Full disclosure: I cried twice during Tangled. The first time was before the movie even started. That is the kind of Disney Nerd I am. You’ll have to see the movie for yourself to discover what prodded cry #2 — I’m sure you’ll get embarrassingly emotional too. It’s okay.
And you really should see it, boys. It has been advertised as Disney’s “Princess Movie for Boys” afterall. Well, let’s go back a bit. Tangled tells the classic fairy tale Rapunzel, but Disney wanted to attract more boys, teens and adults, so they changed the name to Tangled. Trailers marketed the film heavily toward the rough ‘n tumble, accentuating the slapstick humor, action, adventure, and bad boy protagonist Flynn Ryder. Predictably, this kills people who hate fun.
“Why does the narrator have to be the male lead? Why can’t Rapunzel tell her own story?” asks Slate’s KJ Dell’Antonia. Because that’s the story, KJ. I’m sorry. It’s been around longer than you and bitches a lot less about pop culture, so we like it more.
So Disney makes a princess movie about a princess who, unlike some princesses, isn’t some placid weakling, and brings boys into the conversation. I don’t see the problem.
Are we really going to change the fairy-tales and stories we’ve been telling for years because we think our children, who don’t know shit about the politics of gender identity, will be scarred for life and subconsciously become weak women and wife-beating men? Why don’t you write your own, lame-ass feminist version of Rapunzel and see how many people buy tickets. Talk about traumatizing.
They’re also offended that they had to take “princess” out of the title to get boys to watch it. But boys just aren’t going to jump on the princess wagon, unless you give them a little spoon full of sugar to make the medicine go down. If it’s too princessey, they will just plain not be interested, or if they are, be too embarrassed to admit it.
Prior to the release, Feministing wrote:
“This is not a feminist win. Disney princesses aren’t always the best role models, but girls get to be the lead in the story. Disney deciding girls aren’t worth marketing their films to (or if the trailer is at all accurate, making movies for) is not a victory. It’s a reshaping of children’s culture into a more male-centric place. This is Disney deciding to consider girls about as worthless as Hollywood considers women.”
I don’t want to get into a conversation about how Hollywood devalues women. I think it does. But that’s not what is going on here. Tangled is a wonderful interpretation of an age-old fairy-tale, with stunning animation, music that’s on par with the rest of Disney’s award-winning scores (but also a little different), and hilarious sidekicks (in the dark, I scribbled on my notepad, “The horse is a hilarious asshole”). And yes, the movie is action packed. So yes, boys will like it. And yes, I think girls will like it, too.
Boys and girls will watch Tangled with glee because it’s a great movie. They aren’t seeing it through Feministing’s jaded eyes, and they won’t be damaged from watching Flynn and Rapunzel carry on what is actually a maybe pretty accurate portrayal of a male-female relationship. The kids will be entertained and, like a lot of recent animation, adults should enjoy it too.
The second cry I had was at the end when (spoiler alert! — like you were going to see it anyway) the family is reunited and embraces, father, mother, daughter. It made me think of my family. It made the movie a real story, and one that Disney managed to modernize without compromising the classic fairy tale. During that moment, I wasn’t thinking about feminism or marketing or gender politics. Kids won’t either.