After seeing the latest reincarnation of Cinderella last week (very pretty, not so much with any interesting backstory added, which was what I was hoping for) it’s made me wonder: Why must we beautify our princes?
This isn’t a post about masculinity or any of that crap, it’s literally the fact that a very handsome, and very (usually) talented actor Richard Madden (The One True King of the North) was stripped of any rough edges or…dare I say it…personality. We often have a whinge about the feminist issues surrounding princesses and fairytales, and when I work with kids I think it’s my responsibility to make sure the main character is something more than just beautiful. She’s kind, or she’s clever, or she’s determined. But why aren’t we doing this for our princes?
Charming (Or Kit, as he’s actually given a name) exists as the answer to Cinders’ problems. Sure, he’s got a little drama going on with his dad wanting him to marry a princess instead of a commoner, but really, we all know the old dude’s gonna cave in, in the face of True Wuv.
I know it’s a fairytale, and that the love story is really just the icing on the cake, and I know I was probably not the main audience for this (considering the alarming number of Disney store toys that this movie has created) BUT where is the drama? Even in Enchanted, a delightful cinderella-esque story, the Prince started out as a little bit of a smug ass who had no idea what his kingdom was really like. And we liked him for that because he GREW and CHANGED as a person by the end.
Maybe it’s because Prince Charming doesn’t interest me. Don’t get me wrong, Richard Madden interests me A LOT. But where was he in this? They shaved and shined, and whitened and brightened so much that it was like a living doll version of a human. No flaws, no details, no strangeness.
My current leading lady in my WIP is someone who studied English Literature and then fairytales. She knows they’re false, that they’re stories to teach and amuse, but it’s changed the way she looks at love. No, she doesn’t want the fairytale necessarily, but everything else in the real world looks a lot less dramatic. A lot more plodding. But flaws make us who we are!
This is a lesson I’ve got to take into my own writing, as often my female leads are in a time of transition, and their male counterparts have already had their issues and now (mostly) have their shit together. Is that fair? No, but you try writing two neurosis-filled characters into a love story. You’d spend most of the time with them being awkward and apologising at each other. So I hereby declare, I’m going to allow my leading men to be dicks sometimes. Because that’s real life. And we still love people when they’re idiots.
Let’s try appreciating some flaws, Hollywood. Because that’s where all the interesting stuff is.