Over the past six months or so we’ve introduced the Jawa to Disney movies. It’s been a slow process because she quickly fell under the spell of Elsa’s siren song like every child of this generation. While Frozen is still the bar by which all cinema is measured in her mind, she has started to branch out a bit. Another favorite in our house is Tangled probably because there is a strong comparison between Sven and Maximus as two animals who act as lovable rambunctious dogs without actually being dogs. It’s a weird formula of entertainment that Disney has developed, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t work.
In my many viewings of the adventures of Rapunzel and Eugene Fitzherbert I’ve decided we need a Tangled prequel about Rapunzel’s parents (fun fact: a fast and loose cross-reference research project on the internet tells me their names are Queen Primrose and King Thomas–go figure.) We don’t see much of them in the film, but there’s a short moment at the beginning the lantern scene before the big musical number that makes me fall in love with them. Primrose straightens the golden sun medallion on Thomas’ chest and looks into his face. It’s been 18 years since they lost their little girl, but Thomas is still absolutely crushed, his face contorted with grief as a tear leaks from one eye. Primrose gazes at her husband and wipes away the tear with a sad and gentle smile.
Popular opinion tells us that the mother would still be blazing that torch of near-inconsolable grief while the father would be the quiet mountain of strength she leans into. It’s a fair assumption. A mom gets to know her child long before dad enters the equation. The bond is undeniably stronger out of the gate. The two relationships are very different, which allow us to make certain gender role assumptions about this scenario. It’s part of the genius of Disney that makes the decision to flip these emotional roles, and it takes a special type of story nerd like me to obsess over it. The scene implies interesting things about their characterizations and their relationship; it makes me want to know more about who they were before we meet them in Tangled.