15 Thoughts, Feelings, and Things I Learned from The Princess Diaries

*Note: This post was originally motivated to be written two weeks ago when I had actually watched Princess Diaries. Since then, life has happened. But it’s been well over a month since my last blog post, so I figured it’s time for an update 🙂 *

I’ve decided it’s time for a happy and fun post, since my last few have been a tad more on the serious side. So, without further ado, I give you fifteen thoughts and feelings about The Princess Diaries (the Disney film from 2001, not the book by Meg Cabot).

Speaking of books vs. movies “based” on books, let’s get this one out-of-the-way:

1) Sometimes the movie just is better.

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Okay, I rarely say this, but it is true. There are a few (rare) occasions where I actually do prefer the movie to the book. In all cases, I do admit that I saw the movie first, and that may play into my feelings. Nanny Diaries, Legally Blonde-movies both were much better than their novel counterparts in my personal and humble opinion. I feel the same way about the Princess Diaries, and I am a Meg Cabot fan. All-American Girl? The book where the 15-year-old stops an attempted assassination on the President of the United States and then winds up falling in love with his son? Great book. I’d love to see that book made into a movie. With all that said though, I’m a big fan of the Disney-ized late 90s/early 2000s G-rated film version of the Princess Diaries (the first one…let’s not discuss the sequel…shudder) probably because…

2) It’s my grandma’s and mine movie.

As a dear friend of mine would say, “Some people have a song, but we have a movie.” And that is true for me and my circle of friends, and including some relatives, especially my grandmother. My grandma and I bonded over two movies whilst I grew up: the 1982 version of Annie (which we watched on repeat a lot and inspired me to audition for the role of Pepper when my high school put it on) and the Princess Diaries. We saw it in the theater, and loved it. She never complained when we re-watched these movies over and over again. She always enjoyed them and laughed out loud at hers and mine favorite parts. I love my grandma, and I love that I have these memories with her that will stand the test of time long after she’s gone.  It’s also kind of cool because the whole granddaughter/grandmother story line makes me extra sentimental upon re watching.  I saw myself as Mia and my grandmother as classy as the Queen, which brings me to my next point…

3) Julie Andrews Rules (kinda…somewhat literally)

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I had seen the Sound of Music prior to Princess Diaries, but I didn’t really get how awesome Julie Andrews was until the Princess Diaries. She was just so…classy, and proper and well spoken, and had this fantastic sound to her voice. At eleven years old she made a very big impact on me, and for the longest time after first seeing the movie, when someone said “Queen” I thought Genovia and thought of Julie Andrews (now I think of the music group, but that’s another story).  Aside from Julie Andrews, another reason why I think I love the movie so much (and why it did so well) was because of…

4) Anne Hathaway was destined to be a star.

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Anne Hathaway played 15-year-old Mia Thermapolis, and she did a darn good job (she was actually 19-years-old during filming). I completely believed her portrayal of awkward and shy Mia, and couldn’t help but like her and resonate with her (maybe because I had started my own awkward ugly duckling phase…which didn’t end until about seven years later). She kind of became my hero. I know a lot of girls that thought of animated Disney princesses as their heroes, but aside from Ariel (I only wanted to be her because she was a mermaid) Mia gave me real-life girl to respect, admire, and in a way, be a role model. Honestly, the movie is nothing super special (it hurts me to say it, but it is true-though better Disney fare than what we have seen as of late), but Anne Hathaway brought Mia to life in a way that makes the movie overall better. Looking back, noticing all the nuances she did, the non verbals she conducted, the subtle expressions-it’s no wonder she has now gone on to win an Oscar she most rightly deserved.

5) Hector Elizondo gets typecast as the cool, kind, and wise secondary character…but he’s just so good at it.

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Part of it may be his connection to Garry Marshall, who did direct the Princess Diaries (and who I have a loveish-likeish-hatish relationship with when it comes to his chick flicks), but Hector, who played Joe, is just so good at this type of role it would almost be insulting to not cast him. He makes bald stylish, his one liners come off smooth and hilarious, and he delivers cheesy dialogue in a way that comes off as compelling and philosophical. Plus, he has fantastic chemistry with Anne and Julie, and that is undeniable.

6) All best friends have secret handshakes.

I was quite envious I didn’t have an awesome hand-shake-complete-with-spitting ritual. It’s something I have to live with on a daily basis that it hasn’t quite happened…yet. Speaking of best friends…

7) Its portrayal of friendship (and phony friends) is kinda spot on.

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From Lily being the whiny, over dramatic best friend to Lana being the fake girl who relentlessly teases Mia, it gave an accurate depiction of the kind of people you meet, befriend, work with and have to deal with in life. I love my friends, but we have had our dramatic fights over stupid things, and I have had friends I thought were my friends only pretend to be my friends for one reason or another. It’s the nature of “girl world” and this movie was a good prerequisite to Mean Girls, that really delved into how horrible my kind (and people in general) can be to one other.

8) Forgiveness comes in the form of pizza with M&Ms on top.

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Michael was Lily’s brother who crushed heavily on Mia throughout the entire movie. It was quite obvious he was into her, and actually upon re-watching it tonight, it really annoyed me how she practically threw the door wide open for him to ask her out and he chickened out, only to then have his feelings hurt when she blows him off to go on a date with the Backstreet Boy Clone (more on that later.) That part annoyed me, because when I was eleven-years old, I felt bad for him. Now, at the wise (insert rolling eyes) age of 23, I think he had no right to be annoyed. She asked if getting pizza was a date, he said no. Her crush asks her out, she says yes and rain “dates” him. Sorry pal, but she moved on because you made her think YOU WEREN’T INTERESTED. And then she has to beg for his forgiveness….

