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What’s the most common phrase used to describe animated movies? Family-friendly. Even the ones that aren’t are without fail described as not family friendly. Most people think that means no nudity, no swearing, no serious violence and probably a few adolescent characters. I guess it does, but really, it should mean so much more. It should mean an absolute joy for mom, dad, grandma, cousin and mean-spirited uncle alike. It should mean more than just cheap entertainment for your kids that you can sit through without gouging your eyes out. But that’s not how it works, does it? Far too many people hear family-friendly and suddenly it’s no longer appropriate to fully invest. Tangled should be relished by everyone, instead it’s just another animated movie most adults think they’re too cool for. They’re wrong.
Yesterday, I went to see Tangled. My girlfriend and I were surrounded by three boy-girl pairs, presumably on dates. From the onset, all three of the males felt the need to loudly slander the film at every turn, and all three late high school/ early college girls ate up every joke like it was spit from the mouth of Dane Cook. It was frustrating and annoying and worse, all too predictable. Nowadays, pessimism equates with intelligence, which makes sense considering a lot of the things people like absolutely suck; but ignorant, blind pessimism is another story completely.
Tangled is good. In fact, it’s really really good. With a charm entirely its own and two likeable, fully developed main characters, Tangled is a joy, at least for anyone willing to get over themselves long enough to watch with an open mind. Unfortunately, millions of teenagers and adults can’t get past the fact that it’s animated. This fear of the artist rendering looms over all animated films like a blight of haughty indifference. But why? Are people really that insecure that they can’t sit down and invest in something meant for everyone? Princesses might be the obsession of little girls, but that doesn’t mean they’re automatically worth writing off. Just because a story takes place in a faraway land or incorporates magic doesn’t necessarily mean it can’t capture the imaginations of people with real jobs. Avatar took place on a faraway planet called Pandora where people mine for unobtanium. How is that not a discarded Disney plot? Oh, that’s right. It’s not. It’s a reworking of Pocahontas, but you were too cool for Pocahontas, right?
It’s easier, and maybe natural, to act as though you’re above childish pursuits. During our teenage years, we rush and rush to grow up, distancing ourselves from all things young, even the bits and pieces we once loved. The easiest way to do that is by pointing a finger and claiming to be too mature. Let me knock Tangled off its high horse for a second. Go ahead and imagine me uttering this next diatribe in an emotionally belittling tone: “Tangled is a ludicrous fairy tale made for children. The main character has hair at least thirty feet long, and get this, the hair has magical powers. It preaches to the audience, telling people to follow their dreams without even having the decency to tell them they might fail. It’s overly optimistic, silly-hearted and stupidly goofy.” See how I did that? Here’s the thing though, the more you waste time looking at the world through that lens, the more you miss out on. If you think you’re too much of a man for animated movies, fine, but you’re the one that misses out on three or four wonderful films every year.
Wouldn’t it be easier to think everything is cool enough for you until proven otherwise?
You, sir, with the business suit begrudgingly taking your two daughters to the movies on your wife’s order, you are not too cool for Tangled. You, madam, with the house full of dirty laundry and partially-filled sippy cups, absent two kids at the movies with your business suit wearing husband, you are not too cool for Tangled. Neither are you, hipster with an Abba t-shirt you just referred to as “ironic” on, you are not too cool for Tangled. No one is too cool for Tangled. I know this because I am not too cool for Tangled, and I am nothing, if not too cool. I write about movies for a living and I’ve owned a hookah since before it was cool. I’ve also had sex with women, ordered expensive steaks cooked rare and once wore sweat pants every day for eight months in fourth grade because I needed to be able to dive during recess. In addition, I just recently installed Photoshop on my computer without manual help, and I can load the dishwasher correctly at last seventy percent of the time. See? I am the authority on cool, and I have decided none of us are too cool for Tangled. In fact, I’ve also decided none of us are too cool for any animated movies. I know this because I have watched at least twenty-five different cartoons in the last twenty-five years that have been brilliant pieces of art. You may not have realized this because you mistakenly thought you were too cool for Wall-E. It’s okay. Many people made the same mistake.
The Four Kinds Of Animation Attitudes
People fall into four categories when it comes to animated movies. I would outline more for you, but they don’t exist. The first is made up of people who think animated movies are gay. I use gay not because I agree with its use but because I feel as if the members of this first group may use that word to describe non-homosexual things they feel are childish or girly. If you belong in this first category, you are an idiot, and you obviously, haven’t seen Monster’s, Inc.. You are definitely not too cool for Tangled because that film is about a dashing jewel thief who loots from the king and then tries to nail his daughter. Outside of growing a lumberjack beard, that’s like the least gay thing possible. Besides, writing off an entire genre of film just because those particular fake stories are drawn rather than filmed is idiotic. Beauty And The Beast was nominated for Best Picture. Craig T. Nelson was in The Incredibles. Are you really telling me he would align himself with gayness? That’s what I thought. Sit down and watch The Lion King. Really watch it, without a hint of condescension and see if you don’t have a blast.
