Rapunzel & Ariel are completely different, and frankly, I’m sick of the comparisons. Today, I am finally addressing the common miscomprehension that Rapunzel is simply an Ariel “knock-off”. And if any feelings are hurt in the process, I apologize.
We first met Ariel lurking around a sunken ship while simultaneously ditching/ruining Sebastian’s much-anticipated concert. Let’s call that strike one. When she returns to apologize for missing the concert, we learn she is disobeying her father. Now I can at least understand this. It was harmless fun – minus the shark – right? Anyways, she takes us to a cavern full of treasures her father also doesn’t approve of. And then, icing on the cake, she disobeys him (and Sebastian) again by going to the surface. Keeping in mind that she is jeopardising the existence of all mer-people for her own personal gain, I’m going to have to call this strike two. However, after a heroic rescue and a stellar reprise, Ariel almost redeems herself. Unfortunately, this is short lived. She loses an unimaginable amount of my respect when she udders: “Daddy, I love him!”I mean, they never talked; they never even really communicated. He was unconscious half the time, and oblivious to her existence the other half – yet this “love” is what forms the foundation for the rest of the story? No thanks. Strike three, Ariel.
Rapunzel is an entirely different story. Despite being a prisoner in her own home, she finds productive things to do – painting, baking, reading and even ventrilique. Ever since she can remember, she has dreamed of seeing the floating lights that rise every year on her birthday. Her mother assures her that she will leave “soon, but not yet” and then proceeds to sing an entire song about Rapunzel’s “flaws” (ditzy, vague, chubby, etc.), attempting to scare her into thinking that she could never make it on her own. Yet despite her mother’s cruelty, Rapunzel is kind and strives to never disappoint her. Her situation is almost a cross between Quasimodo’s and Cinderella’s – yet she remains optimistic throughout, setting an example that is to be commended.
Comparison’s to note…
Under the sea, Ariel has friends Scuttle and Flounder, along with her sisters and all the other mer-people, but Rapunzel has only Pascal – a Chameleon who doesn’t even talk. Ariel is surrounded by people who care about her – namely, her strict but loving father. Rapunzel’s only human interaction comes in the form of her manipulative, self-absorbed mother. Lastly, under the sea, Ariel is free to venture wherever her heart desires – but Rapunzel is confined to her small tower. Both want to leave, and in Rapunzel’s case, I completely understand why. Ariel, however, is selfish and foolish in her decision. What makes it worse is that while Rapunzel plans to return in three days’ time, Ariel knows she will be a human forever. So basically, Ariel is inconsiderately leaving a good home, and Rapunzel is loyally returning to a bad one.
LEAVING THE NEST
Again, we’ll start with Ariel. Was her father too harsh by destroying her collection? You know, the one she was forbidden to have in the first place? Maybe, but she did provoke him by disobeying his one rule, AGAIN. Anyways, her father’s rage was the moment that drove her to Ursula’s cave, torn between two decisions. If she becomes human, she’ll never be with her father and sister’s again – but if she remains a mermaid, she won’t have her prince. However not once does she consider the fact that she is essentially selling her soul, and that her decision will have an impact on more than merely herself. Basically, the fact that she makes this impulsive, life changing decision – all in hopes of being with someone who she doesn’t even know – disgusts me.
Like Ariel, Rapunzel too has a moment that changes everything. When her mother reveals that she is “not leaving this tower, ever”, Rapunzel lifts her fingers off the chair and reconsiders revealing the trespasser (I LOVE this part of the movie). Her mother, who assured her before than she would indeed be able to leave eventually, had now been revealed as a liar. And after her mother’s departure (and a hilarious confrontation with Flynn), Rapunzel decides to finally fulfil her dream.
More comparison’s to note…
Rapunzel is returning home in 3 days, despite the fact that her mother is a monster. She also struggles, shortly after leaving, with the possibility of breaking her mother’s heart. Ariel, who is blessed with a much more loving family, only references them once. Rapunzel plans to return home (despite having a bad life), but Ariel’s decision will essentially prevent her from ever returning home (to her already desirable life). Also, I really admired how Rapunzel took the situation into her own hands. She knew what she wanted, and she got it. She was in control. But Ariel, who is often admired for being feisty and strong-willed, allowed herself to be pushed around by Ursula. Just saying. Anyways, Rapunzel is leaving to fulfill a dream she’s had her entire life – but Ariel is leaving to win over a guy she just met. This does not add up, by any stretch of the imagination. How anyone can compare these two is absolutely beyond me.
