Flynn Rider is actually also a character with strong narcissistic features, I definitely regard him as a narcissist.
He was an orphan and the poor childhood + not ideal parenting is the birthplace of later personality disorders. There are several reasons why people turn out to be narcissists, and one of the most common reasons is exactly the poor childhood. Other reasons are serious childhood trauma – loss of parents for example, or severe childhood abuse, sexual, physical, verbal or emotional or the combination of all these.
He made up a new personality for himself – Flynn Rider – and dropped the original one – Eugene Fitzherbert – so he acts fake. The basic feature that all narcissists have is that they lie. All of them, there’s no exception. On the first hand they lie to themselves and through this, they lie to the world too. Here Gothel lies, Flynn lies, this is one feature that is exactly the same in the two of them, but further more will come.
Actually Flynn reassures his falseness to Rapunzel later when he says: Well, a fake reputation is all a man has.
Children of abusive childhood tend to drop their True Self (as it is sometimes too painful to face, or they have some kind of physical, even sadistic, abusive memories) and adopt a Fake Self. This Fake Self contains everything they have ever wanted to be, brave, adventurous, funny, energetic, rich, handsome, immortal and this means that narcissists are accountable. This Fake Self is designed to be perfect and infallible, so it does not need to take responsibility for his actions. This is the reason why narcissists do no take responsibility for their actions, they created their own self to be perfect. If anything bad happens, they cannot believe that they could be responsible for it. They have got stuck on this immature level of childhood, and they are actually act like a child. In some cases they have so lame excuses and lies that the other person cannot even decide if she faces a mature grown-up, or a child. One of the most common narcissistic tools, the gaslighting derives from this attitude also. The narcissist lies about what happened so absurdly and so obviously that the victim cannot believe that in real life this could actually happen. The more absurd he lies, the more the victim questions her own sanity.
Also kids with poor and not ideal childhood, especially with abusive history, tend to end up as criminals. Their Fake Self guarantees their invulnerability and places them above the rules. Flynn himself is also a proud criminal, who takes life easy.
Such a person has no respect for others as well as for himself also. They are not afraid to fail as they have no respect for their lives. Kids of such childhood have their own rules and they follow those. They are not interested in the consequences, they strongly believe that their Fake Self is bulletproof and saves them from bad things and failure.
Flynn is also self-centered as Gothel, a lot of scenes prove this. He tries to lose the twins to keep the loot for his own.
Or in another scene when Rapunzel is struggling with her feelings after leaving the tower, he tries to lead her steadily towards breaking their deal up. He states that Rapunzel’s mother’s gonna have her heart broken and her soul crushed when she discovers that Rapunzel is nowhere. This is again emotional manipulation, he wants to get rid of Rapunzel, so he projects a vivid and cruel picture to her, how Gothel’s gonna be torn emotionally. This is guilt tripping, an his only aim is to turn her around, back to the tower, getting his own freedom back. He says: “All right, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m letting you out of the deal.” He puts himself into a positive position by showing greatness to let her out of the deal, however he did not create the deal, he had to accept it. The aim is to manipulate the girl here emotionally to get the crown back, and the girl back to the tower too. He continues: “That’s right. But don’t thank me. Let’s just turn around and get you home – your pan–and your frog–I get back my satchel, you get back a mother-daughter relationship based on mutual trust and voila!” In the center of his life he has himself. He thinks on every opportunity, how he could make the best of it, for himself only. He does not care about others, absolutely self-centered, just like narcissists. When saying: “don’t thank me” again he is trying to shift himself into the savior role, from bad guy to good guy, but this is still creating a scene which is beneficial for him, but not for the girl. Gothel wants to avoid the bad guy role also, narcissists like to shine in the role of the hero, the good person, the savior and the generous giver. However they are also familiar with the role of the victim, if they need someone’s sympathy, they switch quickly from one role to the other. They have many faces and they use them with talent.
Flynn also lacks empathy, by absolutely not resonating with the huge emotional storm that rages in Rapunzel. He stays out and watches her with no emotions on his face or body.
But he realizes that something is not okay between the mother and the daughter as he says: “…you get back a mother-daughter relationship based on mutual trust …” Empaths would ask if they could help, but he doesn’t. He gets the point immediately that this is absolutely not a healthy connection, where the daughter escapes. These situations are perfect for the narcissists, because people with weak personalities, sad, problematic life, but caring and loving heart are the perfect targets for them. Rapunzel shows her vulnerable side by letting Flynn see the emotional storm that is inside of her, and Flynn immediately tries to exploit it for his own purposes, pushing the most painful button, her torturing feelings of disloyalty. This is guilt tripping, making the girl feel guilty of her own behavior, shaming and blaming her for what she has done. Narcissists have that sensor that they can recognize the possible victim by body language, or by only one, single sentence. Flynn gets a lot of information at once, and he uses them for his benefit, not caring about the girl in emotional pain. However Flynn does not reach his goal and he rages. Narcissists lose control over their failures quickly in private, however Flynn gets quickly over the defeat and tries new things to push his intention through.
