Behold! Disney's last princess movie--
And for their grande finale, Disney obviously didn't try anything new.
Following the usual formula proves the media giant didn't think the well-marketed princess empire was broke. And they certainly weren't intending to fix it. The last installment was just more of the same before they bid fairy tales and leading ladies adieu for good.
But what are the structures that upheld the likes of Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Belle, Cinderella, Ariel, Jasmine, Pocahontas, Mulan, Tiana and lastly, Rapunzel?
First, a princess is, or will eventually become, royalty. If she was born that way, she is usually estranged from her kingdom. If she is common, her exceptional beauty already sets her apart. Men want her. Women want to be her. Yet she is oblivious; doing domestic tasks, singing and dreaming of true love.
Second, she is missing one parent, if not both. As a result, her life has been strictly controlled by other people or forces. She has little to no autonomy. And the story usually begins as she is entering puberty; feeling adventurous and looking for love.
Third, something evil is standing between her and her destiny. Most times it's an older, jealous woman. Sometimes it's an effeminate sorcerer. And other times its Mr. Wrong. But 90 percent of the time it's a witch who has poisoned, cursed or trapped the princess.
Fourth, her life is incomplete, if not over, without Prince Charming-- or in this case, Flynn Ryder. Whether he saves her from poverty, boredom, or real danger, princesses must be saved.
Fifth, the happy ending revolves around a wedding. There can be no closure without an engagement, at least. And this must happen before the princess turns 18. Otherwise, she will become eligible for evil witch status.
How does all this shake out in Tangled?
Rapunzel was born to a king and queen. But she was stolen as a baby (by an evil witch) and held prisoner in a tower. Her birthday is quickly approaching and she wants to see the world, but her kidnapper-mother has a vested interest in keeping Rapunzel locked up. This older, jealous woman is using the power of her so-called daughter's long, magical hair like weekly botox injections.
Mother Gothel uses scare tactics to keep Rapunzel mentally, as well as physically, trapped. Our princess only finds the courage to leave when she meets a man to act as her guide to the outside. And (spoiler alert) after she makes her way back to her kingdom-- they get married.
I mean, I knew better, but I was really hoping (especially since it was the last one) that Disney would try something different, letting this caged bird fly free. And solo.
So now, for your enjoyment, I will re-craft the ending of this movie with a little something I'd like to call "What Should Have Happened."
But first, I'll have to set the scene:
[After a some trickery, Mother Gothel has led Rapunzel back to her tower, but her prince has found her. He is injured in a dramatic struggle and Rapunzel swears to go peacefully with her captor if she will just let her heal her true love, with her magical golden hair, of course. As she kneels over him, he reaches up and cuts her flowing locks with a shard of glass. It instantly turns brown (Yuck!) and is ironically styled like a vision of Mandy Moore's past. She is less attractive, but she is free.]
And this is what should have happened:
With her powers gone, the prince dies. Realizing he gave her the greatest gift he could, Rapunzel is empowered to stand up to her "mother" once and for all. But before she leaves, Rapunzel gives a little speech about the media's standards of beauty and how she pities the woman who has pretended to be her mother in a desperate attempt to reverse the natural process of aging in order to gain societal acceptance.
As she descends the tower, she bypasses the kingdom of her past and heads straight to college where she meets other spunky, short-haired girls who want to know the ways of the world. They're especially interested in science and math, spending several hours studying while they get to know each other, and themselves.
Rapunzel meets a nice boy in one of her classes. They have different majors, but they are interested in the same things. They start dating and decide to move in together. But they remain focused on their individual futures, knowing that grad school and their careers may pull them in different directions. And they're okay with that. As the story draws to a close, they're living happily and taking it one day at a time. The end.