Interesting vs. Charming Prince

frozenouran

Image credit: @24_mango

So, almost like every other person with access to a movie theater, I’ve become infatuated with Frozen, though you’d more likely to find me humming the “Snowman” song as opposed to the worldwide sensation of “Let It Go.” For those of us living in the US East Coast, the scenery of the movie oh-so accurately reflects what we’ve needed to put up with these past couple of months — that is, piles of snow and bitter, unrelenting freezing winds.

Anyway, if you’ve seen the movie, you know that scene with Hans and Anna in the castle. Yes, ‘that’ scene… I don’t know what happened in your theater, but when that scene happened, there was an audible gasp in the crowd, with one brave soul loudly crying out, “asshole,” not caring that the audience was 2/3 children. I don’t know how many of them have seen the movie before and are still reacting that strongly to that scene… I was, unfortunately, spoiled for it weeks earlier (thanks tumblr!) but I kept hoping that I misunderstood; there was no way that charming Hans could be that much of a douchebag, could he?

I think it’s an interesting reflection of our times that the personality of the “Disney prince” has undergone an evolution just as much as his counterpart princess. It used to be that a guy could show up with your missing glass slipper and a smile and all would be dandy. Now, it’s not enough to be royalty and to be attractive; girls are demanding that you have to have a personality, too? Wow, times have changed.

It’s not the first time that the “good looking guy” turns out to be the baddie. Gaston was a hunk, but he turned out to be not just uncouth but evil. With Prince Hans, though, even knowing the spoiler, I couldn’t imagine him being that bad. He seemed to care for the people of Arendelle, making sure they were warm and safe from the cold. He seemed genuinely concerned for Anna, going after her when her horse returned without a rider. Of course, claiming that Anna was dead and trying to usurp the throne from Elsa are inexcusable, but would it have been really terrible if he were the king? He seemed to want the job more than Elsa does…

It’s this overall combination of qualities — of sincerity, of selflessness, of charm — that made Hans such an effective and interesting character — and that made his betrayal of these values so surprising and unforgiveable. In most cartoons, if an attractive character has a black stain on their personality, there is some small sign on their person — an unattractive quirk — that conveys to the audience that this person isn’t as perfect as they first seem. In my opinion, Hans doesn’t have that. (And yes, I’ve seen all the tumblr blogs which screencap his haughty expressions that ‘supposedly’ betray his true intentions if we or Anna were looking closely.) Maybe the more astute or sensitive of us would’ve had a bad feeling about him early on, but I admit that I was as smitten of him as my namesake in the movie.

For what it’s worth, I do appreciate this shift in how Disney characterizes the princes. I like that the heroes are a bit more complicated, that they’re not just wooden stand-ins who wield swords and rescue the princesses. If I’m a princess, there’s gotta be a reason why I’m going to like you and sing songs about you, just having a cute face isn’t going to cut it anymore.

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2 thoughts on “Interesting vs. Charming Prince

  1. Old school princes worked for their princesses in mundane ways… slay a dragon etc. I think it’s probably not as simple as what you’re saying in the sense that today’s viewers have a much more sophisticated construct in interpretation of pop culture that we separate fantasy with what passes with a sense of reality. At least that’s how I’m interpreting it.

    FWIW one woman exclaimed “I knew it” in my viewing at that scene. It was pretty clearly telegraphed but just enough to elicit that sort of a reaction.

    • But do you think the more sophisticated construct is meant for the adults (who will most probably be accompanying the kids to watch the movie) or for the kids themselves? Is the implication that, overall, as a society, even children are expected to follow the nuances of the story and come to a similar conclusion?

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