When I started this project, it was with the idea to keep this as objective as possible, to evaluate these ladies based on how they appeal to parents as potential role models for kids. So I designed the scoring rubric with all the aspects that could factor into that, for better or for worse. Rapunzel surprised me in the initial scoring by landing at the top, but over the course of this project (endless hours of "research"), watching Tangled on repeat, I have seriously fallen in love with this girl. The first time I scored her she got around a 92, but that score has continued to go up as I rewatch her film: She's JUST. THAT. GOOD.
Quality of Character
Let's all give Rapunzel a round of applause for earning the ONLY perfect score in this category. There's absolutely NOTHING for which I can fault her. If I didn't like her so darn much, I'd probably hate her. Rather than being cutesy and obnoxious, she's just charming and endearing. HOW?! HOW IS IT EVEN POSSIBLE?! Let's examine the evidence before us:
Rapunzel is raised in a very sheltered way by her Mother, taught to fear the outside world, that everyone is a threat. As a consequence of this, she does begin the film a bit on the naive side, but she never uses that as an excuse to *ahem* lash out at others, make snap reckless decisions, or endanger other people. Rapunzel is actually THE most sheltered of any of the DHs, with only her mother and Pascal (a chameleon) for companionship (every other sheltered lady has family, castle servants, multiple friends, etc.) Yet it has had NO negative impact on her temperament. Rather than just sitting around all day resenting her confinement (she wishes she could get out, but she doesn't kvetch about it), she spends her time IMPROVING herself: she cooks, she cleans, she sews, she bakes, she READS, she paints, she makes candles, she knits... you get the point. If she had a more extensive library, I wouldn't be surprised if she'd become fluent in about ten different languages. Even more remarkable? Although she would love to get out of the house, she NEVER grows resentful of her Mother for sheltering her. Granted, Mother Gothel has conditioned her to feel that way, telling her that she's staying in the castle to be protected from dangerous outside influences, but that ish didn't work on ANY of the other ladies when their parents tried to sell it to them.
The many talents of Rapunzel :)
I'm also going to take just a moment to be a little superficial. Rapunzel might be the cutest female confection Disney has ever birthed. I know you've already seen a bunch of pictures, and if the giant green eyes haven't gotten to you yet, try not to fall into the spiral of hypnotic cuteness that is Rapunzel as a little girl:
Rapunzel also manages to have a richly nuanced personality and sense of humor. Despite being so sheltered and taught to fear the outside world, when a man invades her home she doesn't cower in a closet, SHE KNOCKS HIM OUT WITH A FRYING PAN then ties him up with her hair!
Speaking of her hair, Rapunzel somehow manages to turn that stuff into another limb, accomplishing feats of strength and physics that make me endlessly happy that this is an animated film where such things are possible and somehow plausible. ALSO, though maybe superficial, Rapunzel changes looks in the film, going from long and blond to short choppy brunette, thus broadening her "she looks like me!" appeal to even more little girls.
Speaking of her detainee, when Mother Gothel refuses to let Rapunzel go see the lanterns she's been obsessed with since birth (it's her ONLY birthday wish, and she asks so nicely!), she demands that he escort her to see the lanterns, using his stolen booty as insurance that he'll fulfill his end of the bargain. Note: she doesn't just go charging out of the tower on her own to go find the lanterns, oh no, SHE HIRES A GUIDE!!
Here's a real kicker: when Rapunzel finally gets out of the tower for the first time she is SO TORN about feeling guilty for breaking her mother's heart, she almost goes back to the tower! Look! Look how torn she is!
Although initially a bit scared of the outside world, when Rapunzel encounters a tavern full of ruffians and outlaws, she manages to charm them all into NOT ONLY not turning them over to royal guards for a reward, but also into helping her and Flynn escape through a secret passage. In a matter of moments, hardened criminals fall in love with Rapunzel and who can blame them?
Here's my absolute favorite part of Rapunzel: she figures out that her Mother's been lying to her and that she's the lost princess ON HER OWN. Nobody has to point it out to her, she doesn't find a mysterious relic that reveals secret code to her, she just THINKS about it, because she's smart, and FIGURES IT OUT. She also INSTANTLY calls Mother Gothel out on it, confronting her face to face. As a person who avoids conflict like the plague, I am in awe of all this.
