Monday, November 22, 2010

The Princess Diaries

This is just your classic story of an average girl that finds out that she's a princess. Ho-hum, really. It happens every day. One day, she's a normal kid from Greenwich Village. The next day, her dad is taking her out for dinner and casually saying, "Hey, my illegitimate doll. Remember how I'm a politician in a nearly invisible European country? Replace 'politician' with 'crown prince.' Now that, as you like to bring up, I've been castrated because of my testicular cancer thus rendering me barren, you seem like an okay choice for the next monarch of Genovia. And I'm going to be irritated if you become emotional at this life-changing news. People really should take learning that they're a prince or princess with a little more grace."

Mia is at that awkward pubescent phase where she's tall and gangly and flat chested. And she never lets you forget it. Being physically awkward means she'll never be able to rule Genovia or have relationshps of any consequence. She even makes to-do lists about it and everything else going on in her life. They go a little something like this:

  1. Grow boobs. My entire self-worth is wrapped up in my bra. Must fill it immediately.
  2. Stop failing algebra. Even though my second X-chromosome is carrying the fail-algebra gene. Whatevs.
  3. Become the monarch of a small country. Now that my dad is sterile, I'm suddenly good enough to be revealed to the Genovian people and trusted to govern all twelve of the citizens.
  4. Join Greenpeace. I'm a vegetarian and animal rights activist. My support of Greenpeace is considerably less controversial than if I were to support PETA. It's still has enough of a dirty hippie stench, though, to infuriate my fur coat lovin' Grandmere.
  5. Be irritated with my mom, a stereotypical artist--flaky, irresponsible, and having unprotected sex with my algebra teacher.
  6. Achieve self-actualization.
Clearly, this girl deserves the Judy Blume Award for Awkward Puberty. I'm sure Tina Fey would agree.

Becoming a princess isn't all unicorns and rainbows, though. Mia has to take princess lessons with her Grandmere. Awesome, right? She has to know about influential women and how to handle the paparazzi and which fork to use when. It's all very stressful. Especially when you're trying to pass algebra.

Because this is a princess story, Mia has to be gorgeous. So Grandmere pulls a She's All That on Mia. There was a literary montage. Mia's frizzy hair was de-frizzed. It destroys everything that Mia is--awkward and gawky.

Mia's hairdresser leaks her princess status to the media. All hell breaks loose. Lilly drops Mia as friend. Because, y'know, the founders of Genovia really should have taken Lilly's feelings about monarchies into account. The entire school goes crazy for Mia. Suddenly, she's popular. Lana and Josh Richter, the most popular couple in school, are talking to her!

Shortly thereafter, Josh Richter breaks up with Lana. To only turn around and ask Mia out! This couldn't possibly go wrong, right? They are supposed to go to the Cultural Diversity Dance the very next night! Grandmere pulls some strings and Mia gets a rockin' Chanel dress for the event. (I felt pretty baller rockin' Betsey Johnson at prom. Mia just fashion shamed me. And in the ninth grade! For the Cultural Diversity Dance!) Josh takes Mia to Tavern on the Green for a shit-ton of champagne. I do refuse to believe that the servers were oblivious to the fact that they were serving fifteen to seventeen-year-old kids! On their way to the Cultural Diversity Dance! Josh and Mia never actually dance at the Cultural Diversity Dance. Instead, she ditches his drunk ass. As she should.