Earlier at the tower he tried to seduce Rapunzel, he tried to use that power what narcissists also use in the first stage in their relationship, the seducing part, or lovebombing. In this stage everything seems to be perfect, they idealize their partner, and the narcissists themselves seem to be perfect too. The narcissist gives so much attention to the victim, he basically runs her over with attention, compliments, politeness and he is always there, everywhere. The victim has literally not a free minute, because the manipulator ensures to remind the victim about his existence. She doesn’t have a little time to think the situation and the stream of happenings through, as everything happens so fast, she is kept so busy that she disconnects from her True Self by her attention and focus kept captured. It is really like an attack, the name refers to it too, lovebombing. We all like to be loved, to feel the constant, loving attention of someone. It is hard to resist this phase, however people with strong connection to their True Self, and strong self-confidence and strong-definition may be the exception. But being loved and cared about so heavily causes that most of the people fall in deep love with the dramatic confessions, the sacrifices the narcissist makes to be with us, or helps us, and the victims slowly lose connection to their True Self.
Flynn tries to lovebomb Rapunzel, but it does not work.
When Rapunzel asks him: “Who are you? And how did you find me?” he does not give a straight answer (evasion technique) and suddenly tries to twist the conversation to a topic which fits him best (diversion technique) where he is the winner himself. This is also common by narcissists that they twist and turn the words as long as they can pull the victim into a topic where they win 100% sure.
In the forest, when Flynn does not succeed with turning Rapunzel back to the tower, he makes the decision to put more pressure on the girl, he takes her to the Snuggly Duckling. Flynn uses two narcissistic techniques here, one is triangulation, where he involves third party to help him to reach his goal, and also he puts Rapunzel in great physical danger. Rapunzel is threatened to death by only seeing these creatures at the pub. In triangulation third party is involved by the narcissist to obtain his goal. In this case Flynn uses these weird looking men at the pub to threaten Rapunzel away from her plan to see the lanterns. As Flynn says before they enter the bar: “Don’t worry, very quaint place, perfect for you. Don’t want you scaring and giving up on this whole endeavor now do we?” Reversed psychology and in real life it means: Just worry, an awful place, absolutely not for you. I want to scare you to give up on this whole endeavor. It’s a very mixing up technique, the victim gets confused very easily. She doesn’t know what is said exactly and she doesn’t know what is meant exactly, but the key words stay stuck in the mind, scare and give up, these will be the first things that will come to the victim’s mind when the real situation is happening. No matter if the narcissist succeeds or not, the victim is confused, later she cannot make the narcissist countable for what was said, because the victim herself might not remember what was exactly said. This technique makes the situations and conversations vague and untraceable. Flynn has planted in Rapunzel’s mind the possibility to turn home even before they entered the pub. This is emotional manipulation.
So Flynn puts Rapunzel in great physical danger in order to reach his goal. He lacks of empathy by not considering what could happen to the girl in there. And he also lacks of responsibility by not considering the same. In order to reach their goals, narcissists really tend to run over everybody, not considering the consequences and not taking responsibility for their actions. In case if anything had gone wrong in the Snuggly Duckling, Flynn might have said probably: oh, she was just hungry, she wanted to eat here. It’s giving the responsibility to the girl.
Earlier in the tower, he did not succeed by the nice way, so he switched to the bad way. One way or another, he wants to succeed. In this case he acts – again – like Gothel, who also wanted to avoid to be the bad guy, but later she made the choice to become the bad guy. Although Flynn does not declare this, because psychically he wants to use the men of the pub to do the dirty job for him, in fact, he turns out to be the bad guy too. Narcissists do not have only one weapon, they have a whole artillery. If they cannot get what they want, they will use another way, another tool. Flynn is experimenting with the narcissistic weapons, which all serve only one purpose, the narcissist’s own purpose. In the pub, Flynn enhances the verbal threat by saying everything dreadful that Rapunzel might miss to recognize. He introduces the pub and the men into much more horrifying than it really is, torturing the girl emotionally. In this case, Flynn is as big danger in Rapunzel’s life as Gothel.
There are more situations to prove that Flynn is also a narcissist, and that the children of narcissistic parents become easily victims of narcissistic lovers. When escaping from the palace with the stolen crown and the twins, Flynn keeps talking and commenting on everything. He is very easy-going and thinks that he needs to entertain. This is because if he stops talking, in the silence he might be able to think and hear his ‘lost’ identity. People who are not connected to their selves, who don’t like to be alone, who carry a lot of painful and not faced memories, they tend to be the entertainers. In the silence they might wander towards their lost identity, or those memories they do not want to face. Those who lost contact with themselves and live a life where they are not connected to their True Self, they like to connect to others instead. But the entertainer-type narcissists want to cover their True Self and they tend to overplay the fake one. They are the loudest, the funniest, the clowns of the company. They have the funniest stories and jokes, they are really restless people. However they are extremely entertaining so people like to be with them. They can be the center of the party.
