(Photo by Selma Komisky)
Flynn Vs. Eugene
A Lesson on Enoughness from Disney’s ‘Tangled’
By Seth Ready
We all know what it is like to struggle with insecurity—to feel a sort of desperation that “I am not enough” and that, “if people knew the real me, they would reject me.” As a result of this we typically present a false self or image to the rest of the world in hopes that the gap between it and the real us will serve as a protection barrier. We don’t want to let people in—that’s dangerous! This common human predicament is illustrated in Disney’s Tangled character, Flynn Rider.
When we first meet Flynn, he is stealing a crown from the royal family and making his escape through the forest. He seems to have no remorse for his life of thievery, nor does he hesitate to double cross his fellow thugs who helped him take the tiara. He eludes the palace guard horse, Maximus, by climbing into Rapunzel’s tower where he is met by her frying pan. Once he regains consciousness and they begin to talk, it is clear that Flynn is completely full of himself. He attempts his normal shtick of impressing the girl with his “smoldering” good looks and egotistical persona, but to his surprise Rapunzel is unmoved. His carefully constructed image seems to have no effect on her.
So, in order to retrieve the crown, Flynn agrees to take Rapunzel to see the lanterns in the sky. While on this escapade in the face of what they think will be certain death, Flynn opens up and confesses that his real name is Eugene Fitzherbert. It turns out Eugene is very different from Flynn. Down deep he is not this confident, in-control, thrill-seeker who doesn’t care about anything or anyone. That was just a persona he adapted from a series of novels featuring a rich, swashbuckling adventurer named Flynnigan Rider that he had read about in the orphanage he grew up in. No, Eugene was much more normal and insecure in many ways.
After Eugene opens up to Rapunzel, he begins to change. Eventually he even tries to give back the crown to his fellow thieves he had wronged, and then in an attempt to rescue Rapunzel, willingly lays down his life to save hers. In the end, he leaves behind his life of thievery and marries Rapunzel, and they of course live happily ever after.
Now, even though Disney’s presentation of Eugene’s transformation is a flattened, two-dimensional caricature of reality, it does hint at a deep truth—in order to experience true growth and freedom, you have to let people know the real you. We can’t make actual progress in our character when we live in pretense. It shrivels our souls and places us under the heavy burden of image management, where we are constantly consumed with trying to prop up how we come off to people. But this is difficult, because the truth is, we are not enough, and sometimes people do reject us. In this life we don’t always get our “happily ever after,” which is why our ultimate trust cannot be placed in ourselves or in other people. We must be rooted in God and His unconditional love for us—this is the only firm foundation for moving forward. Then and only then can we be free to trust other people as well without being consumed by fear of what they may think or do to us (Matt 10:28).
Of course, we still use wisdom with how much and to whom we share certain details. I’ve heard it said that we should, “be authentic with everyone, transparent with most, and intimate with a few.” This is sage advice. Our circle of trust begins with God, and then moves out to our intimate group of fellow disciples, and then from there out into the wider world. As we learn to live openly and honestly with those closest to us, we will be able to increasingly lay down the crushing burden of image management in general. As followers of Christ we know that ultimately, we do get our “happily ever after,” but the more we lay down our pretense now, the sooner we will be able to take steps forward in reflecting the love of Christ on the way there.