But she did do it in a cute way, and did show me that actions do indeed sometimes speak louder than words (even though the pizza did have a word on it). But kind, thoughtful gestures can go the distance where just a verbal “sorry” won’t cut it.

(Even though she didn’t have to apologize in the first place…but I digress 😉

9) I’m very okay with Josh emulating the Backstreet Boys.

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Granted he didn’t don a ridiculous overcoat and serenade Mia at any point, but Erik Von Detten did have a very Carter feel about him, and his pants were firmly planted at an appropriate resting place. He was obsessed with hair gel and his ego, but even though he was a complete tool, he was still like-able enough (and semi-attractive enough…I never really liked him or Michael in all honesty-I thought Jeremiah was the cute one but I digress again) that you could see why someone as smart as Mia could still swoon by his boyish charm.

Plus, he gets hit in the balls.  A gag that has been over-used, but in the context of this movie, completely hilarious and rightfully deserved.

10) Physical comedy is done well in this movie.

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Part of the reason Mia is so believe-able as an uber klutz is because she has actual klutzy moments. Remember when she fell on the bleachers? That wasn’t in the script, Anne Hathaway is actually laughing, and Lily is genuinely concerned when she asks if Mia is okay. Put that with all the other silly moments-breaking a finger off a statue, getting feet stuck in a volleyball net, falling over oneself while putting on pantyhose in the backseat of a limo, setting a man on fire followed by brain freeze-a very human element was added to the overall film. Slapstick has been done and done again, but Anne does it well, and instead of looking misplaced rounded out her character with every ouch and misstep.

11) Make overs are owned by Paulo.

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Paulo is one of the highlights of the movie, and one of the few things good about the sequel (think: moose).  And, say what you want about make overs in movies, but this one actually had a point. Honestly, if you look really close at Anne, the beauty was there all along. All they did was take away the glasses so you could actually see her natural beauty (her face-she had been using the glasses to hide and taking them away forced her to face the world in a different way) and add some make up to highlight her features. And regarding her fantastic mane of hair-they merely trimmed and straightened it. Why? Because she was fifteen years old, she was royalty, and she was about to be presented as the next leader of their country. With her glasses and curly hair, she did look younger, but putting her in heels, fixing her posture, adding make up and fixing her hair up nicely-she did look older. Looking older was merely another way of convincing society she was ready to rule. I like to think it wasn’t about making her “prettier”, but about making her convincing-and confident.

In addition to that speech, the montage is fantastic and fun and just one of those cheesy elements of early 2000s Disney movie that makes me smile all nostalgic like.

12) This movie made me want to live in an old refurbished firehouse (and still does).

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Everything from their quirky neighbor to Mia’s “tower”, the whole place screams alternative and artsy and funky and whimsical, making every girl in America wish their own suburban homes were that cool. Well, at least in my case.

13) The movie gives a real depiction of what being a princess is.

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Okay, so it still isn’t quite accurate and probably still a little too dreamy and fictional when compared to real royals, but I appreciate the fact that they at least point out that being a princess is a job, and really more about politics than about tiaras and fancy balls. Something that isn’t always addressed when young girls say they want to be a princess someday. Upon re-watching, it really made me understand why Mia struggled with her decision-she would be taking on a huge responsibility for the rest of her life! Maybe she wanted to be a vet or a psychologist, but instead she has to decide at fifteen her entire future. That’s pretty heavy, and if someone told me I was royal and had to rule right now, I would probably go through similar feelings and emotions. It changed my view point on princesses, to something that looked more like respect than envy.

14) Oddly female empowering.

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The men are all dead (granted, patriarchs tend to get killed off in Disney films-tis the Disney way) but the king and next in line Prince have since passed away, which leaves the women to deal with the mess their country is in. But! You never once question that the Queen is not fully capable of dealing with this public relations nightmare and the future of her country-she oozes confidence and leadership, something she shares with the future princess. And it is really interesting to see Mia go from a shy teenager who gets sick at the thought of public speaking to a young woman putting others before herself in ways most girls (and boys) don’t even do once they enter adult hood. Granted, there is the side story of her changing love interest, but to be fair, she is only fifteen. I remember fifteen-I thought boys were the whole world, as sexist as that sounds. But what’s great about the movie, is Mia realizes they aren’t the whole world. There is a big world out there and it needs help, and after a chat with her best friend and letter from her late father, Mia comes to terms with that, and it again comes into play in the second film (that I try to forget about). At the end of the movie, despite being very young, she accepts major power and responsibility, and to the wonderfully fitting and epic song “Miracles Happen” by some artist we have all forgotten, maturely steps into her role as princess, which leads me to my final point.

15) If Mia can become princess, then I can face my own fears.

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Mia was terrified about being the next in line for the throne-but she faced them and took a risk. I’m a big old scaredy cat, and most of my daily decisions are not that intense. They involve what’s for lunch, which bill shall I pay today, and freaking out about interviews and what if scenarios. I need to keep myself in check, and realize that the world has bigger problems. I’m not being asked to run a freaking country, I’m not being asked to give up my dreams, I have choices to make, and the only wrong choice is to not make one at all. That is fear taking over, and that is something that this little old Disney feature reminded me-that “no one can make you feel inferior without your consent” and that choosing a path, any path, is better than standing still and going nowhere.

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