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A Tale of Tresses: Mother Gothel and Rapunzel

The 2010 animated adaptation of the Grim Brother’s Rapunzel, Tangled, gained a lot of traction for the film’s enchanting story and vibrant visuals. The decisions regarding the character designs of film’s main protagonist and antagonist, Rapunzel, and Mother Gothel respectively, have been carefully made in order to make the contrast between the two characters very apparent.



The movie’s theme revolves largely around Rapunzel’s long, blonde, magic hair which symbolize her innocence, purity, and boundless optimism. Her hair glows and has the power to heal which places emphasis her role as a beacon of goodness and positivity in the story.. This is starkly contrasted with Mother Gothel who has very dark, voluminous curly hair that captures her mysterious and enigmatic aura. Her hair frames her face in a way to conceal her true intentions and the deep shades of black add an air of villainy to her character which has the potential for hair to be seen as a means of control and manipulation. The differences in Rapunzel and Mother Gothel’s characters have been deliberate so that the stark dichotomy between the two characters is represented through the battle of good and evil. Mother Gothel’s dark hair is a visual representation of her wickedness, while Rapunzel’s radiant, hair symbolize her purity and goodness.



These character designs, however, play a pivotal role in the audiences’ understanding of the importance of hair in the film by reinforcing the beauty standard of the ideal straight-haired blonde. The diversity in hair texture is seen only in the character of Mother Gothel and every other character in the film has similar hair texture to Rapunzel. Gothel’s curly hair is associated with her manipulativeness and Rapunzel’s straight hair with her innocence. This creates desirability for Rapunzel’s hair and unwantedness for Gothel’s hair because of the emphasis of hair in the movie which marginalises people with curly hair as it diminishes the personal and cultural significance that hair holds.

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