Saturday, October 2, 2010

My Issue with "Rapunzel Syndrome"

I will concede that I am probably over thinking this, but I would argue that names are important.  The names of concepts are like the names of people.  They take the idea out into the word, identify and to some extent define or limit it.  And I have an issue with the name of the "Rapunzel Syndrome".

Sometime people suffering from anxiety eat things they really shouldn't, including hair.  When these foreign objects are found in the stomach they are called bezoars.  Hair bezoars can get very large and project beyond the stomach and into the intestines.  This is called Rapunzel Syndrome and it is most common in prepubertal girls.

But when you think about it Rapunzel is a parable of coping and emerging into adulthood.  A young girl is locked in a room with almost nothing to work with but her own body uses it to bring her prince to her.  Thus she eventually escaped her witch/foster mother and enters a new life as wife and mother.

In Rapunzel Syndrome the girl doesn't through her resources/hair out into the world to achieve adulthood, she draw it into herself to cause illness and even death.  I suppose I could consider the naming deeply ironic riff on a mythic trope, but it seems more likely that it is simply glib.  That someone took hair + girl and came up with = Rapunzel, without doing a lot of research.

Hence my irritation because I think, deeply and fundamentally, that girls should act boldly upon the world, that myths and fables should be respected, and that scientists should do their research.  And if they did and the destructive force of female 'failure to launch' is the very point of the name... I stand corrected.


David Tulloch said...

It seems that Disney is 'revamping' Rapunzel to make it a more masculine story.

Emily Veinglory: said...

I wish they'd make the Snow Queen instead....