The second of the four categories is populated by people who are willing to enjoy and appreciate animated movies but still describe them using apologetic clauses like “for a cartoon…”. If you fit here, you are an idiot, and you obviously haven’t seen Toy Story 3. You are definitely not too cool to fully appreciate Tangled because that film is about a teenage girl trying to find a balance between pleasing her mother and becoming her own woman. Every girl that has ever grown up with a mom figure has experienced exactly that. It’s a common life experience which is grossly underrepresented on film, and while polarized and handled with more hoopla here than in real life, it’s honest. What are movies for, if not recognizing humanity in a character and then relating, sympathizing or laughing with that element of yourself? Anyone who tells you the first ten minutes of Up wasn’t moving has suspect taste. I literally don’t know one person who didn’t cry, just as I don’t know one person who wasn’t somehow emotionally effected by Andy’s gift at the end of Toy Story 3. Animated movies aren’t less than, or somehow inferior to. Their hit ratio is just as all over the board as their live action cousins. You remember that when Pixar picks up its a Best Picture Nomination next year. Try not act so appalled when someone tells you Coraline was one of their ten favorite movies of 2009. You might be the one that’s wrong.
The third category is membered by me and what feels like six or seven other relentlessly ridiculed sons of bitches. We’re a small group of people that think animated films are sometimes brilliant, sometimes good, sometimes mediocre, sometimes bad and sometimes unwatchable. If you belong in this tight-knit community, get out your glasses and sign our manifesto, you’ve obviously already seen Peter Pan. We are definitely not too cool for Tangled because that film is about a princess and a menacing tower and two evil brothers out for revenge. We don’t hear that plot description and groan or roll our eyes. We also don’t remove our thinking caps in order to get excited. We simply treat animated movies like everything else, and when one comes along that’s smart and clever and too much fun to toss aside, we embrace the film and heap on it all the praise it deserves. Tangled is not worthy of an Academy Award. It’s not even the best animated movie to come out this year, but it is a damn good movie, just like Cars and The Rock and Clue and Dazed & Confused. Tangled nestles right alongside those very good, not great efforts from all genres. We, the members of group three, think that sounds about right.
And then there’s the last group. It’s exclusively populated by little girls between the ages of two and twelve. For approximately ten years, younger members of the fairer sex zealously consume fairy tales and animated movies like it’s a competition. If you belong in this class of people, smile every smile like it’ll be your last one, some day soon you’ll have to start thinking about acting mature. For now go watch straight to DVD Tinkerbell flicks. No one’s claiming you should be too cool for Tangled, and you’ve already given the film your rousing approval. I love it. Part of me wishes I could have as great of a time doing anything as you probably had watching this film, but I can’t quite endorse your group as a whole because the age parameters probably mean you can’t watch R-Rated movies. Because of this glaring oversight, it is unlikely your opinion is fair and balanced, and just like I told group two, it’s stupid to give a slanted treatment to animated films, even if it’s knocking them up a peg or two.
You Are Not Too Cool For Tangled
Did you figure out which group you belong to? Good, because in each one, I made sure to include the overall thesis of this rant. “You are not too cool for Tangled.” No one is too cool for Tangled because Tangled is a damn good movie that happens to be animated. It’s boy, girl and adult friendly. It has action and adventure and love and singing and there’s an uncountable number of bumbling, loveable, big-dreaming ruffians about. If it makes you feel more comfortable to look down on it, that’s a pathetic commentary on yourself. Reevaluate your stance. Ask, is it really worth missing out on so much fun?
There was a time, in the not too distant past, when cartoons were nothing more than lazy vehicles to briefly entertain children. The animation department at Disney had fallen on hard times, and what little competition existed was often even more mediocre. As a result, not only animation but anything geared toward children, was, at worst, slandered and at best, looked at through a skeptical upturn of the nose. With the Beauty And The Beast, Lion King, Little Mermaid Disney rejuvenation of the late 80s/ early 90s, the emergence of unique, talented filmmakers like Tim Burton and of course, the brilliance of all things Pixar, the collective attitude toward animation has started to change, at least a little bit. People have begun moving from group one into group two, but frankly, that’s just not enough. Animated films can be, and frequently are, just as funny, serious, joyful, exuberant, honest, heartwarming and unique, and you know what, one of them may be the best goddamn movie made this year. Toy Story 3 is an absolute treasure, every bit as good as The Social Network, and I still know smart, educated people that refused to see it because it was animated. Are you really proud to be one of them? You might want to try it over here on my side. It’s a lot more warm and cozy.
You are not too cool for Tangled, and I pity anyone who thinks they are.
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