Sunday, 13 February 2011

Nathan Greno, Byron Howard, Tangled (2011)

I can’t say I was particularly looking forward to seeing Tangled; but in the event I found it to be really surprisingly enjoyable—as sprightly, witty and absorbing a picture as Disney have done in a while. Lots of nice touches, good character work, genuinely funny moments, and a good overall feel for the build and momentum of the narrative. Charming, in a word. It’s the most expensive animated film ever made ($260 million, apparently), but has done very well: behind only Aladdin and Lion King in animated gross.

But—but. Walking back with Lily from the cinema, I reflected that the last Disney non-computer animation I’d taken her to see had been The Frog Princess. And that made me think: Tangled may be the Whitest Disney feature the studio has ever produced. Not only are the hero and heroine hyperbolically Aryan, there wasn’t a person-of-colour to be seen anywhere, at any time, in any role. Not so much as a crow, or a talking donkey. (Jesus, even the horse is brilliant white.) As if, on some level, Disney had collectively decided ‘we’ve done the Black thing with The Frog Princess; we don’t need to worry about that any more.’ To which we might reply, ‘hold on a second ...’

Then there’s the nonspecifically medievalised mitteleuropan setting. My friend Robert Eaglestone, who also has children to take to the cinema, was struck by the character of the evil ‘mother’ character. In a word, he thought the movie figured her as Jewish.

I can certainly see it: to quote Bob: ‘apart from Jewish speech patterns, already, looks + cod psychoanalysis ("so now I'm the bad guy", "just teasing"), using a Christian child as a resource for your own occult ritual is, of course, the blood libel.’ I wonder if there’s not something very dodgy going on here, beneath the sunny, charming surface of this film.


Pete Hindle said...

These are some really interesting points - it's true, it is a super-White film. But it's also a step on from the gender-roles that exist in other recent movies coming out of the main Disney studio.

It's also worth saying that it looks fantastically good. It doesn't have the same level of polish as wall-e, but it probably wasn't supposed to be a big a movie as Wall-E. It was as much a technical preview and shakedown of a working method. Luckily, it also produced one of the more watchable Disney movies that I can remember.

But blood libel? Uhm, no. I think the clearest influence is visible in the bar scene - those are Pratchett-like ambitions and stylings of the barbarians. And while Pratchett may have his golems, I think you'd be hard pressed to say that he was into casting Shylocks. If anything points the finger of blame at casting Jewish people as the bad guy it's western societys fear of "the Other".

Steve said...

I'm reminded of the complaint from an episode of 30 Rock: "there hasn't been a white Disney princess since 1991!"

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