Repo and Rapunzel

I re-watched Repo: A Genetic Opera this weekend. There are some things I’d forgotten. Like the fact that Alexa Vega plays Shiloh. Alexa Vega being one of the stars of the Spy Kids franchise. Like the fact that at one point Vega gets to sing a number with Sarah Brightman, or that at another time she performs while Joan Jett plays guitar behind her. Go Alexa Vega, is all I can say about that.

Also, on this viewing, I belatedly noticed that Repo is basically a Rapunzel story.

As a parent, I take all the Rapunzel variations a bit differently than I used to. I never used to have much connection to the tale — I’ve always been a Little Red Riding Hood fan, instead. I couldn’t figure out how I was supposed to connect with the character of Rapunzel. (Kudos to my parents, there, for me NOT feeling that pull.) But as a parent, suddenly the story is a vast cautionary tale.

My son was telling me the other day what he would do if he was granted some wishes. And I said I would not use them. J pointed out that this is because I have been brainwashed by the many cautionary tales regarding wishes, to which I said, YES. I HAVE.

I kinda figure, though, if every culture in the world has cautionary tales about a thing, maybe it would behoove me to listen to the accumulated opinion of the past 4000 years. No, there are no genie-granting pots, clearly. But getting what you think you want always has unintended consequences, and you would do well to remember that.

Every culture has stories about bad parents, too. I am most familiar with the tales of neglectful, absent, or betraying parents. But the fearful, anxiety-ridden, grasping helicopter parent is a cautionary tale with some current relevance.

I watched the movie Tangled a few weeks ago. I was startled by how clearly, how unashamedly, the movie let Rapunzel have the emotional palette of an emotionally abused kid. Now, being a Disney film, it ends well. But it’s fairly complicated along the way, and one of those complications is that both Rapunzel and Mother Gothel agree that Gothel loves her daughter. It’s just that they’ve gotten love and ownership, well, tangled. Rather like Nathan and Shiloh in Repo.

Or like, possibly, the Spears family, as I talked about yesterday.

I don’t want to own my kids. I consider it my job as a parent to provide the planet with competent adult human beings who contribute to the world, care for themselves and others, have goals, and can maintain relationships. I also hope they are happy and healthy and loved. But as much as I want to keep my kids safe, I must define that safety as “capable of caring for themselves.” That’s the goal, to try to give them internal resilience and external skills with which to face life on their own.

The kind of “protection” offered by cautionary, poisonous, parents, the kind of “safety” extended by various sorts of parents in the news these days, this is all to be avoided. Safety isn’t an absolute goal, to be completely achieved. Nothing is ever entirely safe. You can’t make a thing safe by putting it in a prison.

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