There are a few more missing Princes in the Disney line-up that I want to discuss this week. The first few are the result of a shift in Disney storytelling. These princes are not the goal of the Princess’s story, but the problem to be overcome. Shocking, I know, but the women in these stories decided that they could do better.
What an odd collection of boys. There is nothing inherently wrong with them. They each have personality quirks that take some getting used to, but they aren’t bad people. The problem is what they represent to Merida. She doesn’t want to get married and settle down. She doesn’t want to have her future determined by a random competition. Most importantly, she doesn’t want to spend her life with someone she barely knows. In an unexpected turn of events, the princes agree with her!
None of these young men are particularly interested in Merida romantically. They believe, like her, that love is more important than tradition. They each step up by the end to voice their support of her and of the change that she wants to make. As they sail off back to their homes, there is no sense that romance is in the air. There is, however, an implication that these three young men have formed bonds of their own that will strengthen the relationships between the clans. The model has shifted to everyone’s benefit.
In Prince Hans, we get a prince who is actually a villain. Unlike the suitors, he gives every impression of being the stereotypical Disney Prince. He is handsome, well spoken, and has a great singing voice. He and Anna fall in love after a random encounter and a romantic duet. He is precisely the Prince that we are expecting. Midway through the film, his behavior shifts. He seems less interested in helping Anna than solidifying his own power in the kingdom while she is gone. This behavior escalates until he reveals his true nature. Instead of being the romantic hero, Hans is actually the villain of the piece. He leaves Anna to die, cold and alone, as he attempts his coup. It was surprising. We never suspect the lead tenor will be the villain, let alone the movie’s one and only Prince. As one could expect in a Disney movie he is defeated, but he has changed permanently what it means to be a Prince.
With the addition of these non-romantic characters, Disney has given a freedom to storytellers. The Princesses have been given new and changing roles, and finally so have the Princes. They can be good, bad, or anywhere in between. They are not always motivated by the Princess’s story-line. They have ideas, goals, and plans that may or may not involve rescuing or falling in love. To my mind, this makes them more interesting. While these four may not be ‘official’ they have advanced what it means to be a Prince. The movies can only be better served with by men with greater depth of character.