Did she keep the Queen and King of the land in anguish for 18 years by stealing their only baby? Sure did. Did she keep said baby locked in a tower away from human contact and influence? Most definitely. Did she emit Mommie Dearest energy by gaslighting her to believe that the lanterns flown on her birthday every year were never for her? Yep, unfortunately.
If this were a real world scenario, there’s no doubt that Mother Gothel would have been arrested, tried and thrown in prison for tens of years – and rightfully so. However, honestly in the grand scheme of things, she could have done so much more damage to Rapunzel overall. Besides being a kidnapper, her worst crime as her acting mother was never empowering her – which I think we can all agree is a terrible thing for any parental figure to do to their own child.
Gothel’s strategy of stifling Rapunzel’s inner desire to experience life outside her tower was convincing her that the “outside was a dangerous place, filled with horrible, selfish people.” I mean, she wasn’t totally wrong. Am I right?
She raised her as her own, taught her to sing (granted, this was to keep Gothel young), nicknamed her Flower, and even when Rapunzel wanted a specific gift for her birthday that required a long trip to retrieve, Gothel agreed to take the trip with little hesitation. All I’m saying is all Gothel needed was Rapunzel’s hair, she didn’t have to love and care for her the way that she did.
Now, could I have a slight bias in this because newer stories of women that we’ve always been led to believe are villains are being told, so we now see it from their perspectives? 100% YES.
For example, ABC’s Once Upon a Time told the story of one of my favorite character progression arcs, with the Evil Queen, played by Lana Parrilla. In seven seasons, the writers allowed the Evil Queen to evolve into less of an evil character and more of an upstanding, regal one. She may have had her moments of pure pettiness toward Snow White, but over time we saw how the events of her past shaped and reshaped her choices in life to become the selfless, wonderful mother she was always meant to be to Snow White and Snow White’s grandson – the familial ties were DEEP in this show. Arguably, the same thing could be said for the Angelina Jolie’s portrayal of Maleficent. The way that she learned to love and care for Aurora – of course this was after putting a sleeping curse on her for revenge against a jilted lover – ended up morphing into a beautiful relationship between fairy Godmother and Godchild.
Ultimately, it’s safe to assume that the most long-term damage Rapunzel will have is Stockholm Syndrome, and that’s for her charming partner, Flynn Rider, and her birth parents, whom she’s been reunited with, to handle. Rapunzel is extremely loved, and thankfully she’s never not known that feeling – thanks to her other Mother, Gothel. Once she gets out of the tower, you see her interactions with other people and you see how caring she is to other people around her, so clearly Mother Gothel wasn’t that bad.
This article was originally posted on 6/30/20