I can’t say that I was exempt from that desire of wanting to be a princess when I was a little kid. It’s something I grew out of, but at the same time, I can’t help but imagine what it would be like to wear a tiara and live a fairy tale life – no matter how unrealistic that is in the real world. With The Princess Diaries, Disney is at work with what it does best: create a charming princess story that every girl can dream of, yet also relate to on some level.
The first time I heard about The Princess Diaries was during a promo they aired on TV showing the makeover scene. My dad had yelled me to come into the living room because the scene included a part where the stylist was combing through Mia Thermopolis’s huge frizzy hair and the brush broke. It was something I could relate to, also exhibiting a big curly puff atop my own head.
Mia Thermopolis, a frumpily dressed, self-conscious and boy-crushing teenager, gets the news of a lifetime when her grandmother visits to tell her that she is the heir to the throne in the home country of Genovia.
Mia was Anne Hathaway’s breakout role, solidifying her as the girl next door. With a megawatt smile like Julia Roberts and the acting chops to hold her own opposite the legend Julie Andrews, Hathaway brought a clumsy grace to Mia Thermopolis. Through the character, she channelled some meaningful moments that most teens recognize. Sure, the insecurities that come learning that your grandma is a queen and one day you’ll be running a country are probably tenfold. Arguably for teens, every life change, big or small, feels like the greatest or worst thing that has ever happened. I know I sure felt that way.
In its signature Disney way, The Princess Diaries accomplishes all that, in addition to some cute comedic moments. The silly stuff is entertaining, but the message of believing in yourself rings the strongest throughout the film. Even the romance tied into the plot embraces that message. Of course, the princess must find her prince – which, yeah, isn’t completely necessary. Yet in this case, she finds the guy who always believed in her before she was a princess and had a makeover. It also takes a moment to show how important friendship is and how valuing those connections can ultimately allow you to become a better leader.
The Princess Diaries is nothing groundbreaking on a universal scale. It’s a sweet teen romance with a positive message for its intended audience. For people like me who saw this movie as teen when it was released, it meant something more. It was a modern princess story to admire and dream about, and it wasn’t just about getting a boy, but about running the world.