It almost seems surprising that Disney came this late to the Rapunzel game (Shrek 2 got there first, after all), but after Tiana Rapunzel has quickly become one of Disney’s most loved princesses. Despite her white skin and blonde hair, she’s endearing to many and it is easy to see why.
She’s funny, quirky and has odd hobbies. She’s good natured and believes the best in people. She’s naive to say the least but to be fair, she’s been shut in a tower since before she can remember. Underneath the fairytale veneer, Rapunzel is a sinister case of kidnapping and Stockholm Syndrome: this helps us come to admire Rapunzel’s mental journey to becoming a stronger person. For sure most of us have not been kidnapped and are living for the nefarious purposes of a witch but if we consider the vast numbers of children kidnapped each year only to be exploited, this puts a different spin on things. In this light, some might consider Rapunzel’s emotional progression as trivialising the issue, but however you see it at least we have another strong girl to add to the Princess pantheon.
Pretty face aside, Rapunzel holds her own with Flynn Rider via her smarts and quick thinking. She might eventually fall for the guy, but she’s the pretty lady that provides him with a better life and I’ll bet if Rapunzel had found a way to escape from that tower herself, she would have done. Whilst not revolutionary, she embodies the best of Ariel, Jasmine and Belle all tied up in one little package, with the fairytale credentials of Aurora. Whilst this may not make her seem so much original as a hodge podge of other ideas – is this really a bad thing? Even Disney must want to improve on their own properties.
Truth be told, Rapunzel is one of my favourite Disney Princesses, possessing admirable qualities without being a moral lesson as opposed to a person. Her journey is realistic without delving into the darker realities of her situation that might not fit with a children’s film. We still haven’t got to Merida and yes, she still sings and has a pet iguana, but at least Disney created a white Princess that you genuinely believe could hold her own against Mulan, Jasmine, Pocahonatas and Tiana. Besides, I’m all for popularising the frying pan as a dangerous weapon.