The Princess Paradox

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ILLUSTRATION FOR TIME BY MICHELLE CHANG

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There's something a little have-your-tiara-and-disdain-it-too about making your protagonists ambivalent about the very fantasy that people paid $9 to see them live out. But that may make the fantasy more palatable to parents and filmmakers: men and, especially, women who are educated professionals. "I don't want to sound like an archfeminist," says Sherry Lansing, chairman of Paramount, which produced Prince, "but it really is important that it imparts contemporary values. It's a good love that allows both people to remain whole in it." Still, the fantasy couple that this earnestness yields in Prince is more yuppie than romantic: she, committing to years of med school; he, giving up his love of car racing to strap on a necktie and negotiate labor disputes. Goodbye, Chuck and Di; hello, Abbey and Jed Bartlet.

But it's easy for someone who has been through college to say a diploma and career are not cure-alls. The movies' audience of young girls makes the filmmakers much more message conscious — at least as far as the girls are concerned. The princes in these stories have fewer options than their Cinderellas. Edvard and Charmont are both reluctant to become king, but they learn, through the love of a good woman, to mature into the role and use it for good. The girls fight to control their destiny; the boys good-naturedly learn to accept theirs. Of course, they're not the target audience. "It's nice to have something that's not toxic or repellent to men," says Nina Jacobson, a top executive at Disney (Diaries' studio). "But we know we don't need guys to make a movie like that successful." You just need a feisty girl, a prophylactic dose of skepticism and a fabulous ball gown — about which no ambivalence is necessary.

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