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In the Tangled movie, Mother Gothel - naturally - doesn't let Rapunzel out of the tower, for fear of losing her "flower".

But, for the majority of the time that Rapunzel spent in the tower (disregarding what happened at the end of Tangled, where Gothel kinda goes, it can be argued, insane out of desperation), Gothel tried (or at least kept a pretense of trying) to keep Rapunzel happy. For instance, getting the paints, and books, and presumably sewing supplies and stuff. She's got a nice bed. She's not kept in a bare tower with bread and water, but instead actually has a rather luxurious existence.

The thing that most makes me ask this, though, is that Gothel traveled for three days straight - went three days without the magic hair - to get something that Rapunzel wanted. This doesn't really seem like typical Disney villain behavior, to say the least.

But does Gothel actually care about Rapunzel as a person, or does she just want to minimize the number of escape attempts?

  • What about Lima Syndrome? – Ankit Sharma Mar 5 '18 at 5:53
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    So watching this with my son a week ago, I noticed that whenever Mother Gothel says something nice to Rapunzel, or kisses her, she is actually looking at her hair, or kissing her hair. I found that rather interesting, and it would suggest that she does not indeed have any affection for Rapunzel, but she does for the hair. – Majaii Mar 6 '18 at 18:15
  • Who the hell keeps deleting my comments? – Tim Mar 6 '18 at 18:52
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    @Tim ... one of the moderators did. You made a comment, the moderator suggested you flesh it out and make it an answer, and the moderator deleted both comments when you did so. Its fairly routine for mods here to tidy up comments. There are even flags users can use to indicate comments that are no longer needed. – iandotkelly Mar 6 '18 at 20:07
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Maybe

It's difficult to tell from the film, but the likelihood is that, after 17 years, Gothel has developed a degree of fondness for Rapunzel.

That said, her actions are still very much in her own self interest.

In order for the hair to work, it must be Rapunzel who sings. A sad Rapunzel who is kept in a bare room with minimal food is unlikely to want to sing.

I would also speculate that Rapunzel's happiness is important to the success of the spell. If she sings a sad song, with poor intent, the hair might not work. So Gothel needs to keep Rapunzel happy.

We continually see Gothel use psychological techniques to keep Rapunzel a willing prisoner. In the song Mamma Knows Best she speaks of ruffians, thugs, snakes, quicksand, and even the plague. This is designed to keep Rapunzel afraid of the outside world.

If Gothel had strong affection for the girl, she'd likely use other techniques.

Gothel going off to get Rapunzel paint ingredients is part of the "protective mother" show. She wants the girl to be happy, and has just had a hit of youth magic, so Gothel is also happy at this point. She knows it will take time, but she's willing to do it because she believes it will keep Rapunzel in the tower.

So it's possible that Gothel has a degree of fondness for Rapunzel, but it's not very strong; everything that Gothel does is ultimately for her own selfish reasons.

Addendum: The tower has two bedrooms. Gothel lives there as well. So the luxury of the tower is as much for Gothel as it is for Rapunzel.

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Yes, she did. Obviously, her care for Repunzel was absolutely secondary to her selfishness of wanting eternal life, because she still had no second thoughts about keeping her locked up for her entire life and never letting her leave for any reason.

But she also did agree to go out of her way to get her special ingredients for her paint to try and make up for the disappointment of not getting what she wanted for her birthday (something she has clearly also done before). If she simply did not care at all and lacked empathy entirely, there would be no need for that. In fact, there would be no need for any of the things she gives Repunzel to help her pass the time. She probably could have gotten what she needed by simply binding her and keeping her imprisoned in the tower.

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