We’ve watched plenty of Disney films over the years – and, by now, we know how the story goes. Prince meets princess, rescues her from a wicked villain, and rushes her down the aisle for a fairytale wedding and that so-called ‘happy ever after’.
No wonder Disney has had its criticisms of its women’s characters over the years, eh?
However, as we’ve seen in recent hits such as Moana, Brave, Frozen, and the new Beauty and the Beast, it seems as if Disney is working hard to redress gender stereotypes – and imbue their heroines with a newfound sense of power and control over their own destinies.
So it makes sense, then, that they’ve finally shown a Disney princess turning down her Prince Charming’s wedding proposal – and not because he’s secretly an evil villain in disguise (yeah, we’re looking at you, Prince Hans of the Southern Isles).
Instead, it’s made abundantly clear that this particular princess – a new and improved Rapunzel - is in love with Eugene (aka her wannabe husband), and he’s very much in love with her.
However, as she points out, they’ve not been together all that long, really, and she’s just not ready to be tied down.
We were first introduced to Rapunzel (Mandy Moore) and runaway thief Eugene (Zachary Levi) back in 2010’s Tangled, when he accidentally stumbled into her crumbling tower.
Armed with a frying pan, Rapunzel insisted that he help bust her out of her prison and give her a tour of the nearby city. He begrudgingly obliged, a friendship blossomed, she discovered that she was actually a kidnapped princess, he helped her to defeat her wicked captor, and they fell in love.
“We’re living happily ever after,” she reassured the audience, just before the credits finally rolled. And then Eugene revealed that the pair were engaged, after “years of [him] asking, and asking, and asking”.
We figured Eugene was being hyperbolic – but, as it turns out, he was being completely honest. While the couple may have lived happily ever after – eventually - Rapunzel was initially reluctant to go down the aisle, which is where Disney’s refreshing new movie comes in.
On Friday night, the Disney Channel premiered its latest Disney Channel Original Movie, Tangled: Before Ever After – which is set some time between the end of Tangled and the events of Tangled Ever After (a mini-movie which sees Rapunzel and Eugene tie the knot).
During the film, Eugene decides he wants to propose to Rapunzel. Cue him dropping down onto one knee in front of the whole royal court and proudly presenting his beloved with a diamond ring.
Rapunzel is overjoyed – at first. However, as she continues to stare down at her boyfriend, the smile slides off her face. And, instead of saying yes, Rapunzel says no.
Check it out:
Later on, Rapunzel explains to Eugene that she isn’t ready to be tied down yet – and he apologises for putting her on the spot by proposing to her in front of everyone.
“I don’t quite understand why you said no,” he tells her, “but I promise to do everything I can until I do.”
It’s a firm reminder that real relationships take a lot more work than a magical meet-cue and true love’s kiss – not to mention the fact that a true ‘happy ever after’ requires patience, understanding, and friendship. And it’s pretty ground-breaking stuff for Disney, to be honest, who used to create films about teenage princesses blindly marrying the first person to come along and kiss them while they’re fast asleep.
John Gottman, a professor of psychology who specialises in martial stability, has stressed that relationships can only be successful when couples are “emotionally intelligent” enough to accept one another as they truly are.
Writing in The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, he advises that couples engage in “physiological self-soothing” (taking calming breaths and mindfully relaxing) when you find an argument to be too intense, rather than stonewalling / refusing to communicate.
And, instead of phrasing complaints as criticism of your partner, raise complaints about the situation or the behaviour instead.
He also encourages couples to stop using the word “you” in arguments, and choosing instead to use the word “I” – and to work on their marriage each and every single day, rather than just when it is in trouble.
“Reunite at the end of the day and talk about how it went,” he says. This will help to bleed off stress from the day, and stop it from negatively affecting your relationship.