In Retrospect: Princess Protection Program

So, as a few of you may have noticed (but probably not), a new page has been added to my header. This new page will be the home of my brand new series, In Retrospect. In this series, I will be taking a look back at things I liked when I was younger (books, singers/bands, movies, TV shows, and more) and seeing if they still hold up. For the sake of this series, I’m defining “younger” as anywhere from my childhood to my high school years. A wide range, but that just means I have more potential content to cover.

Today, I’m taking us back to the summer after tenth grade, when a little Disney Channel Original Movie premiered called Princess Protection Program.

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Starring then-best friends Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez, this movie was a dream come true for 16-year-old me. I loved both of them in those days  (though I’ve always preferred Demi), so seeing them in a movie together was great. And I loved this movie. As soon as it was released on DVD, I bought myself a copy. That’s devotion— they played that movie on TV all the time.

The movie follows two girls, Carter Mason, a shy tomboy who hates all things princess, and Rosalinda Montoya Fiore, crown princess of a small country in Latin America. When Rosalinda’s country is overtaken by the militant leader of a nearby country, she is whisked away by an agent of the Princess Protection Program until it’s safe for her to return. This agent just-so-happens to be Carter’s dad. Rosalinda becomes Rosie Gonzalez, Carter’s “cousin.” The two must learn to appreciate the other and form a bond that can’t be broken.

Pretty standard for a DCOM, but does it hold up? Ultimately… I have to say no. But why? I mean, plenty of DCOMs are quality films. Why doesn’t this one work?

Well, I can think of a few pretty solid reasons why. In fact, I’ve been thinking about them for a few years (I even once wrote a fanfiction that fixed a lot of these issues, but I ain’t sharing that shit). So, here are five years why I think this movie fails:

  1. I’m going to start off with my smallest gripe— why did they make Rosie look so… white? I know there was this whole thing where Disney made Demi lighten her hair (at least, at first) to appear more “wholesome,” but Rosie is a full-blooded Latina. It just seems like they didn’t play up that part of Demi’s heritage and I think it comes at a slight (very slight) detriment to the character. Again, not a big deal, but something that rubs me the wrong way nonetheless.
  2. The takeover of Costa Luna was embarrassingly laughable. It’s Disney Channel, so of course they’re not going to have a full-fledged siege (which my fanfiction did!), but to have General Kane just waltz in and declare himself the leader of Costa Luna? On what authority? I mean, why in the hell did that work? Surely there’s something in between a bloody siege and some dude saying “This is mine now.” Just… terrible writing.
  3. So, the mean girls… they’re your standard, obligatory mean girls. Would’ve liked some more nuance, but whatever. I don’t care that much about them. What I do care about is something they do. Later in the movie, one of the mean girls (I cannot for the life of me remember their names) is working on a Spanish project. She finds a Spanish-language magazine where it is revealed that Rosie is really Princess Rosalinda and her mother is currently being held hostage in jail. The gravity of this situation is lost on no one. But instead of saying, “This is above my pay grade,” she and the other mean girl use this information to blackmail Rosie into backing out of the running for Homecoming Queen. I just– WHAT?! This makes no sense. What bully is going to add political intrigue and the threat of assassination?! Needless to say, I cut this whole part out of my fanfiction. This is some straight nonsense.
  4. Where is Rosie’s character development? Carter grows by leaps and bounds, but Rosie stays pretty much the same the whole time. She’s always kind, accommodating, and strong. She’s a natural-born leader, easily drawing people to her through her genuineness. The only thing that changes is that now she knows how to act like an “average American teen.” Oh, and now she has a new bestie. But other than that? Rosie is utterly unchanged from beginning to end. If one of your main characters doesn’t even have an arc, your movie has automatically failed.
  5. My biggest issue with this movie is kind of a personal one, but also the most obvious— how are these two not canonically in love? I mean, their chemistry is off the charts! This isn’t a story of friendship— this is a story of lesbians! Watch this movie and tell me I’m wrong. I dare you! (And yes, my PPP fanfiction is a lesbian love story. Thanks for asking.) And don’t give me that, “It’s Disney. They would never make a lesbian movie, especially not in 2009.” 1. Get out of here with your logic. No one asked for it. 2. They’ve since made a main character on one of their shows (Andie Mack, if you were curious) canonically and explicitly gay, so… there. 3. THEY WERE IN LOVE, DAMN YOU. Princess Protection Program? More like Princess Lesbian Program… yeah.

So, that’s why I think Disney Channel’s 2009 DCOM Princess Protection Program doesn’t hold up. Does that mean I won’t watch it again? Hell no! I still have mad nostalgia for that movie. But I see its glaring flaws in a way I didn’t as a teen. And hey, maybe someday I will share that fanfiction. (Fun fact: I was going to link it to this post (even after I said I wouldn’t), but it turns out I deleted the page. So, haha! No fanfiction for you!) All in all, this isn’t one of Disney Channel’s most memorable movies. Their gayest, sure. But not anything more.

Got any requests for my next In Retrospect post? Let me know in the comments!

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