Maya and the Three Is a Typical Modern Princess Show, But Is That Really a Good Thing?

When I first saw the trailer for Netflix's Maya and the Three, it looked like the most generic modern princess show I'd ever seen. Now that I've actually watched it... I feel pretty much the same. Though not produced by Disney, this show takes all the modern-age princess tropes that Disney developed over the past decade leading up to Raya and the Last Dragon and drags them out over the course of ten episodes. If you want to see what the media is currently pandering to the next generation, you need look no further than Netflix, the wokest streaming network around. Maya and the Three is produced by the same people who worked on the 2014 animated film The Book of Life and shares many of the aspects that made it both memorable and not so memorable. Like The Book of Life, Maya has a unique and creative art style inspired by Aztec, Mayan, Caribbean, and Incan influences, making it a visual feast for the eyes. Yet, its story leaves much to be desired, and its modern influences act as a hindrance to its otherwise unique form of storytelling.

Maya and the Three Poster

My biggest issue with Maya and the Three stems from one of the show's greatest strengths--its character designs. The level of creativity in this show can give Disney a run for its money, right down to its gimmicky occasional breaking of the aspect ratio bars. Despite such a heavily stylized look, the animators failed to consider the physics of their whimsical world. The women are built like little toothpicks, while the men are massive brick houses. That would have worked okay if the show wasn't trying to establish (like many other modern princess properties) that women are just as strong, if not stronger, than men, especially those born into royalty. That makes the opening scene of tiny little Maya beating up a world-renowned fighter who is at least ten times her size feel campy instead of empowering, even in a world filled with magic. In fact, Maya is so tiny in comparison to the other characters that I thought she was an eight-year-old girl until several episodes in when it was revealed that she was supposed to be eighteen. Her childish appearance made the romantic aspect of the show feel even more awkward in a story that was already bloated with other characters and subplots.

I can't blame Maya and the Three for ruining princess culture. That has been a slow and ongoing process for at least a decade. I can, however, blame it for pandering to it and exacerbating the process. I did not find this show as problematic as the live-action Mulan remake since Maya is willing to ask for help from the "three" warriors referenced in the title. Still, it is difficult to take her seriously when she appears to be a small child leading a group of gargantuan fully-grown warriors. Some of this could be explained by the truth behind Maya's origins, which is revealed early in the show, but it never establishes whether or not that is actually the reason that her physical ability is not reflected in her appearance. Still, the series proves that not all hope is lost for modern princess culture. It demonstrates the benefits of modern princess stories just as much as the faults. Maya shares more in common with Elena of Avalor than just her Mesoamerican heritage. Both are strong leaders who understand the importance of teamwork and must occasionally make amends for their own shortcomings, which are all positive lessons for children. However, Maya is less feminine than Elena overall, which furthers the more problematic aspects of modern-day princess culture, even after studies have proven that feminine heroines actually have a positive impact on the development of young girls.

The story behind Maya and the Three may not have been so bad if I hadn't already seen so many similar properties within the past year or two. It has a lot in common with Raya and the Last Dragon with the concept of a warrior princess needing to gather a colorful cast of companions from various lands in order to form a team powerful enough to save her kingdom. There were a few surprises that gave the show some heartwarming moments, such as the reason her kingdom was being threatened, which leads back to the age-old tradition of princesses as targets. It may have worked better as a movie than a series because so much of it felt like filler or just animators showing off. I realize the irony of this statement since I thought Raya and the Last Dragon was too rushed to develop its large cast of warrior companions, but I didn't care enough about Maya's companions to desire extended episodes about their backstories. As much as I liked that show included a romance for the princess heroine, even that felt underwhelming and superficial.

Maya and the Three succeeds as a perfect time capsule of what fairy tale princesses are supposed to be like in the 2020s. For that very reason, it cannot stand on its own as a great show. The mythology and creativity behind it are certainly impressive but are not enough to make up for how obviously the series panders to modern feminist ideals. Even the twist ending demonstrates this lack of attention to creativity with its innovative concept that is so rushed in the form of a voiceover that it never gets the opportunity to leave the impact that it was meant to. Maybe I'm too old-fashioned to truly appreciate these types of stories, but I still find it difficult to relate to a 50-pound girl who is capable of beating up a 500-pound brute.

