“When you tell a child that there’s no room in this world for different kinds of stories, you’re telling them that there’s no room for different kids of children.”
Ali Scher was kind enough to let us review her award-winning short film, “The Maiden and the Princess,” which challenges conventional notions of what is right and wrong in our world and what should be challenged for the sake of humanity and personal growth. In this humorous and childlike narrative, we meet Emmy, a young girl growing up in a community that clearly does not acknowledge or appreciate other ways of understanding and seeing the world. She quickly matures as she’s thrown into a fairy tale land and learns lessons of life, love and her own acceptance of her actions.
After Nicole and I watched the film, she questioned whether or not this story would have a different meaning if it was about boys kissing boys? She goes on to say that Emmy is battling both a prejudice against same-sex love AND a power structure that is all male, personified by the Fairy Tale Committee’s patriarchal status-quo. A story dealing with a boy kissing a boy would be different in that the boy is not battling for greater power but rather seen as forsaking his power. If the main character were a boy, the concerns would be about him breaking the norms of male behavior, losing his maleness. I agree, and that is why I find Hammond’s character so interesting. Hammond is a charming, outgoing and endearingly rebelious member of the old-school Fairy Tale Committee. He is the only one who wants to change the age-old tales to make them personal and relevant. Additionally, he strips his privilege as a male and a council member of the ruling body to identify and help the marginalized and misunderstood. He sacrifices every power he has to help those who have no one else to relate to to find others to connect with. Yet in this plot, it still requires a man to grant the maiden and the princess their “lesbianism.”
On another note, as Nicole points out, Emmy is not shown with any particular traits that indicate she is crossing the gender line from being a girl to boy. There is never a concern that she is “too boy-like,” only that she is going against the grain as far as interacting with her peers is concerned. She doesn’t seem to have any resentment about being female or any desire to become a Prince. As Nicole elaborates, she reflects that, “this is rather interesting to me. I expected that she would have to compromise; I expected that she would have to take the Prince’s place, instead of carving out her own place. But Emmy as a character not only rejects the idea that she has to change, she even causes the world to change around her. She does gain strength as a character, but not by giving up her female self. Her character evolves to have self-confidence/self-respect and no longer feels the need to lie or deny her emotions to conform to other people’s expectations. WOW. Check that sentence out again. This is a heavy message hidden in a seemingly simplistic story. It’s not just, “Never be ashamed of yourself,” it’s also, “Don’t feel the need to change yourself. In fact, change others’ opinions.””
Nicole and I both agree that “The Maiden and the Princess'” message comes through as clearly as Emmy’s determined voice at the end saying, “It was NOT an accident!” No part of this film was a creative coincidence or even gives the audience a chance of interpreting a different meaning than what is presented. The theme is straight-forward and should be. After all, this is a political movie.
Personally, my biggest pet peeve though was how frustrating the gender-typing of the maiden’s and the princess’ gender roles were! I was hoping for something more energetic and proactive in the name of love! When the maiden gets pushed down, all she can say is “help me!” and it is Hammond who comes to the rescue. Where’s the empowerment in that! As much as I liked the film, I wanted to see the adult women being functional role models for Emmy, not just love-struck lesbians.
Nonetheless, “The Maiden and the Princess” deserves the many reviews and awards it received for going outside the box to get the message of tolerance and acceptance across and that is so important!
*The film is not available for free streaming online since it’s being submitted to festivals. To contact Ali Scher check out their Facebook page!