February 28th, 2017


Dissecting Enchanted

I got about 4,000 words written on the new thing yesterday, but I’m not entirely happy with what I have, and it will need a bit of fixing before I can move forward. I’m not sure these are things I can let stay the way they are and fix on the second round because the foundation has to be right before I can go on. Fortunately, some new stuff came to me last night that I think will help. It even makes sense in the light of day, so that’s good.

I got into a bit of discussion yesterday on Facebook about the movie Enchanted. It’s one of my favorites, a real “happy place” movie, something I pull out when I need a mood lift or am just wanting something silly and fun. I noticed that my interest starts to wane about two thirds through the movie, and I realized that this happens every time. I’m totally involved through most of it, and then right at the time Giselle and her prince are reunited, I find myself reaching for my knitting, picking up a book, or checking e-mail.

Because if it’s worth analyzing, it’s worth overanalyzing, I’ve been thinking about this (since it’s good to know why someone’s attention might wane in a story). Spoilers ahead for a nearly 10-year-old movie.

A lot of it has to do with the fact that there aren’t any real musical numbers after that point (other than the singer providing music for the ball). In fact, there’s an aborted musical number that marks that point — the prince begins singing a romantic duet, and Giselle doesn’t join in, leaving him hanging. I love musicals, and James Marsden has a glorious voice that I wanted to hear more of, so I was disappointed that we didn’t get a real musical number with him. At the same time (and related to this), this is the moment when Giselle goes from being the fish out of water to the “straight man.” The prince then kind of has the role Giselle was playing earlier, while she’s the one who knows the city. An ordinary perky girl who’s at home in her surroundings isn’t nearly as much fun as a full-on Disney princess unleashed in modern New York. I don’t want to see her being normal.

But I also have a lot of problems with the romantic plots — and I recognize that this isn’t universal, that the story works for a lot of people, and it even worked for me the first time I saw the movie, and apologies if I’m about to ruin it for you.

Part of it is that supposedly one of the “lessons” is that you can’t just fall in love instantly. You shouldn’t marry the guy you just met the day before. You need to spend some time getting to know him first. But Giselle didn’t know Lawyer Guy for much longer than she knew the prince before she decided to stay in New York. Meanwhile, Lawyer Guy was with a woman for five years without committing to her, so I suppose they’re also saying that he just wasn’t that into her? Are they advocating a happy medium — one day isn’t long enough, five years is too long. Maybe three days is okay? But then the prince and the ex run off and get married immediately. Are they wrong?

Part of it is that I really feel bad for the prince. In that scene where he’s singing and she doesn’t join in, I become Team Prince. The poor guy has just spent the last couple of days desperately trying to find and save her. In real-life relationship terms, she’s not obligated to love him just because of what he does for her, but in this case, she was expecting him to come for her and save her. That was what she had the fight with Lawyer Guy about the night before when she realized that Lawyer Guy made her feel hot and bothered. So then the prince shows up, having done what she expected him to do, and she’s disappointed. He goes along with her request to go on a date, and it looks like he’s been enthusiastic about that, has really enjoyed his time, and on the same level of enthusiasm that Giselle brings to everything. He’s not at all cynical. There’s nothing in their interaction that even suggests that they aren’t really a good match. They didn’t make him a bad guy, which is nice, but him being a good guy who seems like a good match for her makes her rejection of him kind of weird, especially given her interactions with Lawyer Guy. They spend all their time together berating each other over their worldviews and lifestyle choices. Yeah, he changes, so I guess he’s not quite as critical of her as he once was, but we don’t see them spending a lot of time together being happy and enjoying the same things. Once we’re getting the idea that they have feelings for each other, they barely interact until the climactic scene at the ball. Instead, she spends that time with the prince and with the daughter. It really looks like she wants to stay because she likes New York and the daughter more than because she likes the guy.

And then they Pair the Spares, matching up Lawyer Guy’s driven career-woman ex up with the prince at first sight, probably so we won’t think the main couple are jerks for ditching their present relationships in mid-date to be with each other. If the exes get a happily ever after, then it wasn’t so bad.

I feel like they either needed to show that once the prince and Giselle actually got to know each other they realized that they were incompatible or they needed to make the prince a borderline villain rather than a clueless buffoon (he was really no more clueless than Giselle — in fact, he coped rather well on his own in New York, without having the native guide and local support that she had). And they needed to show more compatibility with Lawyer Guy, more middle ground where they weren’t criticizing each other. Or they could have just let the fairy tale characters learn some lessons from the New Yorkers, and vice versa, and let the established couples remain together, but in a different way. What would it look like for a fairy tale prince and princess to go on a date in New York? What would they talk about? What might they bring back to their kingdom to change their society? And meanwhile the cynical New Yorkers could start living out a fairy tale romance in their city.

Also, as many times as I’ve walked through Central Park, I’ve never run across a musical number and I’m very disappointed in this. Maybe I’ll start one the next time I’m there.