Comments

1. It's interesting you mention Elena Of Avalor given how Silvia Olivas, the story editor and co-executive producer of that series, fills these same roles here. Even ignoring target audience difference, you do bring up a good point in how Elena is more in touch with her feminine side, probably because there's more time to show this side off.

2. Even ignoring the fact this is a streaming show, and can thus be more story driven, the show is quite different from El Tigre. While Jorge Gutierrez and his wife Sandra Equihua are involved in both shows, he created El Tigre with Sandra, while with Maya And The Three, she plays a big role, but Jorge is the sole creator even if he has a lot of women working on the show.

3. One of Jorge's frequent collaborators since El Tigre is Doug Langdale (a producer and writer here) , who's had some experience with royalty. He created Dave The Barbarian and is one of the showrunners for Cleopatra In Space, a show that also stars a tomboy princess. Granted Cleo is different from Maya in how she does look more like a 15 year old, and is more in touch with her feminine side.
PrincessContent said…
Hello again! Happy late New Year to you <3

I’m glad you decide to watch this since I was curious to know what you thought of it.
Now, it’s been a while sense I’ve seen with this so I might remember things wrong.

I do remember liking the show and being entertained. The animation is fantastic and the designs are unique and fun.
But there were moments where I thought the story was a bit sloppy and confusing in some details. Like you I also got confused by the main character age and how her demigod powers worked. She was also so annoying at times. People who find Merida annoying for her “not wanna be a princess”-rants, they would drop dead from Mayas rants!

I get one of the idea was that she was suppose to start out as a brat and then learn how lucky she actually is. I remember the White Ghost girl calling her out when she starts ranting and Maya does realize that she has lived a pretty nice life. But it feels pretty empty since she quickly falls into her arrogant attitude again.

Anyway, it’s time for some princess recommendations!

First is a book newly published by an instagram artist called flora.forager.
She, along with many other things, makes tiny dresses for fairies out of flowers. Along with those photos she wrote the fairy journals and it’s now it’s own book! I highly recommend it <3
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09PM63D5N/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_taft_p1_i0

Second, have you seen the trailer for the movie called Belle? It’s an anime retelling of Beauty and the Beast and it looks stunning! I honestly think it looks like it could be that type of princess story you long for <3
Here’s the teaser and longer trailer for it.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iqt8tzH4c6Y
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-l-nWz6dhE8

Here’s also a lovely scene/music video for the movie that shows more of its fairytale inspiration.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z_NAoBkZlIw

I hope you have a lovely day! <3
Lisa Dawn said…
Merida was pretty annoying when Brave came out in 2012, but now she seems rather tame compared to other female protagonists over the past decade or so. After her movie aired, women being bratty and entitled and beating all the boys at their own games became the standard. That's why I felt like Maya was such a stereotype for this era. Merida was at least unique for her time, but she's still my least favorite Disney Princess. And yes, the White Ghost calling out Maya on her behavior was one of the best scenes in the show.

I saw that Belle was playing at the theater where I got tickets to see The King's Daughter, but I didn't want to look into it because I'm already seeing a movie later in the week. Now that you've shown me all this footage, I might need to see both. I was very excited that The King's Daughter is finally coming out after so many years in flux.

Happy late New Year to you as well!
PrincessContent said…
I agree on what you say about Merida. Plus Merida changed and had learned a lot by the end of her story. Maya however, it felt like she didn’t really learn anything. She was still bratty until the very end.

Oh! I didn’t know that The King’s Daughter is coming out! Finally!
I hope it’s good. I doubt that the movie will show up in theaters here in Sweden, or at least in the theater where I live. It’s a small one that only shows movies they know draw a crowd. So I’ll have to wait for dvd or streaming. Probably for Belle too xD But I hope you get to have a great time <3

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