Tangled, Disney's take on the Rapunzel fairy tale, surprised everyone on its opening weekend by nearly knocking Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (part 1) out of the number one spot, and is seemingly poised to unseat it this weekend. While Disney's ad campaign is somewhat deceptive in playing up the story's male bandit character to lure more boys into the theater, the success of Tangled comes mostly from the fact that it's a wonderfully charming, funny, exciting movie that can be enjoyed by kids and adults, male or female. It's an emphatic return to form for Disney animation, which had recently become bogged down as they attempted to embrace CG animation, move away from fairy tales and modernize their attitude.
Unbeknownst to Rapunzel, she is actually a princess, meaning that she will undoubtedly be joining the cast of characters in Disney's ultra-successful Disney Princess line, which groups together several of the princesses (sometimes defined loosely) from Disney films into one marketing campaign, offering over 25,000 princess-themed products and grossing more than $4 billion annually. While Tangled's Rapunzel is no damsel in distress and many of the more modern princess characters are significantly empowered, it still begs the question: Are the Disney Princesses clean fun for girls, or are they anti-feminist propaganda that teaches girls to simply look pretty until Prince Charming arrives?
Watch my ReThink Review of Tangled and my discussion with Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian of the Young Turks about the pros and cons of the Disney Princesses, gender stereotypes, and the pressure to be perfect girls face throughout their lives.
If you'd like to learn more about the origins of the Disney Princesses line and hear about a feminist mother's struggle to accept her daughter's Princesses obsession, I'd highly recommend Peggy Orenstein's article "What's Wrong With Cinderella?" in the New York Times.
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