Christmas Is About 'The Princess Switch'

And 'The Princess Switch' is about willfully deceiving the ones you love :)

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…

GREAT.

Stacy, Kevin, and Olivia's arrival in Belgravia brings us to our second Vanessa Hudgens character and our second fictional nation: Lady Margaret Delacourt (Annie/Queen Clarisse Renaldi/Princess Barbie, as it were), Duchess of Montenaro .

See, Lady Marge is about to marry Prince Edward of Belgravia, and she also happens to be doing a walk-through of the baking competition just as Stacy is marching off to clean up the coffee her nemesis from back in their Le Cordon Bleu days [ed. note: Le Cordon Bleu better be getting a cut for all the times their name gets used to tell us that a baker who does nothing but make fondant Santa monstrosities is really a top notch pastry chef] intentionally spilled on her.

And wouldn't you know it, Stacy and Lady Margaret run smack into each other and are all, WE LOOK EXACTLY THE SAME, THIS IS NUTS, EVERYONE COME QUICK, WE'RE ABOUT TO GO VIRAL ON TWITTERRRRRRR.

Just kidding, they ever so briefly are like, Who r u???, then stare at each other in the conveniently placed antique full-length mirror that every baking competition features prominently, and then they just…move the fuck on???? Stacy says she's participating in the competition, Margaret says she's marrying the prince, and they bid each other farewell…

Until! Three seconds later when Lady Marge has had time to formulate a full switcheroo plan, and asks Stacy to come help her test wedding cakes at the palace in an hour.

Can you even imagine how freaked out you would be if you stumbled upon someone who looked exactly like you? I'm not positive I would realize it because I think I'm about 2.5 times hotter than I really am, so I would probably just be like, who is that plucky drama teacher with the similar hair, and head right into Panera Bread without a second look. But if I did notice, I certainly would not be quick enough to think of exactly which duplicitous means I could make use her for my own benefit…

But I am no Duchess Margaret, who is exactly as hot as she thinks she is.

And who also knows nothing about the man she's about to marry, or the country he'll eventually rule. That's why she asks Stacy if she'd be down to cut her hair, throw away her free vacation, dupe her best friend and his child, and spend all her emotional energy not thinking about her upcoming baking competition, but instead, switch places with Margaret so that she can go out and…get to know Belgravia like a “normal girl”???

The upcoming nonsense is somewhat made up for by this hopefully intentional reference to The Princess Diaries' iconic "Shut. Up."

We're told by a little old man who first popped up in Chicago, then popped up in the Belgravia Christmas market, and continues to pop up everywhere without his presence ever being explained, not even a simple zoom-in on a particularly pointy pair of ears, that Duchess Margaret is "camera shy" and that's why people wouldn't see Stacy walking around in her awful Chicago hat and be like, Why is our future queen dressed like a Chicago tourist???

But then, would it not stand to reason that if no one knows what Lady Margaret looks like, then she could just…go outside in a Chicago hat on her own instead of creating a grand scheme that will ultimately wreak havoc on the psyches of two men???

Alas, Christmas is not about reason, dammit! Christmas is about L…is for the way you look at me, O…is for the only one I see, V…is very very, extraordinary, E…is even more than anyone that you adooooore — dammit!

In the perfect setup for just that very thing, Margaret assured Stacy that Prince Edward would be away during the titular princess switch, but he instead decides to stay in Belgravia and really devote some time to getting to know his fiancé, now played by Stacy DeNovo, intense Chicago baker. And somehow, a very intentional part of the plan was always for Margaret to pretend to be Stacy in front of a man who has known Stacy for 15 years…

So it's actually very gratifying when little Olivia is like: okay Stacy suddenly can't cook, can't do our secret handshake, and is shortening all of her vowels—this girl a fake! I don't know if my immediate thought would be, Stacy must have run into a royal who needed to escape to normalcy for a few days and offered her extremely mundane services, but again: I'm no Olivia, who is exactly as precocious as she thinks she is.

She's also, like, Bradley-Cooper-levels of driven to find a new mom, and if her dad isn't down to clown with Stacy, maybe he'll be interested in this fake-British-version of her?

Which brings us to the third, fourth, and final Vanessa Hudgens performances in The Princess Switch: Margaret-as-Stacy; and Stacy-as-Margaret, where Vanessa truly flourishes. Because it makes perfect sense that Stacy-from-Chicago would have a very bad fake-British accent while trying to imitate Margaret-from-Montenaro, which is not a real country.

But no one except Olivia notices! To be fair, Prince Edward never really knew Margaret, but now that he's getting to know Stacy-as-Margaret and realizing their shared love of schedules [ed. note: you better be reading that in a fake-British accent!] this prince is ready to fuuuuuuuck. There is, however, no reason that Margaret and Stacy couldn't clue Kevin in on this switcheroo. But reason is not why we're here…

We are here for makeover montages; we're here for Kevin, Olivia, and Margaret-as-Stacy taking a photo with Santa that he later puts into a locket for her Christmas gift that I very much cried at; we're here for Stacy saying "smashing!" when she's trying to sound Montenarian (???) and Margaret saying "super duper!" when she's trying to sound American; we're here for Stacy falling head first off a horse she doesn't know how to ride and not dying, and Margaret foolishly exclaiming "I've never been to a toy store!"

