What happens when Disney decides to take a crack at San Francisco in 2001? The Princess Diaries. Shut up. I like Julie Andrews! And now Anne Hathaway is a legit Hollywood actress.
I’m not a Disney fan (an education at UC Berkeley will do that to you), but I don’t really think that we are this film’s target audience anyway. Admittedly, it’s hard to do the gayest town this side of the Mississippi on a G-rating, but it says something about our society when the g-word can’t even sneak into a G-movie. Case in point:
Mia’s mother gets a date with Mia’s teacher, Mr. O’Connell. Moms defends herself, arguing that “Mr. O’Connell is not married, he’s not living with anyone. Plus, he’s
not pierced, tattooed, or hair-plugged. Do you realize how rare a find
that is south of Market Street?” Also: he’s not gay. But that’s a bit too racy for our little girl audience, so we’ll just keep that one on the downlow, mmkay?
But Disney tries really, really hard to show us the San Francisco it can (minus the Castro, of course). The limo for the newly princessed Mia takes the very long way around just so that we can get enough scenery. Mia and mother live in a refurbished firehouse and have “tie-dye” trash cans (no sign of recycling though). Mia’s mother is a free-flowing artist who ties balloons of paint to her canvas and throws darts at them. Look, kids, this city is ca-razy!
The point here is that you can’t successfully represent the city under a G-rating, especially when family-friendly means gay-bashful. (Um, gays have families too, you know?) The original book series by Meg Cabot takes place in New York, but the relocation to SF allows the city to mirror the quirky character of Mia and her world.
Mia is by no means popular at her school. In fact, she and pal Lilly safely occupy the status of outcast. Lilly has crazy ugly hair, hosts her own cable show, wears a stuffed animal backpack, and petitions for Greenpeace and tofu in school lunches. Sure, there’s room for that in New York, but that sort of behavior characterizes the general whole of the Bay Area. Though Mia is less of a loudmouth, she’s still New-Agey enough. She carries soy nuts and practices yoga.
The raciest Princess Diaries gets is with a clothed crossdressing joke. Joe, Mia’s bodyguard, notes:
“Strange town, San Francisco. When I purchased the pumps, they asked if I wanted them wrapped or if I wanted to wear them.”
Hahaha. You see, ’cause they thought he was trying to…oh, I’ll explain it to you when you’re older, Mary Sue.
While the film isn’t harmful to the image of our dear city, it just isn’t right without a little rainbow pride. I mean, growing up in San Francisco and finding out you’re a princess? Please. Our citizens grow up to be queens. Zing!
Starring San Francisco is Appeal culture reporter, Christine
Borden’s, take on the city’s cinematic past to illuminate today. Have a
locally-set film you’d like to see featured? Tell her at