Elsa lovers take note: Rapunzel has magic, too! Granted, it's not spectacular sparkly dress making magic (she doesn't need it, since she can SEW!), it's selfless magic- healing magic. Plus it comes with glowing hair!
You want more? How about the fact that Rapunzel isn't too proud to admit when she's wrong? When Mother Gothel manipulates Rapunzel into believing that Flynn betrayed her, she runs back to Gothel crying and says, "YOU WERE RIGHT!" Ohhhh sweet words to any mother's ears...
Rapunzel's character arc is that she goes from a totally awesome and sweet girl who happens to be a little naive and sheltered to a young woman with strength and self-confidence who stands up for herself and what's right in the world. All while being irresistibly adorable AND...
Overall Film Quality
Some of you (those who haven't seen Tangled or maybe only saw it once in passing) are probably already convinced that I'm nuts. Listen here: I didn't like the movie all that much the first time I saw it either. I don't know if it'd been overhyped or if I just wasn't in the right state of mind to watch it. However (not unlike the Princess and the Frog), Tangled gets better EVERY TIME I WATCH IT. No, really. I have seen this movie way more than a dozen times at this point, and every time the movie is over I look at my husband, we shake our heads and say, "How is this movie so GOOD?" I pick up new things that I missed in previous viewings; there're a lot of subtle things in the film that allow for that to happen.
This film is nothing less than outstanding. Take notes, Frozen, this is how you write TWO protagonists with emotionally involved story arcs. Every character is believable and touching. I loved the movie before I had a kid; now that I'm a parent, I get choked up EVERY TIME Rapunzel reunites with her parents. UGH. The parents don't even talk and they're still a million times better than Anna & Elsa's. Or pretty much any other parents in a Disney cartoon ever (except for maybe Prince Charming's Dad, that guy is still awesome).
Let's talk about the themes and messages in the film: don't judge a book by its cover (the outlaws, Flynn), you don't have to be defined by your upbringing, your parents aren't ALWAYS right (gulp) and you're allowed to question them until they give you a viable explanation (I must be crazy, but my policy is to never tell my daughter "because I told you so"), having fulfilling personal relationships is more important than financial gain (Flynn), doing things for others can be more satisfying than selfish acts, etc.
Also like P&tF Tangled is just mesmerizing to look at. Every scene has rich, exsquisite color and detail, the lantern seen TAKES MY BREATH AWAY every single time I watch it. This movie is a feast for the eyes and would be worth your time even if it wasn't so well-written.
One more thing: this movie is funny. No, really. Not just slapstick kid humor either: real grown up joke belly-laugh funny.
Perfect Score... FLAWLESS... VICTORY...
Rapunzel's third and final perfect score. Flynn Rider/Eugene Fitzherbert is the most richly realized and interesting love interest to ever be seen associating with a Disney Princess. He's so important to the story he narrates it! A case can definitely be made that Tangled is as much Eugene's film as it is Rapunzel's. In fact Eugene is the one who has to do the most growing as a character, since he starts out as a selfish, arrogant criminal.
Oh yes, Flynn Rider (Eugene's criminal alias) is quite the rake! Disney knows how we love a bad boy made good. Over the course of the film, we learn that Flynn's selfish tendencies and greed stem from being raised an orphan and looking up to pirates as heroes. He has never had anyone to love him, so he has no idea how to care about anyone other than himself. How many other Love Interests do we get to hear this much about?
Flynn's transition to being a good person is not an instantaneous thing: it becomes believable as it happens gradually over the course of the film. First, he is impressed with Rapunzel's readiness to defend not only herself, but him from the Royal Guards that pursue him. Then, when they spend a day together in the kingdom, they become FRIENDS. They dance, they read books together, they see the town, it's like an actual date (has a DH ever before gone on a date?).
Flynn "seeing the light" and falling in love with Rapunzel is only the first step on his road to redemption! First, he has to demonstrate that he is no longer greedy by giving up his claim to the stolen crown (that first brought him to try to hide out in Rapunzel's tower), and he does. The final step in Flynn's redemption is to prove that he is no longer selfish, and he does it in a rather controversial move. When Flynn is stabbed by Mother Gothel, Rapunzel agrees to go along with Gothel's plan to run away if she will allow Rapunzel to heal Flynn before they leave. NOW here's the controversy: Flynn wants to cut off Rapunzel's hair (which we learned previously would stop the healing magic), thus ending Gothel's need to keep Rapunzel under her thumb. I have heard MANY people accuse Flynn of being stupid for choosing to cut Rapunzel's hair BEFORE she heals him, but go with me here: only by cutting her hair BEFORE he's healed can he demonstrate that he's willing to do something totally selfless, to sacrifice himself for her benefit (what she was willing to do for him by leaving with Mother Gothel). Flynn HAS TO cut her hair before she can heal him in order to be totally redeemed and reach the fruits of his character arc. Besides, this is a Disney movie, and anyone who's seen Beauty & the Beast knows that a DH's tears can bring a Love Interest back to life.