We are most definitely here for Stacy falling in love with Prince Edward because he repeatedly tells her that she reminds him of his grandmother, and Margaret falling in love with Kevin because two days into this trip, he comes into her room saying he forgot to pack his toothpaste looking like a whole Christmas dinner (with apparently despicable oral hygiene):

So naturally, the night they're set to switcheroo-back-to-normal, both women kiss both men that they're actively lying to, and then are like, I shouldn't have done that! Now, for Prince Edward, this is fine, because Margaret will just come back and be a little less rigid and convince him to bring less presents to less orphanages, and he'll probably be none the wiser…

But Kevin — poor Kevin — has become convinced over the last two days that he's falling in love with his best friend who has only felt platonically about for 15 years, and it seems like she's falling in love with him too, and now she's just about to flip back to regular Stacy who regularly talks about him like he's a her bumbling sidekick dog.

That's…emotional torture???

After Margaret-as-Stacy kisses Kevin, she's like, "Forget this ever happened," and he's like "Okay, sure, no prob!"

And the next day at the baking competition when he asks Stacy-as-Stacy to talk about what happened last night, she's all "Let's talk about it on the plane," and Kevin is all, "Okaysurenoprob!"

  1. Kevin, I love ya pal, I am a very spontaneous woman who would be happy to loan you some toothpaste *if you know what I mean* but maybe a little less time developing the abs, and a little more time on the self-actualization and realizing that your feelings are valid and important, okay buddy?

  2. WHAT WERE YOU GOING TO SAY TO HIM ON THE PLANE, STACY!? Oh yeah, that was actually Lady Margaret Delacourt, Duchess of Montenaro that you were falling in love with, and I lied to you about it, and now I'm taking you away from her on this plane, and you will have absolutely no access to her to be able to tell her your real feelings, and I’ll probably be a real nightmare to be around because I’m also leaving behind the man I love in wherever the hell we just were... We still cool though??? WILL YOU STILL BE MY BAKERY SOUS CHEF WHICH IS DEFINITELY A THING???

But there's no time to think about moral ramifications of willful deceit! Stacy and Kevin have a baking competition to win! It should be pretty easy though, because even though the cake they make is pretty basic, some of the other ones we catch in passing are just…literal tinsel trees.

Listen, I get it though: Stranger Things ain't cheap. Netflix had to cut some corners somewhere, and The Princess Switch is a peeeerfect circle.

Even though Stacy and Margaret both acknowledge that they've fallen in love with the other's male counterpart, they for some reason decide to just blaze ahead without so much as a consideration for the men who have also fallen in love with them, saying they have to go back to their normal lives.

The baking competition must go on! I'm not even going to get into how Stacy's former Cordon Bleu [ed. note: hahahahahahaha] nemesis cuts the cord to Stacy's KitchenAid stand mixer in order to sabotage her, and Stacy and Kevin don't even notice until they need to puree some berries while standing, like, 12 fully baked cakes that they apparently mixed by hand…

But while Stacy and Kevin are baking, Margaret sees the truly heinous family crest that Edward gifted Stacy-as-Margaret, realizes…I don't know, something, and decides to tell Edward the truth before they have to go to the baking competition to hand out the awards and he realizes something is up anyway.   

And you guys, if you can believe this, no one is mad about the deceit. Well, except Stacy, who for some reason is very resistant to the idea of a prince being in love with her, and wanting to be with her instead of consciously living a lie with her duplicitous, unrelated twin.

Oh wait, I know the reason! Stacy likes schedules and structure! This is character development! They did it, it worked — I now see that Stacy doesn’t deserve Kevin or Prince Edward who are…detrimentally understanding as to why these women would have lied to them for the entire duration of them falling in love. BUT, OH WELL…

Because Christmas is about love! It is not about gestures! It is about real, bonafide, hardcore PROPOSALS OF MARRIAGE INTO MONARCHY AFTER TWO DAYS OF KNOWING EACH OTHER.

And the craziest part of this is not that Prince Edward proposes or that Stacy DeNovo of Chicago says yes after two days of knowing each other, but that Netflix gave up the opportunity for a sequel and just plunged straight ahead into the wedding???

I fully hated this, and I would watch, like…100 more. But don't worry: where there are non-related twins, there are plenty of opportunity for sequels.

See you back here in 2019 for A Very Kevin Wedding ("Do you take this Duchess to be your bride?" "Okay, sure, no problem!"). And next week for more 12 Deceitful Days of Christmas; a glorious return to 90 Day Fiancé; and—gird your loins—BACHELOR BIO BREAKDOWNS!!! It truly is the most wonderful time of the year.