When Disney Villains hit home – A Look at Mother Gothel

No doubt, Disney villains have a special place in our hearts,  with their ambition, desires, grace, even their ideals – despite these being contrary to that of the protagonist and therefore doomed to fail -alongside their bumbling henchmen, or their cunning colleagues. Some we understand. Scar, Jafar, Frollo, Ursula, Cruella, Maleficent. Others not so much, but we love them anyway, and love them more when we do get what’s in their twisted heads.

But what’s even more appreciative about them is that they are fiction. Or their origins are so far away from us, socially (Frollo) historically (Jafar and Frollo) geographically (Jafar, Frollo – well you get the idea) or any mix of many factors.

But I think I understand Mother Gothel, but there is no love there. Nope. More like fear. We know the story of Rapunzel. The original one. Poor man steals from a witch’s garden and payment when he got caught was his firstborn child.

In the original, the witch was cast as evil, and locking Rapunzel in the tower with no escape, and then blinding the one person she came in contact with besides the witch… Yeah, proves it. But we understood where she came from.

The child was payment and punishment for her father’s actions. I… Don’t know how to analyse her other actions though. Maybe she was just evil.

But as I said, the story is so removed. Or maybe because the story is a children’s story, the characters aren’t that deep, which is a fault,  really. Getting off topic here

Now, Disney is a wonderful company, giving more to a tale than what was originally there. They take a story, romanticise it and stretch it, or even twist it to fit another way – Hamlet and the Lion King; The Snow Queen and Frozen (although it’s far from the original tale, but so much better); Tangled and Rapunzel.

For the last that’s what happened. They did twist the origins of Rapunzel, but it did make for a better storyline and have them more to work with to meet the 90min limit. The character development was great, from the main characters, to the silent ones, to the villains, to those on screen for 5 mins and less.

And here we get to see the character of Gothel, both while she’s interacting with the characters and even when she’s not on screen. Look at Rapunzel’s attitude in the tower. Look at her rebellion/guilt trip after she leaves. Look at Gothel’s treatment of innocents and brutes alike in order to get what she wants. She’s more than the witch in the original story

And she’s more realistic compared to the other villains.

Ambitious yes. Goes for what she wants yes. Gains trust easily, oh yes. A hell of a manipulator- makes her more than qualified as a villainess.

But she’s not above kidnapping. She’s not above subtle abuse. She’s not above making Rapunzel feel that once Gothel feels she’s threatened, it’s the girl’s fault. She does everything to stifle Rapunzel, even getting her to stay away from the outside world “willingly”, just so Gothel and Gothel alone could get the magic that Rapunzel got from that flower.  Gothel does give Rapunzel what she wants, yes, but it’s to placate her, and to hide the fact that she actually isn’t Mother. If a child asks for bread, a mother wouldn’t give her a stone. Not Gothel surely. More like encircle her in stones while she eats the bread D:

And once Rapunzel is out of Gothel’s reach, it explains why she fell into that rebellion/guilt trip. It’s not so much a teenage rebellion deal. She’s been a willful prisoner all this time. She’s been a child in an abusive environment, even if Gothel didn’t raise her hand at her. She’s been selectively neglecting Rapunzel, going away for days at a time, coming back only when Rapunzel’s hair/flower magic had run out. And when she was home in the tower, Rapunzel’s wishes were superficially acknowledged, only to be fulfilled, if it ensures Gothel’s own desires.

I know people like Gothel, with their own Rapunzel. I think that’s why when I first saw Tangled – and since then – Gothel bothers me. It reaches home. And it’s scary.

– K. ~

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