One of my favourite scenes in The Little Mermaid is when Ariel saves Eric. It was not only incredibly heroic, but also unexpected. Unfortunately, Ariel doesn’t really do anything applause worthy after this. In fact, she actually creates messes for other’s to clean up. Ariel relies on Scuttle, to stall the wedding, and Sebastian, in her attempts to win over Eric. Her father trades himself for Ariel’s freedom, and Eric almost dies when he jumps in after her. So ultimately, yes, saving Eric required guts and courage – but given her track record, Ariel unfortunately proves to be less of an asset and more of a liability.
Rapunzel, however, is an underestimated heroine. She’s quick on her feet, determined, and can easily improvise her way out of problematic situations. She initially needed Flynn to “protect” her on her way to the lanterns – but ironically, it turned out to be Rapunzel who did most of the butt–saving. Her kindness won over the “ruffians and thugs” – who let Flynn go free, helped the two escape from the guards, and later, resurfaced to save Flynn, so that he, in turn, could save Rapunzel. Her kindness also earns the pair a useful and comical ally – Maximus. But the scene I particularly love is when Flynn and Rapunzel reach the end of the tunnel, and are outnumbered by a lot of people who happen to really “dislike” Flynn. Thinking quickly, she uses her hair to pull herself, and then him, to safety. I absolutely love that they are able to improvise and work together, especially since Rapunzel could have easily left Flynn behind. When they’re trapped in the cave, she wastes no time looking for an escape. Rapunzel may not seem like a hero, and she certainly doesn’t look the part either. She isn’t exceptionally tough, skilled, or strong – but she’s genuine, determined, hardworking and clever. And as far as Disney Princesses go, I couldn’t ask for anything better.
RELATIONSHIP WITH SIGNIFIGANT OTHER
Ariel and Eric are cute together, no doubt about it. But let’s be real, there’s only so far that cutesy gestures and smiles can take a relationship. The fact that they only said a handful of words to each other but still managed to fall in love is slightly ridiculous. And don’t even get me started on their outrageously sudden marriage. Lastly, the relationship is almost entirely based on looks – and I absolutely HATE this. If Ariel wasn’t attractive, Eric would not be as motivated to spend time with her, nor would Grim push him too. Likewise, if Eric was unattractive, Ariel wouldn’t have sold her soul to be with him. After all, Ariel only knows two things about Eric, a) he’s looking for the right girl, and b) he’s smoking hot.
I’m very critical when it comes to relationships, but I fell in love with Rapunzel the moment Flynn broke out his charm, and she scoffed at it. This pretty much sets her apart from most of the other princesses, who would likely swoon over Flynn’s charisma. In the presence of an attractive guy, Ariel jeopardizes her existence, but Rapunzel scoffs – frying pan at the ready. Yet the more I think about Rapunzel and Flynn’s relationship, the more perfect I realise it is. They don’t fall in love instantly, which is a welcomed relief. Personally, I loved watching their relationship progress and witnessing all the little, individually brilliant moments they shared together. Rapunzel and Flynn are the perfect combination of fun and passion – I was in love with them before they were in love with each other. But what I like most about these two is that their relationship progressed organically and realistically, with plenty of comic relief inserted along the way.
I’ll try to make this short and sweet. No, I don’t hate Ariel, I just hate the comparisons. Rapunzel is NOT a knock off by any stretch of the imagination. If anything, she’s an Ariel 2.0. – although personally, I don’t see that either. I find Rapunzel superior to Ariel in so many ways that reducing her to an Ariel “rip-off” is not only incredibly degrading, but entirely illogical.
We all have our favourite Disney Princesses, and I assure you, none of them are "knock-off's" or replica's of eachother. Each Princess is a beautiful, unique and inspiring in their own distinctive way - and that's why we love them.
Thank you for reading!