Charming and the Decline of Femininity

I've been wanting to write about Charming, an upcoming animated movie for a long time. I first heard about it at the CTN Animation Expo in 2014. However, small animation studios like 3QU tend to have trouble getting their releases off the ground. That might explain why the movie trailer dropped over a year ago without any sign of a release date and then mysteriously disappeared without a trace until last month. According to IMDB, the movie is coming out gradually in various parts of Europe over the course of the next month or so, but there is still no mention of a release date here in America. Despite its limited release, the studio was able to cast some pretty big names, including Demi Lovato, Ashley Tisdale, John Clease, Tom Kenny, and Tara Strong. At first glance, Charming looks like it's just another princess parody from the producers of Shrek, but many of the comments on the trailer revealed some strong opinions that I would like to explore further. Watch it below and form your own opinion on it before reading on.


As you can see, the trailer reveals three classic princesses--Cinderella, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty--hypnotized by a prince's curse (or blessing) to believe that they are all in love with him. That alone could make for an interesting story if it were not for the fact that the princesses are such stereotypical self-absorbed teens that they could just as easily be named Heather, Britney, and Ashley without losing much of the story. For some reason, the prince's love spell doesn't work on Demi Lovato's character, who later cross-dresses as a man and goes on various adventures with him. It's pretty clear that she is the one he will eventually end up with, thereby breaking the spell. Some people theorize that the spell might not work on her character because she might be transgender. That would be a great leap for queer princesses, but it also raises a few questions as to the romantic preferences of the two lead characters since the prince seems to enjoy the attention he gets from the girls.

The main issue with this trailer, however, is that it portrays femininity as inherently bad. The more girly the character is, the harder she seems to fall under the prince's spell and become vapid and brainwashed. This denotes an issue that the movie Legally Blonde tried to refute in 2001 that just because someone is feminine does not mean that person is automatically deemed an airhead. In truth, there has been a decline in femininity in the media, and it's most noticeable in recent princess movies. The warrior princess has taken over. Damsels in distress are seen as weak and incapable, regardless of their situation. Princesses like Wonder Woman and Moana are incapable of failure and refuse to willingly accept help, even in the most dire of circumstances. These are great stories with great heroines, but that doesn't mean that they should be the only type of story we see anymore.

Demi Lovato's character in Charming appears to be a skilled fighter who gives the prince a run for his money. If there had been a more girly character who was immune to his spell, perhaps she could have gone on the same adventures with him and learned to become a skilled fighter over time. That would create character growth, which is something that we rarely see anymore in movies. Ever since Disney bought out Marvel, most leading characters in popular films are god-like from the very beginning. It may seem like an interesting concept to have the prince fall in love with a woman who is dressed as a man without realizing it if that had not already been done in Mulan, who did not start out as a skilled fighter by any means and was not even particularly masculine. Mulan is one of my favorite Disney Princesses because she shows an incredible amount of growth throughout her story and is very easy to relate to, even if you've never fought in a war.

I'm still curious to see what Charming has to contribute to the wide world of fairy tale adaptations, and I hope that it gets a release date in America sometime this century. I like the further exploration of the idea presented in Into the Woods that if Prince Charming can charm every princess, he might not be the most worthy person of true love after all. It just makes me a little sad that femininity is becoming outdated, even within the world of princesses. There are billions of people in this world, and there should be room for all types. We don't have to put down one type of person in order to raise another up. A true princess can respect everyone's strengths, even if they are different from her own.

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