The Princess Thing

December 14th, 2010

I went to see Tangled this weekend! It was really fun, but of course with the holidays and everything, it got me reflecting on “the princess thing.” Now that I have nieces and a lot of friends who have daughters, I’m always hearing about “the princess thing” from someone.

“Please don’t get my daughter any princess stuff for Christmas. We’re not doing the princess thing in my house. No offense!” (FYI, if you have to say “no offense” to someone, you have already offended them.) “I just don’t want her thinking that some prince is going to come rescue her.”

I don’t know where these people have been, but princesses have been rescuing themselves in fiction for quite some time now.

Hello.

Some people were giving poor Rapunzel crap about “the princess thing” before the movie “Tangled” starring her even came out. People were saying a new Disney princess didn’t stand a chance in today’s market. The mantra goes: “Girls will see a movie about a boy, but boys won’t see a movie about a girl.”

Rumor had it that Disney even changed the title for Tangled from Rapunzel because it would make the story seem less focused on the princess, and more on the thief who steals her heart (he’s not a prince anymore. There are no princes in the movie. The hero of this movie is a wanted felon. But don’t worry, he’s freaking hot, for a cartoon character).

This is because though Disney’s The Princess and the Frog grossed an entirely respectable $267,050,000 worldwide, it was thought it could have performed even better if it hadn’t had the word “princess” in the title, since no one’s little brother can be dragged to anything with “that word” in the title. And of course, there’s “the princess thing.”

If you watch the trailers for Tangled, it doesn’t even seem to have anything to do with a princess:

Frankly, I was a little sad about the princess thing. Princess Leia was my role model growing up (still is). What is the Rapunzel story without a princess?

But guess what:

I’m happy to report “the princess thing” is alive and well in Tangled (the GOOD princess thing, not the bad one people seem to think is still lurking around from the days of I don’t even know what). Rapunzel is probably the most kickass Disney princess I’ve ever seen. In fact, I’m pretty sure her creators based her on Princess Leia, and her romantic partner, Flynn Rider, aka Eugene Fitzherbert, on Han Solo.

True, Rapunzel isn’t the leader of the Rebel Alliance.

But that’s only because she’s spent the past 18 years locked in a tower by a psychopathic witch. Rapunzel is sort of Princess Leia, post-post traumatic stress disorder due to Grand Moff Tarkin’s interrogation droid.

Then she escapes, and all hell breaks lose. Instead of a laser blaster, she has a frying pan (the only weapon accessible to her).

Just like with Rapunzel, there are many people who continue to dismiss Princess Leia as an inferior heroine because of her hair.

But see how well you’d resist an interrogation droid, demanding you give up the secret location of the rebel base, or endure seeing your home planet destroyed (including your adopted mom and dad) right before your eyes.

Hair is really the least of Princess Leia’s, or Rapunzel’s, worries.

My favorite part of the movie was when Rapunzel finally summons the courage to break free (Rapunzel is never rescued, not even once, during the course of the film. She does all her own rescuing, and in fact rescues the hero multiple times, just like Princess Leia, who in fact Luke, Han, and Obi Wan never sought out to rescue in the original Star Wars movie. They stumbled upon her completely by accident, just like Flynn Rider in Tangled), she alternates between fits of joyful celebration and hysterical guilt over what she’d just done, as anyone who’d been trapped in the same room for eighteen years might.

It turned out ALL the kids in the audience with whom I happened to see Tangled had seen the movie multiple times. They had seen it so many times, in fact, they knew exactly what Rapunzel was going to say five seconds before she did it, and they yelled it at the screen EVERY TIME.

When I was 10, all I wanted was Princess Leia stuff. That’s all I wanted! I wanted everything Princess Leia. She was my idol. She was so amazing! She used diplomacy to fight the bad guys, but she could also shoot a laser gun.

It was kind of tough, though, because while they made a lot of Han and Luke and Chewie and R2D2 stuff, they didn’t make that much Princess Leia stuff. Even today, when Adidas came out with a ton of retro Star Wars stuff, they had Chewie coats and Stormtrooper jackets and even Boba Fett shoes, but there was nothing Princess Leia.

Come on! Boba Fett was a bad guy!

Girls want someone cool with whom they can identify. A girl who helps fights the bad guys, too, just like the guys, whether she uses song, diplomacy, a laser gun, or a frying pan.

So I understand why a lot of girls are going to be asking for this for Christmas.

I think it would be a shame for parents not to let them have it just because they don’t believe in “the princess thing.” Because the princess thing is amazing. It’s about standing up for what you believe in, protecting the people you love, and never letting the bad guys win. It’s about rescuing yourself, and yet risking your heart when you meet someone who seems worth giving it to.

I don’t see how the princess thing is bad. Do you?

More later.

Much love,

Meg