Critic’s Corner: Lessons from ‘Tangled’: Do you have a dream?


The other day, one of my close friends asked me out of the blue, “Do you have a dream?”

Of course, my first instinct was to look dramatically into the distance and say, “I … had a dream … once.”

Disney’s “Tangled” has heavily influenced my associations with the word “dream,” and for good reason. The catchy songs and beautiful storyline have enchanted so much of our generation. In 2010, little 11-year-old me soaked in the adventure of Rapunzel and Flynn Rider — excuse me, Eugene Fitzherbert — and wondered what my own dreams were.

But here I find myself in the middle of my college career, not knowing how to respond to my friend’s question. Do I have a dream?

A dream, especially as “Tangled” uses the word, is more than just an end goal. It is a desire you hold close your heart, the ideal outcome that might not always seem possible in a practical world. As much as our culture talks about “chasing your dreams,” it does seem that as we grow up, we give up dreams to find something more “realistic.”

But is that for the best?

I know life isn’t a Disney musical, but re-watching the iconic “I’ve Got a Dream” song moved me to reflect on my dreams and those of the people around me. How many people “had a dream … once,” but have lost that sense of purpose in life?

If you know your dreams and purpose, that’s fantastic! If you’re feeling a little lost, you’re not alone. Whether you’re still in your tower or out chasing those floating lanterns, now’s as good a time as ever to reflect on your dreams with a few pointers from “Tangled.”

1. Knowing your dream involves self-knowledge.

In order to know who you want to be, you have to know who you are right now. Rapunzel knew herself well — her talents and skills, the activities she enjoys and her hopes for the future. Pay attention to what you’re good at and the topics you’re passionate about — these might be pointing you to your dream. And be honest with yourself. There’s no point in taking on a fake name or chasing the world’s idea of success if it’s not who you truly are (looking at you, Eugene).

2. Get out of your comfort zone.

As Mother Gothel says, it’s a scary world out there! Chasing your dreams will involve risks. But to truly live and dream, you can’t stay in your tower your whole life. Rapunzel had to take a huge leap of faith in leaving her home, and she found that the world can be just as scary as she thought, but it can also be better than she ever imagined.

3. Sometimes your dream won’t be what you expected.

Rapunzel went through a lot to see the lanterns, and even though it was an incredible experience, it didn’t immediately give her the answers she wanted. Flynn Rider spent his time, as he says, “chasing down a daydream,” but it took Rapunzel coming into his life for him to realize that there’s more to his dream and his purpose than being wealthy.

As you grow and change, your dreams can (and should!) grow and change, too. There’s nothing wrong with expanding your dreams to include people you meet and love, and there’s nothing wrong with arriving at the goal you thought you were pursuing and finding it has led you to an entirely new dream.

4. The lesson of the Snuggly Duckling Crew: it’s never too late to chase your dreams.

The men Rapunzel meets in the tavern are older and have made some questionable choices in the past, but when they open up about their dreams, we realize that even they have aspirations worth chasing. Playing the piano, finding love — no matter the dream, it’s up to you to pursue it.

So if, like me, you find yourself wondering what your dreams are, don’t give up. You haven’t missed your chance! Maybe it feels a little cliche to hear that as a college student, but I seriously think we allow ourselves to get stuck in a rut where we forget that the world is bigger than our “tower.”

Go ahead! Be “grotesquely optimistic,” as the song says. Way down deep inside … do you have a dream?

1 Comment

  1. Interestingly, I don’t think the men at the Snuggly Duckling would have achieved their dreams if not for Rapunzel. So while it’s never too late to chase your dream, it really is all about who you know.

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