Tangled, Redux

So I wrote a long post about a Disney movie, at the expense of staying up late and not sleeping enough. So what do I start this morning with? Another post about the same Disney movie, because I’m probably out of my mind and giving children’s escapist entertainment more attention than it deserves. Or something.

In the previous post, I insisted on calling Rapunzel “Elizabeth”, and while that was a joke © EDI, I just can’t get the similarities out of my head — as while Elizabeth is clearly visually based on Belle, her personality and backstory are strikingly similar to Disney’s Rapunzel, specifically Disney’s rather the original fairy tale version. There are even some visual similarities, like the big eyes and the small, almost childlike torso unfitting for her age. And beyond that, I can’t stop thinking where the similarities could have come from.

So Gothel/Comstock steals baby Rapunzel/Elizabeth from her birth parents for selfish purposes, causing some minor body damage in the process, and raises her locked away for life, valuing her for her unique abilities, but otherwise not interfering with her independent thought and pastimes, letting her grow up as a person in her own right rather than a brainwashed minion. So naturally, the captive jumps at the first opportunity for Faustian Rebellion and, once given a taste of freedom, can only be dragged back by force (or an unfounded feeling of betrayal by the male lead). Oh, and the antagonist rapidly ages from continuous exposure to the same kind of power that our heroine wields.

But here’s a kicker: BioShock Infinite was announced before Tangled was even released, with a developer interview speaking of Elizabeth’s characterization, and was secretly in development for two and a half years by that point. So what is this — some kind of weird convergent thinking, or did Irrational substantially rework their story mid-development in the wake of the success of Tangled?

I’m probably reading too much into it. When I see similarities between recent, overhyped mainstream works, I usually assume that they didn’t borrow from each other, but from an earlier common ancestor I’m unaware of. It may well be the case here that Disney didn’t invent this specific character type for Irrational to borrow. But I can hope that it is convergent thinking. That both Disney and Irrational, when they needed a “princess locked in a tower” archetype, looked at the pitfalls and Unfortunate Implications of both the passive-saccharine Princess Classic and the green-skinned farting ass-kicking anti-princess, and decided to go in a different direction this time. Perhaps they were both doing their original spin on the Rapunzel tale and just happened to be going in the same, zeitgeist-tastic direction.

Great minds think alike, after all.

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