Tangled: Not your mother’s Princess

We have reached our second pie making Princess and how things have changed.  I love ‘Tangled’.  It is an underrated classic.  The animation is gorgeous.  The songs are fun.  The plot is interesting and the characters are engaging.  It has suffered in the long term by comparison with other Disney films.  Its soundtrack isn’t as good as some of the other movies.  It feels different from the fairy tale films that have gone before, more modern and irreverent.  Magic is incidental, not the driving force of the plot.  But the biggest criticism of all came from the title.  The original title, ‘Rapunzel’ was changed to ‘Tangled’ and chaos ensued.

Why the change?  People wanted to know, especially women wanted to know.  The answer was simple.  They changed the title from Rapunzel to Tangled, because Rapunzel is not the only main character in the film. It’s a story about two people and it stars Rapunzel and Flynn Rider.  Cheers for honesty. Any chance we can go back and rename some of the other movies in this list?  ‘Pocahontas’ could have benefitted from some of that honesty.  Maybe we could just rename ‘Aladdin’ ‘Genie and Friends’.  While the argument makes sense on the surface, the studio didn’t have any trouble naming their next feature “Wreck-It Ralph” in spite of the fact it is also a buddy movie.  Apparently Princess Venelope isn’t worth consideration in the title choice.  In fact the last female to be named in a title was Lilo in 2002.  The last woman who didn’t share title credit with a man was Mulan in 1998.  I am all for inclusive titling, as long as it is used inclusively.  It can’t just be a marketing tool to get boys to see ‘girl’ movies.  Be inclusive or not.  Just don’t apologize for making a movie that features a strong woman by constantly pointing out that there are guys in it too.

No matter the name of the movie.  It is Rapunzel’s story and she is a wonderful character.  She knows how to do everything.  She is talented, gracious, intelligent and can wield a frying pan to defend herself. She escapes her prison, breaks up a bar fight, and transforms a local festival into an inclusive community wide event.  She sings or speaks in every song on the soundtrack.  And make no mistake, she does not change herself to fit into Flynn’s world.  He changes for her.  He comes to see the world as she does and realizes that it is a much better place than he had imagined.  And he is not the only one.  At the end of the movie, Rapunzel has a new hairdo and a new address, but the world she lives in has been changed in fundamental ways because of her.  She is the driving force of the movie and that is not diminished by a more inclusive title.

‘Tangled’ scores very well.

Bechdel test*:  Rapunzel and Mother Gothel are both talkers.  It should come as no surprise that they have many conversations together.  Result:  PASS

Percent of words spoken by women**55%.  With only two named women in the movie, the number is surprising.  The women are vastly outnumbered by the men in this movie, but in spite of that and the fact that Flynn Rider narrates the movie, the women speak over half of the dialogue.

*The Bechdel Test evaluates film based on whether there are at least two named women who talk to each other about something other than a man.

** The data comes from linguists Carmen Fought and Karen Eisenhauer, who have been working on a project to analyze all the dialogue from the Disney princess movies.  The project was reported in The Washington Post by Jeff Guo.



One thought on “Tangled: Not your mother’s Princess

  1. Annabel McDonald

    I really enjoyed reading this. I had always wondered why it wasn’t just called ‘Rapunzel’ considering she is such a strong female lead. I especially liked the way you said ‘just don’t apologize for making a movie that features a strong woman by constantly pointing out that there are guys in it too.’ Really sum’s it up well. Nonetheless, I absolutely love this film and agree that the inclusive title does not detract from her being the leading character.



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