Also narcissistic people are very charming, partly because they are all what’s listed just above, and partly because they read the people well and fast, they know what to say and when to say it. And Flynn is charming because of his physical look also.
There are more traits that are common in Gothel and Flynn. One of them is that they would put others in danger for their own purposes, in this case this person is Rapunzel. They are so much self-centered that they are not interested if anyone else gets hurt, injured or killed (Gothel stabs Flynn to death) as long as their goals are completed. Another obvious characteristic is that they overdramatize everything, especially themselves and their own importance. They act a role and as such they overplay it. They are not natural characters, they need the drama. “Skip the drama, stay with mama” sings Gothel, and it suggests that Rapunzel was creating the drama, however this is projection, because in real life it is Gothel who creates it. She needs the attention and that can be captured and gained by being dramatic and overexaggerated. Equally needs Flynn the drama and attention also. He could have decided to leave the palace with the crown in silence, but he couldn’t. That’s just not his characteristic! He needed the drama, the attention (drama=attention) the chase, like narcissists do need it. They create their own drama and in a lot of cases they pull others into it. But that is their expertize, they come out as winners, all the rest as losers. It is an easy, instant victory, as they are ‘at home’ in the drama, they defeat others with ease, and this grows their self-confidence and validates the existence of their Fake Self. But they also create drama in order to solve it themselves eagerly with a big fuss, and of course they can be celebrated for the success. Or sometimes they need only the drama itself and they do not care about the consequences. They let others to clean up the mess they created. But drama is important because it means attention. In the movie Flynn chooses this last way. He creates the unnecessary drama and let the twins to be captured and take the fall.
One of the biggest similarities between Gothel and Flynn is that both of them are terribly vain. Gothel wants to live forever and stay young and beautiful. She even kidnaps a baby to reach her plan. Flynn is always bothered by the look of his nose on the ‘wanted’ posters. ‘Normal criminals’ would be happy not to be easily recognized, but he is more vain than cautious.
One more huge feature of the narcissistic character – the most common one – is lying. And they believe that everybody else lies too as in judging others, the point of departure is always themselves. What we have inside that’s what we can give to to others, and that’s what we attract also. Narcissists are liars, they attract more lying and they expect lying because that’s what they do themselves also.
Rapunzel’s whole life is a big lie, Gothel lies to her every single day. And Rapunzel answers with lying too, she lies to Gothel but she lies to herself too. When she’s playing in the tower with Pascal and Pascal suggests to go out she replies: “Yeah, I don’t think so. I like it in here and so do you. … Oh come on Pascal, it’s not so bad in there…” However it is bad in there, because the only thing she wants is to get outside and to see the lights. She distorts her own desires and reality, pushes away her wishes to fit into her current situation. And that’s lying about reality, stating that she likes in the tower. And obviously she lies to Gothel too, about forgetting her dream to see the lights. By the above sentences Rapunzel reveals insecurity and confusion. She knows that she doesn’t like it up there, but she doesn’t want to face it, feel it. It is a sort of defense mechanism, when facing the truth is more painful then rationalize it. Rationalization means that she distorts her view and perception of her reality into something that is more favorable, than facing it and admitting that it is not good. A little later she sings about her life with the big question: when will her life begin?! This reflects her mixed up feelings that at one time she is satisfied where she is, a little later she wants something completely else. We always lie to ourselves first and then to others. In this case Rapunzel is not honest to herself by stating that she likes her situation. Gothel has done a perfect job by confusing her and making her insecure. Rapunzel is already lying to herself.
Flynn is lying too, however he tends to distort the truth, or does not omit the truth, or just part of it. The ideal example is when he leaves the twins down in the gap and they ask him to help them up. He replies: “Sorry, my hands are full.” And this is pretty true, but still the intention behind it is bad, because with this sentence he is actually breaking his promise. He is lying but also telling the truth at the same time, perfect example of confusion and untraceable way of behavior.
As a matter of fact, he has no respect for promises and trust. A very obvious evidence is when he admits it to Rapunzel this way:
“Rapunzel – So I have made the decision to trust you.
Flynn – A horrible decision, really.”
In a way actually he is honest with Rapunzel because he knows that he is not the man to be trusted. But again, he is not straight with the girl, because he does not say: do not trust me, but he leaves it to Rapunzel to decide to trust him anyway or not. He does not take responsibility for the choice, he warned the girl, his hands are clean. We tend to miss these red flags, when we actually get a very important information, a warning from the narcissist himself, but we do not pay attention.
Later, when Rapunzel tries to make him believe that she keeps her promises, Flynn does not believe her.
The point of departure is himself, and he knows he is not trustworthy and in return he does not trust anyone also. Instead of making the deal which might be favorable for the both of them, he still keeps an eye on his profit only. He tries to seduce Rapunzel, because on that field he is at home, he would most likely win. But walking the false and guilty road – playing the ‘Smolder’ – is more likely an option for him.
(The song and the pictures from the “Tangled” animated movie used in this analysis are property of Walt Disney Animation Studios and Walt Disney Pictures and are used for educational purposes (fair use and no commercial gain intended).)