Princeless appeals to all my feminist sensibilities. And while I’ve thus far made an attempt to keep these sensibilities out of my reviews (and into the ratings), I’m breaking my rule (But really, I named my blog Ms.Comix. Perhaps quiet feminism wasn’t ever in the plans). So here’s the compromise. Let me first present you with an analytical review of Princeless. Then, allow me to unleash the feminist. Deal?
Princeless conveys its main plot quite explicitly in its name alone. A young woman, a princess named Adrienne, is locked away in a tall tower. But she’s unlike the princesses of your typical fairytale. Adrienne decides she doesn’t want to wait around for a prince, so she befriends the dragon guarding her tower and saves herself. Now, she’s on a quest to save all her sisters.
The plot is unique (I’ve certainly never read anything like it before), but the concept of a fairytale parody (think Enchanted) is borderline cliché. However, this cliché is forgiven pretty quickly, as the art compels. The lively yet cool color pallet sets a tone in accordance with the pithy, light writing style. The large panels, sometimes full page in size, create a more casual reading experience.
What I enjoy most about Princeless is the characterization. Adrienne is the kick-butt type, and it works. She’s loud, opinionated, and clever. And she’s surrounded by an equally dynamic cast—a prince who seems to have a thing for frogs, a brother who enjoys the beauty of words, and a girlfriend who is half dwarf and can wield an impossibly massive hammer. In short, the characters of Princeless are not cardboard cutouts or anything close to it.
Expect a pleasant ride when you pick up issue one (and don’t expect you’ll be content to stop there!). Princeless is enjoyable, casual, and simple enough for children yet profound enough to touch upon issues most comics simply ignore.
And that’s where the feminist comes in.
Here’s my thought process when it comes to fiction: A writer has the power to shape an alternate reality. She has the ability to create a better world, to not take the real world’s social conventions as a given. A writer has the power to undo stereotypes. Yet, very few writers of fiction recognize this power.
I have read far too many fantasies that accept society’s stereotypes as given. If you have the chance to create a whole new world, why are your female characters old hags, bitchy villains, innocent young lovers, or caring mothers? (If you need an example, read the Eragon series. Why are the village women always so…domesticated?) Why not seize upon this opportunity to cast women in nuanced roles that more accurately portray their potential, roles that denounce the stereotypes of a patriarchal society?
Princeless, happily, does seize this opportunity. Princeless (perhaps even to the point of potentially harming its plot and characterization) constantly questions women’s role in this fantasy world.
“I don’t need a hero or a prince or anyone else!” states Adrienne. And when presented with the so-called armor (e.g. chainmail bikinis) of a woman warrior, the princess declares what women in the real world (and especially women who read comics!) so often believe, “Just because I have a woman’s body doesn’t mean I have to show it to everyone! Especially if I’m on a quest. Why can’t I just be a hero?”
I want my little sister to read this comic. I want my future daughter to read this comic. I want you to go out and read this comic and then go out and read this comic to the little girl or boy in your life.
Let’s start undoing stereotypes!
Princeless is currently available through Diamond (in stores everywhere!). Additionally, it is available digitally on graphic.ly at http://graphicly.com/search?q=princeless.
% Panels Devoted to Women
Okay, I’m not counting. Too many. (Don’t you love when that happens?). Let’s say…98%.
Women in Action
★★★Women often participate in plot-moving action.
Um, yeah, like constantly.
Women as Leaders
★★★Women often lead the other characters.
Women as Sex Objects
★★★Women are depicted as sexy (or their sex is not emphasized at all), but their allure does not define their purpose as a prominent, plot-moving character in the comic.
Adrienne’s a pretty girl. That’s all there is to it. She’s not oversexualized at all. (Expect, of course, when she has to wear a Wonder-Woman-esque outfit and is catcalled by some of the king’s men. But that was to make a point.)
Men Deviating from Male Stereotypes
★★★Men deviate dramatically from the male stereotype. They express their emotions, use creativity, and think of others.
Adrienne’s brother for example. Can’t swing a sword to save his life, but he knows a good book when he sees one.