If all that isn't enough for you to love Flynn/Eugene, he's also funny, witty and (duh) GORGEOUS. Full Scores to Eugene, long may he reign.
Beware- I'm going to write another novel here. This category is JUST shy of perfect, and I have a feeling I only docked points, because I was afraid of being accused of playing favorites. It's probably going to happen anyway, oh well.
Mother Gothel is a WORLD CLASS villain. She looks like Cher and sings like a young Shirley Maclaine. The "loving" jabs, the passive aggressive tone, how many of us HAVEN'T had Gothel-esque moments with our own mothers? Gothel also has a remarkable antagonist story arc to accomplish: initially (you know, other than kidnapping Rapunzel) her only crime is keeping Rapunzel cooped up in a tower. She still, in her own way, gives Rapunzel love and affection. When Rapunzel asks her to go on a 3 day journey to get special paints for her birthday? She does it. That's not typical villainous behavior. Gothel escalates as the movie progresses, going from selfish, to highly manipulative, and finally to murderous when she makes that final leap to stab Eugene to keep him from following Rapunzel as they flee. Just as Eugene had to cut Rapunzel's hair, Gothel had to do something that would warrant her death. Perfect.
Our primary plucky sidekicks are funny and engaging enough to warrant their own television show, something I've been begging for since I first saw the movie (yes, even the first time I loved Maximus and Pascal). Disney is always fond of an overly human-like horse injected with personality (Frozen, Brave, Sleeping Beauty, Beauty & the Beast, et all), and Maximus is THE KING OF ALL HORSES. Maximus even has a character arc! HE CAN'T EVEN TALK (seriously the writers on this movie are clearly overachievers). Maximus starts out as an overachieving royal guard horse who will stop at nothing to arrest his man. After being charmed by Rapunzel, he learns to look past the law to do what's right in the bigger picture, and helps engineer Flynn's later escape from prison.
Pascal also has a character arc (it's slight, but it's worth noting). He starts VERY scared of Mother Gothel (he hides any time she comes around). As the film progresses, he first demonstrates bravery by helping Rapunzel to tame Maximus' ire (they become buds, I die), and in the end he overcomes his fear to try to stop Mother Gothel from dragging Rapunzel away (Gothel then kicks Pascal, further cementing her need to die for the audience).
There's also something to be said for the band of outlaws. In a stroke of genius, the "I've Got a Dream" song not only introduces us to all these minor characters, it gives them backstory and ambition! BRILLIANT.
The music is wonderful. Lyrics are perfectly expositional. Brilliantly scored by Menken. Points are docked, because there just aren't enough songs. The main love theme "I See the Light" is good enough for me to listen to when it comes on my ipod even when my kid isn't in the car. "Mother Knows Best" is passive-aggressive motherly perfection. Then there are really just a couple other songs and reprises. MOAR, DISNEY, MOOOOOOOOAR!
Rapunzel's dress has a lot going for it: it's tea-length, it's not bulky, it has a short-sleeve option, it's not entirely pink (there's purple in there, too!), and it has a cutesy peasant feel. There's just not a lot of "it" factor to it. I still think it's great and one of the most ideal of the costumes for running around endlessly at the parks, but this still ends up being Rapunzel's low score.
THAT'S IT! I thought about writing a big conclusion, but I was long-winded enough on the intro. I will say this is not the end of this project; I fully intend to revisit and revise the countdown in the near future. Through feedback I've already come up with two DHs that I should have included (Jessie from Toy Story, Mary Poppins), so this list will definitely see some tweaking in the future. Thanks for joining me on this most excellent adventure, I look forward to your feedback (especially if there are other DHs that need to be included in the next revision!)
**DISCLAIMER** I do not own any of the likenesses of these heroines. All characters/likenesses are the property of Disney, and are not being used here for financial gain ****