Gender Roles – Women
Gender Roles – Men
Self-Esteem and Body Image
Gender Roles - Women: 4 Stars
Rapunzel is probably the first incarnation of a fairy tale princess with superpowers. Her incredible layers of hair aren’t just some eccentric personal style, but each strand has the power to glow and heal. She uses this impressive gift to save herself and Flynn from drowning in a dark cave and to heal his wounds on more than one occasion. Rapunzel is never rescued by a handsome prince, or a fairy godmother, or through the simple spell of her own grace and beauty. Instead, she has a wondrous ability that she can use to help others. Boys have always had heroes with superhuman strength and abilities to emulate, while girls have been given passive princesses like Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. Tangled offers a beautiful blending of the two that is both vibrant and empowering.
Plot: 4 Stars (Spoilers)
Tangled is a bold adaptation of the famous fairy tale, Rapunzel - but in this version, Rapunzel's story is more about breaking free of her mother's control and discovering who she truly is, than it is about finding true love.
Tangled creates a complicated relationship between a young girl and a mother who is alternatively cruel and loving, critical and supportive. Rapunzel may be fooled by Mother Gothel’s loving and caring words for most of the film, but she also picks up on her flashes of cruelty and aggression. And at the pivotal moment, Rapunzel trusts her instincts enough to hide an unexpected visitor from Mother Gothel, and makes a bold decision to find her own way out out of her tower. She may be initially conflicted about her disloyalty to her mother, but in the end, she has enough composure to realize that she’s been both kidnapped and used. Rapunzel confronts her mother in one of the more powerful exchanges in fairy tale history, firmly revealing that she's discovered who she really is, and that she won't be a passive victim any longer. In an impressive display of personal strength, Rapunzel stands up to the woman she once trusted and loved, breaking the abusive bonds and casting her off once and for all. In the end, Rapunzel not only saves herself from becoming Mother Gothel's permanent prisoner, but is clever enough to find a way to save Flynn's life as well.
Character Development: 5 Stars
Rapunzel has an impressive energy for learning new skills. She fills her days with mundane and eccentric hobbies, from re-reading old books and playing guitar, to making candles and practicing chess. But of all her hobbies, She's most passionate about painting murals on the walls around her and charting the movement of the stars. She’s perceptive enough to notice a distinct pattern of mysterious lights that are released every year on her birthday, and finally decides to venture out of her tower to see them in person.
At times, Rapunzel comes across as naïve or even scattered from all those years spent in the tower, but she’s also fairly adaptable and quick-witted, frequently saving herself and Flynn from the scrapes they encounter. Her dedication to her dream is not only strong enough to conscript Flynn Rider against his wishes, but also appeals to the softer side of an intimidating band of thugs and ruffians, who ultimately reveal that they have dreams of their own.
Love: 5 Stars (Spoilers)
The romance between Rapunzel and Flynn Rider is a bit smoother and more natural than that found in most fairy tales. Although Rapunzel is secretly a lost princess, she comes across as a typical young girl. Flynn is not mesmerized by her supernatural grace and beauty. Likewise, Rapunzel does not instantly fall for Flynn, even when he even tries to be suave and romantic with her. The feelings that develop between them are not part of some fated, magical occurrence that breaks a spell or frees them from some terrible prophecy. They are based more in personality and shared experience than love at first sight. And overall, the love story is both subtle and convincing.
By the end of the film, Rapunzel does lose her amazing hair. She is almost certainly the only Disney princess to begin her happy ending with her golden locks shorn and faded. But the moment is made all the more charming when Flynn sweetly confesses that he has a thing for brunettes. The message couldn’t be more clear that he hasn’t fallen in love with her magic hair or her stunning beauty. It was her sweet persona that charmed him.
Gender Roles - Men: 3 Stars
Flynn isn’t much of a prince charming. He’s selfish and dishonest and plans to continue his life of thievery until he’s filthy rich. In time, however, we learn that he’s an orphan with a slightly damaged sense of self, which has driven him to adopt a fake name and fake reputation. Rather than rescuing Rapunzel from her tower and her overbearing mother, it’s Rapunzel that saves Flynn from the emptiness of his current life. She gives him the courage to finally wish for a different kind of happiness, not just swashbuckling and piles of money, but legitimate and fulfilling love. While this familiar set up can certainly give girls the wrong idea about finding a heart of gold inside an admitted bad boy, it also provides young boys with a role model that learns to drop his phony ego and admit to some of his own hurt and insecurity.
Self-Esteem and Body Image: 3 Stars
While Rapunzel’s winning personality and remarkable powers easily override any focus of her pretty face and wide eyes, she is still a fairy tale princess. Her shiny purple dress and 70 feet of untamed hair are a bit cumbersome for a superhero embarking on a string of adventures and mishaps. But at least she's embarking on adventures and mishaps - rather than attending royal balls or running away from an arranged marriage.