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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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Khadija Nasir
Khadija Nasir
22 de jun. de 2023

Loved the post! This is such a good analysis of the silent symbolism the film uses to showcase how certain bodily features are used to represent good an devil in character design!

IT is specifically the case for older Disney movies where they give very blatant villain designs are being characters who simply do not fit the Eurocentric mold. With long blob flowy hair always being the princess go-to, i had always thought that was just the most perfect hair one could have. With my own curly black and frizzy hair, these kinds of character designs only ever solidifies that idea. With curly hair being native to populations like south Asians, Mexicans etc, we just understand how certain ethnicities still…

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Rania Bakhtiari
Rania Bakhtiari
22 de jun. de 2023

I absolutely loved your analysis, especially regarding the association of good and evil, by giving Rupanzel long silky straight blonde hair while mother Gothel, who is shown to be the evil character, is given curly black hair. Through displaying this, the film defies the notion of embracing your textured hair and unintentionally sends out a message of conforming to a specific beauty standard of straight hair. The association of negative traits to the curly hair of Mother Gothel perpetuates various stereotypes regarding curly hair, and a viewer with curly hair can feel extremely marginalized due to their natural attributes.

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Aisha Aamir
Aisha Aamir
22 de jun. de 2023

Loved your analysis! I find it so interesting how the entire duration of the movie was spent villainizing Mother Gothel through her hair and its texture and color, making her entire personality evil and reducing her complex character to simply being obsessed with Rapunzel's hair. In doing so they established such harmful stereotypes and as children, you lap them up. Especially considering how they position Rapunzel as being beautiful and innocent through her appearance as a blonde white girl while they reduce Mother Gothel to being evil and mean spirited through her pale skin and curly black hair (I think there's been heated debates over this issue in the Black community as well). And then at the very end, in…

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This blog post provides an insightful analysis of the contrasting character designs and the symbolism behind Rapunzel's and Mother Gothel's hair in Tangled. It's fascinating to see how the filmmakers have utilized hair as a visual representation of the battle between good and evil. The association of Rapunzel's long, radiant blonde hair with her innocence and purity is evident, while Mother Gothel's dark, voluminous curly hair adds an air of villainy to her character.

However, it's important to also consider the broader implications of these character designs in terms of beauty standards and representation. The emphasis on Rapunzel's straight, blonde hair as the epitome of beauty can perpetuate narrow beauty ideals, marginalizing those with different hair textures and colors. This…

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Really interesting article! Super interesting to read about the symbolism of their contrasting hair designs. I feel like historical and cultural context is a big factor, as different time periods and cultures have held varying ideals of beauty (which often extend to hair), and in some cultures, long, flowing hair is seen as a symbol of femininity and beauty, which aligns with Rapunzel's design. I also feel that hair is also really intimately tied to multiple aspects of one's identity, such as race, ethnicity, and gender, and its portrayal in media can have a significant impact on individuals with diverse hair textures. It'd be interesting to see how viewers (particularly children) might perceive and relate to the representation of hair…

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Respondendo a

The intertextuality in the hair design does relate to a person's identity and depicts characters in a different light i.e., what beauty standards are the most idealized. This creates what we view as beautiful and desirable.

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