Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Tangled: What Should Have Happened

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.


  1. I thought that as a princess movie disney struggled with this one as well. It just doesn't compare to the bar that was set before. I even thought The Princees and The Frog was a far strech.

  2. Read on friend! It took me three posts to summarize the fuck-tastrophe that is Disney's declining princess empire.

    Disney claims they changed their approach with Tangled because people were losing interest in princesses, evidenced by their last box office fail.

    The Princess and the Frog was Disney's least grossing princess movie. Ever. Why? Because it sucked and it was offensive on multiple levels.

    Today I had a friend remark how ridiculous it was to turn a young Black woman living in Louisiana into an amphibian post-Katrina. Seriously.

    But anyway, Disney didn't give up the princess because they finally saw how damaging their sexist, racist portrayals of women were. They did it because it wasn't making them the kind of money Ariel, Belle, and Jasmine did in the early 90's.

    But maybe audiences were getting smarter and that's why they stopped buying tickets...

    Now if only we could get little girls to stop buying princess paraphanalia.

  3. "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."

    This doesn't even make sense in the context of the movie. The reason the mother wanted her hair was so she wouldn't die, had nothing to do with looking young. Without the hair she aged and died as seen in her turning to dust.

    Plus, your ending seems really boring to watch and pretty disappointing as well. Movies are about watching something enjoyable, if you want to educate people make a PSA...

  4. All media teaches lessons-- not just the "educational" stuff. We absorb media messages about our own society and cultural values everytime we engage, whether we want to our not.

  5. Wow that ending would blow-.- Feminism for the win but this movie seemed feminist to me. She knocked him out with a frying pan saved him with her magical hair. She broke free from that user of a mother and he wasn't the typical prince.She was subservient as you would comment.She wasn't used as an ornament or trophy she's strong with attitude and still youthful.