The major difference between the way Tangled and Frozen approached emotional issues and mental/inner struggles experienced by it’s leading ladies is the fact that Tangled didn’t sugarcoat the aftereffects, drastic/damaging impacts and toxic influences abuse and isolation leave on person’s psyche.
Whereas Frozen reduced severe and incredibly serious psychological issues to a simplistic, safe, “feminist grandmother”-friendly and pretentious family tale about a “strong independent heroine who needs no man”. Because HEAVENS forbid a mentally imbalanced female character being framed as romantically desirable in “progressive” Western media.
Frozen conveyed a primitive moralistic message about how biological family ties imposed on us since birth are supposedly more valuable, important, favorable and significant than natural platonic and romantic bonds formed by choice and on free will.
Tangled was about a young, alienated, sheltered, perpetually conflicted, immensely insecure woman with a vast assortment of phenomenal artistic skills she didn’t have a legitimate opportunity to unleash due to being distanced from the society by her abusive, exploitative guardian. It was about her gradually working through abrupt mood swings, incurable vulnerabilities, complete lack of self worth and monumental trust issues induced by the years of abuse.
The story primarily revolves around Rapunzel learning to establish connections with people, share her aspirations and ambitions with those who - like herself - were caged and restrained by external obstacles and superior forces. Bonding with the thugs from a local pub because regardless of the labels and stereotypes the society might place on people every individual is unique and has a multi-layered, distinguishing, overwhelming history of battling personal demons and being burdened by unfulfilled goals. Letting herself get to know a socially marginalized orphan who got off track and converted into thievery when denied support and acceptance on part of others. Forming a powerful and profound connection with this reluctant ally of hers, a virtual stranger who also had a baggage of issues and insecurities just as heavy as her own behind his shoulders.
Allowing herself to “do something crazy” and pursue an experience of learning up on this complex, struggling, uncomfortable person. With the two of them - naturally but methodically - altering each other’s initial worldview by exposing the least convenient facets of their lives and personalities to one another and learning to embrace those facets.
Tangled was about ADVOCATING for acquirement of experience. About reassuring abuse survivors that it’s okay and completely acceptable and not even remotely shameful to need to be helped out of a desperate situation when you end up in a position of emotional & physical disadvantage. Because MANY women are confronted with such horrific circumstances and are denied support. As well as continually victim blamed by either their surrounding/society or condescending feminist media which deems them as “pathetic and incapable damsels in distress” for not being able to defeat their oppressors/abusers as if it’s victim’s responsibility to begin with.
On the other hand, Frozen, as fascinatingly sublime of a musical as it can be (and to be objective, in lyrical & score department it surpasses Tangled, Princess and the Frog and about every other soundtrack from animated films pertaining to Disney Revival by miles and landslides), deliberately constructed Elsa’s characterization as two dimensional and universally comprehensible. To prompt more variable groups of people to identify with her while actually representing none of said groups.
Elsa’s character was specifically designed as vague, as a stereotype/construct rather than a PERSON like Rapunzel. A flawed, insufferable, aggravatingly noisy, unpredictably inconsistent, mood swings undergoing, self-doubting individual who is directly and considerably affected by her traumatic experience with isolation and inconsideration. On the contrary, Elsa is bold, reserved and guarded because that’s how depressed women are commonly perceived (and as a person who has been struggling with depression and anxiety - diseases Elsa’s powers and experiences were supposed to represent according to overt statements on part of the movie crew - for years I find it devastatingly tiresome to have those stigmas and stereotypes attached to me and having no other representation in media).
She is only allowed a day to revel in her formerly repressed creativity and explore her artistic potential before her biological sister she hasn’t been consistently interacting or communicating with for years saves the day. Miraculously fixing Elsa’s complicated, agony inducing, decades long mental issues by performing a ridiculously contrived and victorious defeat of a rapidly antagonized, cliche riddled charming backstabber straightly from Jane Austen novels. Who was out for their family’s wealth and privilege all along (because what else can a conventionally attractive and romantically assertive man be after? It’s just unimaginable that a young, ambitious and visually appealing man can have any goals OTHER than cunningly wronging and taking advantage of inexperienced and unknowing young women, at least according to contemporary US media which is prone to imposing irrational fears on girls).
Elsa establishes no bonds - romantic or friendly ones - outside of her sister whom she only shares two substantial and relevant scenes with. Both indicating visible misunderstanding between the two women which the movie never deals with properly. In concept, Anna and Elsa’s bond is spectacular and outstandingly powerful whereas the execution of this arc and their reconciliation doesn’t allow it to develop beyond a blood tie. Making them sisters by blood rather than a family by heart, like Rapunzel and Flynn, Rapunzel and the Thugs and Rapunzel and her parents ended up being. The King and Queen become a PART of Rapunzel’s already extended family consisting of Flynn and her new friends because they have been unwaveringly devoted to her for years and would always prioritize her happiness, emotional well being and safety - as opposed to Gothel - not because they are biologically related to her.
Elsa’s lack of romantic interest does not stem from her blatant and unambiguous unwillingness to engage in a relationship as in case with Merida. Her stance on romantic commitments is not specified, it’s just left indefinite and undetermined. Hence the movie conveniently getting an excuse to present a yet another psychologically struggling female protagonist who is not depicted as an attractive and favorable romantic material - because that would be too challenging. The narrative is framed as a “story about two siblings” while actually not expanding on their relationship sufficiently and meaningfully.
In a nutshell, the reason why Tangled will always strike me as a more competent, mindful, respectful and constructive representation of emotional struggles is because the movie took a very specific issue - mental abuse and it’s impacts - and comprehensively elaborated on it. Highlighted it’s mechanics, emphasized how prolonged and systematic manipulation, demeaning, self esteem reduction and self worth destruction affect a person. How those issues often render a person helpless in some respects. And how important it is that people who genuinely care about said person and have built an effective, genuine and EQUAL relationship with them interfere with the abuse this person is undergoing.
Frozen, on the other hand, strove to mix all the existing issues in blender, combine and compile them by means of Elsa’s arc and attempted to make her represent all of said issues without giving a consistent insight into any of them. Nor allowing Elsa to evolve beyond a marvelous and sympathetic but, unfortunately, terribly cliched image.
Note: this is a personal opinion I’m in no way forcing on anyone. Pardon me for my rambling as well as for the fact that English isn’t my mother tongue.