And 'The Princess Switch' is about willfully deceiving the ones you love :)
|Dec 8||Public post|
I thought about starting TATBT's Christmas coverage with a Hallmark Countdown to Christmas classic; after all, there's Pride, Prejudice, and Mistletoe (lady Darcy!!!), Mingle All the Way (Christmas-themed dating app!!!), and A Shoe Addict's Christmas (bow to your queen, Candace Camerone Bure!!!) to choose from.
I thought of ranking Netflix's six new original Christmas movies. I thought about a lot of things while I watched these films, and my mind was given ever so much space to wander during dampness-free snowball fights and horseback rides through blizzards wearing nothing more than a blazer…
But then I watched a certain little Netflix number and I realized — what are we doing here? Obviously nothing is going to beat The Princess Switch.
Netflix saw Hallmark's official entry into the ironic pop culture zeitgeist as Americans sought any form of formulaic comfort last year, and they said: Oh, you've been doing this for decades with nothing but love for the genre in your heart, a nondenominational prayer to Santa in your hands, and the budget of an upper middle class 9th grader whose parents are trying to teach them some fiscal responsibility? Well TOO BAD — we're about to make the Stefon skit of Christmas movies.
This Princess Switch has everything: two Vanessa Hudgenses, two fictional nations, a baking competition, a doppelganger switch, swoon-worthy royals; plus fluffy ass snow banks for a-fallin’, an omniscient child wise beyond her years, an omnipotent old man whose ability to transcend time and space is never explained who is definitely not Santa, and of course: orphans in need of presents.
Most importantly, The Princess Switch has what I've realized over two seasons of research into original Christmas programming is the most vital Christmas movie trope of them all: emotional manipulation, lies, deceit, and confusion of the innocent.
These movies will tell you that the "real meaning of Christmas" is love; they will tell you it is friendship; they will tell you it is family; they will put the label of Christmas on any number of vague ideas throughout a 90-minute runtime, like, "The true meaning of Christmas is progress," or "What better time for considering the concept of retirement than Christmas," or "Christmas is all about compromise."
And then there’s the matter of what Christmas is not about: Christmas is definitely not about presents (but the idea of anyone not having presents on Christmas will send any number of former Full House or Party of Five or Hangin' With Mr. Cooper stars into raving hysterics). Christmas is not about big houses; it's not about being perfect or making money or wearing appropriate cold-weather layers. It most certainly is not a about the birth of Jesus Christ, and don't you dare suggest it…
For its part, The Princess Switch makes two things abundantly clear: Christmas is about heterosexual romantic love. And it is not about "gestures."
But that's what these movies tell you with words. What they tells you with plot and action is that if your holiday relationship is not built on equal parts whirlwind romance and grandiose lies, it is simply not a love worth making.
Whether it’s Danny Glover creating an elaborate Truman-Show-style set-up on a train, or a rich lady pretending she's your best friend of 15 years so that you’re suddenly falling in love with her, even though you've only ever felt platonically toward her before because she used to be such a stickler for the rules, but now she spontaneously pulls you into snowbanks…the love of Christmas movies is based on a fake-snow mountain of deceit.
But Christmas isn't about honesty! It is, for some reason, according to every modern Christmas movie I've ever seen, entirely about establishing romantic love at any costs. So let's back up:
Despite my reservations about the execution, in theory alone, The Princess Switch calls for perfection by calling on a truly exemplary "thank u, next” line-up: The Parent Trap, The Princess Diaries, and Barbie as the Princess and the Pauper.
Vanessa Hudgens plays Stacy DeNovo (Hallie/Mia/Pauper Barbie, as it were), a baker and small business owner from Chicago who looks and acts exactly like Gabriella from High School Musical. Vanessa Hudgens has not aged in a decade, and her voice has possibly gotten even younger. But whenever I need a good cry (thrice weekly), I think about Vanessa slaying "There Are Worse Things I Could Do" as Rizzo in Grease: Live mere hours after finding out her father had passed away — and after that performance, I would follow her to the ends of the earth.
So color me shocked when I briefly thought I was going to have to hate Vanessa Hudgens. See, Stacy has a heterosexual male best friend of 15 years, Kevin, who is her baker sous chef, and they are definitely not fucking, so don't even ask.
Well, unless you're Kevin's adorable daughter Olivia, who asks her dad repeatedly why she won't make this nice, pretty, stable female presence her new mom. And listen, as a haver of many platonic relationships with men, I am a firm believer that men and women can be friends…
Buuuut, maybe not if you’re both single, hot, and each other's only friend for 15 years. Y'all gon' look at each other sideways one time real quick, and find yourself in a precarious position. And hey, maybe that's happened, Kevin just isn't telling a 10-year-old about it. What he does tell Olivia, is that Stacy is great, she simply isn't his type because she's "kind of intense" whereas he is more spontaneous.
Spoiler alert: Kevin ultimately falls in love with a woman who looks exactly like his best friend, but is less intense, and does this not go against everything that Hallmark movies have ever taught us???
Given what I’ve learned on the Hallmark Channel, I was under the impression that all women are uptight, Type-A, workaholic harpies only redeemed by their love of Christmas…and all men are sentient flannel beards who live in their hometowns and patiently await the return of an intense women so that they can opposite-attract to each other…and she can pretend that going from being an interior designer in New York City to a boutique owner in Bumfuck, Kansas will be totally fulfilling, and his life can go on as normal but now featuring a sentient flannel non-beard as his wife…
But I guess—this isn't Hallmark. This is Netflix, and not only will they bend the laws of reason and propriety to bring romantic love to two different Vanessa Hudgenses at Christmastime, they will also throw the binding laws of Hallmark out with the spoiled eggnog.
Aaaaanyway, Stacy actually does prove herself to be intense and entirely unlovable when adorable Kevin and adorable Olivia inform her that after her breakup with "Paul" they wanted to cheer her up, so they submitted an application to her very favorite baking competition, and now the fictional country of Belgravia is begging to pay for her to come compete in their televised cake competition.
And Stacy DeNovo looks at the golden embossed invitation, and into the sparkling eyes of tiny Olivia and whines:
Apparently Christmas was a very special time for Stacy and her ex "Paul," so she just doesn’t feel up for an all-expenses paid vacation and chance to become an internationally-recognized baker.
But when Stacy runs into "Paul" just moments later with his new girlfriend on their way home for Christmas with his family, Stacy is suddenly inspired to inform "Paul" that she also has big plans: an all-expenses paid trip to Belgravia for their famous Christmas baking competition where she will become an internationally-recognized baker.
And that's when I decide I can like Stacy again, no matter the psychological torture she willfully unleashes against my new boyfriend, Kevin. Because I don't like ungrateful lovelorn dummies, but I do stan a petty queen doing the right thing for the wrong reasons. So whatever, let's go to Belgravia, Stacy, bring your stupid hat!
Oh you're already on it…