Growing up there were a few films I watched over and over, and no matter how many times I saw them I never seemed to get sick of them. Two of these films were The Princess Diaries (2001) and the sequel film The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement (2004). Both films center around a young girl named Mia Thermopolis who finds out that she is the heir to the throne of Genovia, a small European kingdom.
In The Princess Diaries Mia is awkward and clumsy with frizzy, uncontrollable hair and glasses. Due to this she is unpopular and is frequently mocked for these things at school by the popular kids. On Mia’s 16th birthday her grandmother, whom she has never met, comes to visit and tells her that her deceased father was the Crown Prince of Genovia, meaning her grandmother is Queen Clarisse Renaldi. Her grandmother then reveals that Mia is the heir to the throne and next in line to rule since her father has passed away. All of this comes as a shock to Mia and she resists the idea of her being a princess at all, because while not completely happy with her life, she is comfortable and loves being “invisible” because it is one of the things that she is best at. Despite her contempt, her mother convinces her to attend “princess lessons” by her grandmother until the Genovian Independence Day Ball where she has to decide whether she will actually ascend the throne or not. The rest of the film follows her learning how to be a princess and dealing with issues with how it affects her life, ultimately concluding with her deciding to ascend the throne.
In The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement it is five years later and Mia has just graduated college and arrives in Genovia where she is to learn the duties of a queen by being by her grandmother’s side while waiting for her to step down as Queen. Shortly after her 21st birthday, the parliament decides that she has one month to find a husband or she can not become Queen. On top of this a scheming parliament member is trying to get his nephew, Nicholas, to take the throne and devises a plan to have Nicholas woo Mia so that she will not find a husband by the end of the month. The rest of the film follows Mia dealing with getting engaged to a man she barely knows and avoiding Nicholas and his uncle’s sabotages, all while figuring out how to be a Queen. The film ends with Mia calling off her wedding and convincing parliament that she does not have to have a husband to rule, ending with Mia becoming Queen as a single woman.
While watching these movies as a child I did not put much thought into the underlying messages of them. After re-watching them I realize how much the framework of Marxism outlined in Peter Barry’s Beginning Theory plays into the movies. Marxism comes from the ideas of the German philosopher Karl Marx and has to do with the economy influencing day to day decisions and our abilities to make such decisions. As well, it has to do with the struggle of power between different social classes. Throughout both movies money and power control aspects of Mia’s life as she goes from an everyday teen to a Queen causing the movies to say a lot under this framework.
In The Princess Diaries Mia starts out as an unpopular, nerdy girl putting her at the bottom of the social order at her high school. The popular people constantly make fun of her and she is known to be “invisible”, even getting sat on repeatedly. She has no power.
Then when she is told that she is the Princess of Genovia she must decide whether to stay in the comfort of her current low-class life or become upper-class royalty with the power to rule an entire country. In Beginning Theory Barry states that Marxism views progress as “coming about through the struggle for power between different social classes. This view of history as class struggle…regards it as ‘motored’ by the competition for economic, social, and political advantage” (Barry 106). A scene that describes this struggle between the social classes is at 1:22:25 into the movie when Mia and her best friend Lilly are talking about why Mia should be a princess. Lilly confides to Mia that she views being a princess as a “miracle” because now Mia has the power to affect change, or for Marxism to make progress, something Lilly wants to do herself but does not have the power to do so being a normal teen. In addition to this, at 1:41:45 it correlates back to this talk when Mia is giving her acceptance speech to be the Princess. Mia says “If I were Princess of Genovia then my thoughts and the thoughts of people smarter than me would be much better heard, and just maybe those thoughts could be turned into actions.” When she chooses to become upper-class royalty she does so in order to have the power or the “economic, social, and political advantage” to be able to reach and help more people than just herself.
In The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement, Mia is now Princess of Genovia and living as upper-class royalty. Despite this, she still is experiencing class struggles relating to power. The whole film follows her trying to find a husband in order to still be in her economic, social, and political position, and she makes decisions based on this. A scene that shows this is at 1:20:58 into the movie. Mia and the man she plans to marry in order to become Queen kiss and admit that they do not have a spark together, but together decide to continue with the wedding so that Mia may still become Queen.
In Beginning Theory Barry discusses how Marxism was inspired by French socialist thinking that believed “the pursuit of individual economic self-interest would bring economic and social benefits to the whole of society” (Barry 107). Mia marrying the man she does not love is her “economic self-interest”. Then at the end of the movie when she does not go through with it and makes a speech to Parliament persuading them to grant her and future generations the right to ascend the throne without a husband, Mia and her society both benefit.
In conclusion, Marxism plays a big role in both The Princess Diaries and The Princess Diaries: Royal Engagement. Mia goes from powerless loser to powerful Queen, and because of her power she is able to affect change in the societies of which she lives.