This is why some people get so upset about big companies putting out projects for girls, or analyze their phrasing, or worry about what it means:
Disney Restyles Rapunzel to Appeal to Boys
After the less-than-fairy-tale results for its most recent animated release, “The Princess and the Frog,” executives at the Burbank studio believe they know why the acclaimed movie came up short at the box office. Brace yourself: Boys didn’t want to see a movie with “princess” in the title.
To make sure their next big animated movie is a hit, they have
- renamed Rapunzel to Tangled because it’s less gender-specific
- made sure that the “dashing Errol Flynn-styled male lead”, named Flynn Rider, gets more of the spotlight
- added more swashbuckling action
- changed the “demure princess” into a “feisty teen”
Said animation president Ed Catmull, “Some people might assume it’s a fairy tale for girls when it’s not. We make movies to be appreciated and loved by everybody.” Boys are needed in the audience to “make an expensive family film a success.” It seems that once again we’re stuck in the problem of girls being expected to see entertainment aimed at boys, but boys have to be catered to to get their attention. I guess there just isn’t enough entertainment out there aimed at them, what with them already having most of the market and all.
These changes seem to be because The Princess and the Frog made $200-some million instead of $700-some million, as Up did. Could it just be that people are tired of cookie-cutter movies? The Princess and the Frog, which I haven’t seen, looked like yet another in the Disney mold, without much to set it apart. I was going to watch it on DVD, coming out this month, but then they decided to cripple that format in favor of pushing Blu-ray.
Disney wanted to label the movie as part of its princess line so they could expand the diversity of characters available for little girls under that branding. (Most of the existing characters are white girls.) Now they are upset that it was thought of as being aimed at those same little girls? You can’t get it both ways, guys.
Disney has also shelved plans for The Snow Queen because they thought they “had too many animated girl flicks in its lineup”. It would be the fourth in a row with a female lead. How many movies come out every year with male leads? Can we get concern over that? Of course not, that’s silly — everyone knows movies are for boys. Girl movies are so rare that they get labeled with their own derogative tag of “chick flick”.
On the bright side, the third film in that series of girl leads is The Bear and the Bow, which has Pixar’s first female director, Brenda Chapman, and stars Reese Witherspoon. Count me in for that! It’s about time Pixar puts out a female-focused film!
One last note: the Comic Critics strip beautifully captures the problems women have supporting media projects that highlight gender.
Update: NPR’s Linda Holmes tears into the name change as well, saying
There are princess characters who do just fine with boys, but I think the word “princess” now carries an implication of passivity and romantic fixation and therefore a lack of interest that Disney has created, not discovered.