Hulu's The Princess: Forced Feminism or Trend Setter
Hulu's The Princess breaks damsel in distress tropes, but does it do a good job?
Starring Joey King, The Princess is a Hulu original movie. The movie begins with the titular princess waking handcuffed and dressed for a wedding. Flashbacks reveal she backed out of an arranged marriage, and her angry suitor, Julius, captured the royal family in an attempt to take the throne.
Despite her introduction, the audience quickly realizes she is not a regular princess in a family-friendly movie as she promptly breaks her thumb to remove one of her shackles and kills the two guards in charge of watching her.
As an audience, we’ve seen breaks to the damsel in distress trope before with Fiona from Shrek, Merida from Brave, and even Rapunzel from Tangled. However, each trope deviation is within the confines of a family-friendly movie. Fiona sings to kill her breakfast, Merida is a capable archer but still falls prey to a witch, and Rapunzel remains willingly trapped for eighteen years before finally escaping her tower. These princesses were subtle breaks of the damsel of distress trope. None of them had the R rating of The Princess, where there is no reason to shy away from just how badass the lead character is. The Princess is a fairytale movie where the princess has a minimum kill count of 10 men, including a knight in shining armor.
The action-packed movie is undoubtedly filled with violence and gore and lacks nuance with its feminist message. Some may argue that feminist-forward movies often force-feed their intentions to viewers, which is the case with this film. However, I don’t necessarily see that as a bad thing. There are countless movies characterizing men as powerful leaders, great warriors, and just about anything that makes an interesting main character. In contrast, women are girlfriends, unimportant side characters, or catalysts to help the main male character achieve his objective for the plot. I see no issue in creating a good or bad movie that does not shy from feminist messaging and paints men and women in different lights.
Although the film heavily relies on an original showcase of a damsel of distress, it still contains many other overused stereotypes. The weak king who longs for a male heir. The foreigners who train the warrior but have no personality traits or backstory. The mindless henchmen want gold, power, and women but are frankly useless. The beautiful girlfriend nobody respects because of her sex appeal and connection to a powerful man. The queen who tries to think for herself but is otherwise helpless.
The Princess is a silly approach to take for a movie of this style. This approach can be interpreted in two ways; As a light-hearted introduction to more action-packed feminist-forward films or a movie so outrageously unrealistic that it’s laughable to think of a woman acting like that. It’s up to the viewer to decide which they believe was the intention.
Personally, this weird subgenre of the movie with moments equating the memorable ‘tis but a scratch’ from Monty Python or weirdly placed moments similar to those in Robin Hood Men in Tights is just not for me. It provides a good chuckle and aims to start a movie trend that I believe is worth having, but it is otherwise a movie I wouldn’t watch again. I almost didn’t even watch it, but Twitter had lots to say, so I had to form my own opinion.
So, it all comes down to one question. Did The Princess do a good job altering the damsel in distress trope and making a feminist forward movie?
The Princess didn’t even have a name and barely said a word between her grunt and scream-filled fight scenes, so my consensus is as follows:
Eh, they tried.
Stream The Princess on Hulu.