The story ties up. Mia is adjusting to being a princess. Michael Moscovitz has a very obvious crush on her. They even danced at the Cultural Diversity Ball. Lilly decides to stop being an asshole and try being a supportive friend for once.
  • Meg Cabot really knew where to hit when she wrote about a normal gawky and awkward pubescent girl who finds out that she's a princess. That's just about every little girl's dream.
  • I remember this book being much funnier the first time I read it. Maybe because I was eleven and being the hilarious princess of a small country was my back-up plan in case my Hogwarts letter got lost in the mail. (The letter was lost. I'm still waiting to find out which country I'm going to be in charge of.)
    • There are a lot of things about Meg Cabot's writing style that are fun and charming. But as soon as you start working your way through all her work it's like, 'Oh. Another to-do list with things that won't actually be done for several years. This irritates my practical nature as I take to-do lists very seriously and only realistic goals should be included on a daily to-do list. Loftier ambitions should be moved to a long-term to-do list.'
  • Boyfriend's cat is named Mia Thermopolis. He claims that his sister named her. I doubt this story.
  • I hate the Pygmalion approach to life. Girls, no one will like you and you'll be completely unsuccessful unless you partake in a dramatic make-over montage. You'll sacrifice vision in the name of losing those dorky glasses and your hair will be chemically treated within an inch of its life. Only then, will someone find you attractive and interesting. Thanks for the self-esteem boost, Mia!
  • Disney made two notable changes to the story line. They killed off Mia's dad, and they moved Mia from Manhattan to San Francisco. Disney writers seem to get off on killing off kids' parents. I understand that a kid is more likely to understand Mia's-dad-is-dead-and-thus-there-will-be-no-other-heir than Mia's-dad-has-testicular-cancer-and-thus-there-will-be-no-more-heirs. Disney got to avoid a whole awkward sex talk and appeal to younger audiences. But still. Isn't surviving cancer a lot better than dying?
  • I don't understand the relationship between Lilly and Mia. Mia gets absolutely nothing from it. From what I've gathered, Lilly is critical and enjoys feeling superior to Mia. She also plays into the obnoxious stereotype that kids of psychiatrists are qualified to psychoanalyze their friends. I won't even go into how irritated I am that Lilly makes Mia feel guilty for not having reached self-actualization. Neither has Lilly! It will take them years to achieve self-actualization, if ever! Relax!
  • It's the Cultural Diversity Dance! We just had homecoming, winterfest, and prom. None of that Cultural Diversity crap for us. Such an incredibly specific dance!


  1. Nice thorough review. I read Princess Diaries a few years ago and really enjoyed it...for all it's silliness. I got frustrated with the series as it went on though. Mia's awkwardness becomes annoying after awhile.

  2. To be frank, I think her fault lies in not ending her list with 'be awesome' which is a reasonable goal that should end all lists.

    I like the film. It has dorky people being clumsy with mild humour.

  3. I'm with Alison -- the series becomes a bit annoying after a while. But I'll read anything by Meg Cabot, and when I say anything, I mean it -- even the "Size 12 is Not Fat" series. It's because I met her in an elevator once and she was making really funny snarky remarks and she complimented my baby. It's amazing what a compliment to your baby will do.

  4. I kind of love how bitchy Lilly is. Is that wrong?

  5. I have seen the movie so many times, it's always on TV but never this book or any of Meg's books. Enjoyed your review though!

  6. Oh my. If only I hadn't gone to a lily-white school in the town of Redneckistan, maybe I, too, could have had a cultural diversity dance. Le sigh. And I'm not a friggin princess of a small country either. It totally sucked to be the middle child in a large middle class family.

    I've never read a Meg Cabot book, nor have I ever seen the Disney version of this movie.

  7. I just confused the hell out of myself because Anne Hathaway is in Ella Enchanted and The Princess Diaries and I couldn't figure out what book you were talking about for five minutes. I'm a moron. OH DUDE, can you do a review of Ella Enchanted the movie?! I remember it being absolutely craptastic and completely unlike the book.

  8. The 'I Love My Hair' video totally made my day, but also has made me feel guilty for de-frizzing myself this morning.

  9. I love this series, but you're right, it's hard to read too many in a row and not get jaded by Meg Cabot's writing. Which is too bad, because she is quite good.

    Also, SO GLAD you loved Middlesex. And now I can't wait to get to the end [Milton is in the Navy right now & Desdimona just gave her blessing to Tessie for the marriage - LOVEEEEEE!!!!!]