August 16th 2004 Disney Romance

As a huge fan of The Princess Diaries, it should be no surprise to learn that I went to see The Princess Diaries 2 yesterday (with my friend Abbey, who is cooler than all my other friends because she actually agreed to go see it with me, instead of being too cool for a rated G Disney film). Firstly, I’ll admit that, as usual, the sequel was not as good as the original. (At first, this makes me beg the question, “Why do Hollywood producers always make sequels, even when it’s apparent the sequel is never as good? But then I remember that, even if it’s not as good, foolish movie-goers such as myself still fork over money to see the sequel just to make sure it’s not as good.) The Princess Diaries 2 was way too predictable, and didn’t have the captivating energy and magic of the original. Of course, I didn’t expect a Disney movie for kids (specifically, girls aged 8-12) to be full of plot twists and other clever literary devices. Naturally I can understand the simplicity of the movie was designed to cater to the target audience, which is not white 18-year-old males. I can definitely let the lack of artistic merit present in the film slide. However, the one facet I cannot ignore is the way that Disney approaches love and romance, and portrays this approach to young audiences.

If you haven’t seen the film, the new princess of Genovia (played by Anne Hathaway) is set to take the throne within a month. Unfortunately, Parliament reminds her of an old Genovian law that requires the queen to be married. They give Princess Mia one month to find true love and marry a man. (Seems like the whole romance approach is off on the wrong foot already, eh?) Long story short, she tries to fall in love with a titled noble from Scotland, but ends up falling in love with Nicholas Devereaux, another potential heir to the throne, whose uncle is, in fact, one of the Parliament members trying to steal the throne from Mia.

While a bit cheesy, the whole arranged marriage thing seems to get fixed in the end when Mia admits she does not love Andrew Jacoby (the Scotsmen), and he admits the same. The wedding is called off at the last minute. Mia then makes a speech about how a woman shouldn’t need a man to govern well. Go Mia! Disney seems to have the whole women’s liberation thing down. So far, I’m liking this ending. Disney is demonstrating that you can’t find love in thirty days or less, and women can be empowered even without men at their side. (Queen Elizabeth’s famous quote, “I’d rather be a begger and single than a queen and married,” came to mind as I watched the film, followed shortly by Gloria Steinem’s line, “A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle.”) But then Disney just ruins everything. Nicholas comes into Mia’s throne room shortly before her coronation to basically ask her hand in marriage. What’s up with that? They’ve known each other for a month! You can’t love someone enough to marry them within a month! And therein lies my complaint with Disney: they portray love in a simplified manner, and marriage as a rash act that requires little forethought. Marriage is a big decision and should not be undertaken lightly! Is this what we want our impressionable children to be taught? That true love is something you can find in a month? Granted, there is no need to go into great detail on the issue of marriage, and romance is a concept that probably needs to be simplified in order to make it digestible by young girls aged 8-12, but it seems at least a bit unwise to portray the institute of marriage, and romance in general, as such a trivial matter, when in actuality it’s a decision that will affect the rest of your life, in one way or another. Sure, it’s cute for the princess to find her “Prince Charming” so fast, but things like that don’t work in real life. For once, it would be nice to see a film that dealt with romance in a way more true to real life.

Even so, it was still an entertaining film. I highly recommend it, especially if you like sappy love stories. I apologize in advance if this musing spoiled the ending for you, but let’s face it—anyone who’s been around the block a few times probably can guess the ending of the film after watching the first twenty minutes. While fun, we’re not exactly talking about Oscar-winning material here.