash: the new Disney/Pixar movie will make you cry! But it's true, and as with everything Pixar, there's a heart inside that surprises you no matter what you expected.

Tangled is a hyped up, postmodern retelling of Rapunzel that, unlike nearly everything else in Hollywood, gets grief right.

The core of the tale begins when an infant girl with magic hair, born to doting parents after a difficult pregnancy, is kidnapped by an evil witch. One with marvelous hair, a worthy competitor … the witch's salt and pepper coils are depicted with nearly as much lush pleasure as the princess's pristine and glowing acres of flax. (Magically renewed, the witch looks tight and a little overdyed to me. A statement, to me, from a studio that can make any magic.)

Every year on their lost child's birthdate her parents — a flawless and kind King and Queen — release a paper lantern in her honor.

The sky lantern ceremony is beautiful and magical in a way that only the simplest things — a candle, paper, and the night — can ever be. As the King's subjects hand up thousands of lanterns to follow the first, no eye in the theater was left dry. This meant my 6 year old was pounding on my thigh to stop crying mommy for chrissakes. 

And now I feel, in a way, that I've actually been to a lantern ceremony of remembrance (they're used for weddings, too). Cartoon or not, this event is moving and also just. And as I smell the popcorn, I am reminded that this is a fairy tale, and why we have them: so we have something to look up to.

Because in this kingdom, the King and Queen's tears are honored each year, even at number 18. No one tells them to get over it or stop dwelling in the past. This village celebrates the life of a princess it barely knew with mead, flowers, and dancing in the streets, and closes with a sad sharing of hearts. And the ceremony itself — the lanterns bobbing in the night air, above water — brings together earth, sea, and sky. What else should ritual do but unite things larger than we are with our simple "here" selves?

Tangled contains the most moving, emotionally generous ritual of remembrance I remember in any American movie, and within a story that's entertaining, rich, and appropriate for families with kids of many ages (including a lot of boys, I am told -- the 10 year old boy with us cried, too.)

While it may be wonderful for others living with grief, I hesitate to recommend Tangled to families who have been through childloss. In addition to the fairy-tale ending (the child is not dead!) there is also an emergency rescue of a pregnancy that's important to the plot. I'm not sure the tears and emotional satisfaction of the lanterns justify going through all the other triggers.

Babylost friends, what do you think? Did this movie "work" for you at all, did it help you, was it true? Or is the general grief message just that? 

ADDENDUM: I'm a dolt. I forgot that someone imporant DIES and then comes back to life. This could be a trigger for any widow, especially with a loss from violent crime. I mean, it IS a cartoon, but if I'm going to take one scene seriously....


Anonymous said...

Hey Supa,

I haven't seen it so I'm just going from your post - and though it sounds like they get the grief of the parents right, it seems as though they are missing what most of us go through by how the others support them, even after such a long amount of time.

Perhaps because it's royalty, but as you noted yourself, most people eventually expect those of us grieving to eventually 'move on' and are less inclined to talk about the lost loved one, etc.

Anywhoo - I don't have immediate plans to watch it, but it helps to know that at least in this movie they honour grief =). It also gives me an idea of a lantern for marking the 2nd anniversary of Elias' death, which feels as thought it's FAST approaching . . .


Supa Dupa Fresh said...

Hi C,

Yes, I need to sharpen my point which was: that's why it's a fairy tale. They get the part about what the parents need right-- they invent a fantastic world that has room for it.

Turns out I was off in another huge way too -- so stuck on my point that I forgot the love interest DIES right before her. Yes, he comes back to life (and that always triggers my bitterness) but I hadn't even noted it. (I was pretty entranced.)


some days...

Hugs to you --



Mel said...

Hello there,
I went to see Tangled yesterday and really enjoyed it! Im a big fan of disney films and thought this film was a credit to modern disney. It has alot of modern day issues, for example mother gothel putting rapunzel down all the time etc.
But i didn't expect to cry my eyes out in the cinema. I lost my baby boy almost 3 years ago now, i was 5 months pregnant. I cannot imagine how parents who lost there child full term would have coped watching the film, but for me the scene when the king and queen are getting ready for the ceremony and the king begins to cry really brought the emotion back for me. Every year and special occasion we light a candle for my little boy, the grief never leaves you and i could see that on the kings face, even after 18 years and in animation. They did a very good job of showing grief for a child, and why should that be ignored. Even though it upset me, these things should be shown, its real. I think the thing that upset me the most is that, unlike the film, my lost prince won't ever come home :(
Even the healing song has elements of loss, "make the clock reverse, bring back what once was mine, heal what has been hurt, change the fates design, save what has been lost, bring back what once was mine" Makes me cry every time!
Great film and has alot of normal and real everyday things that people have to deal with. I would definately go and see it again and also will be buying it on dvd.
Mel x

Supa Dupa Fresh said...

Sorry for your loss, and thanks for sharing your experience with this film!

Tre said...

Thanks for the heads-up...I'll file this under 'Movies to NOT Watch With Other People in the Room.'

Supa Dupa Fresh said...

Tre, EH! They'll all be crying, no doubt. At least it's a chance to not be the ONLY ONE for once. (What did you think of UP?)


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