Monday, May 26, 2014

The Glass Princess

The Glass Princess          Or
“A Fairytale you can’t read to your kid, but if you paraphrased it and took out all of the inappropriate digressions and language, they would probably enjoy.”

Once upon… whatever, you know the format…
There was a Princess named Crystal
Of course her name is Crystal. It totally had to be Crystal. Which is SO on the fucking nose, if you didn’t already realize it. This IS after all a fairytale called “The Glass Princess,” that level of obviousness is just derigeur. Think about it – Cinderella? Puh-leeze! Maleficent? Fractionally better. Prince Charming? Honestly? My birth certificate might as well read “Snarky Writer.” So yeah, her frikkin’ name is Crystal.
And her parents, the King and Queen died. Deal with it.[1]
So Crystal, who is still too young to take the throne – is taken care of by her aunt, the evil witch Sathar.[2] Sathar had been second in line to her brother to take the throne until Crystal was born, but blah blah blah… line of succession dee blah… the kid screwed it up for her. Hell, Sathar was probably responsible for the King and Queen’s death, but that’s not really important – all it serves in the narrative is to make her more evil, but that ought not be necessary because her name is frikkin’ Sathar and names don’t come more wicked than that… except maybe Maleficent – gotta give Mauswitz that one.  Either way, Sathar could only have grown up to be a witch or to lead a death metal band. Given that this happened in the early 19th Century at the most recent, there wouldn’t have been a lot of amplification around, so the latter was extremely unlikely.
Soooo… parents die, evil witch becomes the Regent and one day not too much later Crystal is mysteriously turned into glass… Gee, I wonder how that happened?
But for some reason, Crystal, despite being having been turned into an amorphous solid is still mobile and sentient. And for some other reason that subscribes to the fairytale logic of “maybe if we ignore it, no one will question it” – rather than just kill Crystal outright when nobody is paying attention (it worked for Richard the III), Sathar decided that it was best to turn the only person between her and the throne into something really fragile and just hope that she would do herself in by random chance while descending stairs in an over-tired state. Just go with it – I could probably make sense of it if I really cared.[3]
Fortunately someone really close to Crystal – possibly sentient piece of furniture, or a talking animal, or maybe just a strict but fun-loving nanny with a really amusing song with lots of nonsense words at the beginning of the second act – had the good sense (and for some reason the authority) to confine Crystal to her bedroom for… well, ever. And then the whole place was covered in wall to wall carpets and tapestries and every chair was upholstered in thickly padded chenille, or something similarly unthreatening.
Crystal spends the next few years locked up in a padded room for her own good… and it is boring, so I’m only taking up this one mention of it. It sucks for her and it would suck for us if we were burdened with the details.
But, lucky Crystal, her aunt Sathar is cool – or pretends to be. Sathar feels her pain. Being a proto-Goth, Sathar understands the tedium and goes out of her way to bring some fun into the little glass girl’s world.
After years of waiting in vain for the kid to trip and shatter, Sathar starts sneaking up to her room in the middle of the night and bringing her down to the Great Hall to play on its hard marble floors.  And somehow Crystal always seems to barely avoid disaster ‘cause she is plucky, lucky and dextrous. Sathar encourages her to let her spirit free, to be bold and adventurous… but when that fails to get results night after night Sathar really starts to lose her shit.[4]
Sometime around here the Kingdom is visited by the Prince of Somewherelseistan who is on tour with his band or looking for eligible princesses[5] or conducting important trade talks (‘cause that is exactly what every children’s story needs is a good section about commerce – just ask George Lucas.) One night, struck by a bout of sleeplessness[6] the wandering Prince heard noise from the Great Hall and he came to watch from a loge.[7] He became immediately entranced by the transparent Princess[8] as she chased a rubber ball across the floor of the hall. So he watched her from above night after night – which in modern times would be creepy and borderline illegal, but in antiquity was romantic.[9] 
Then one night Sathar had had enough and got fed up. She waited until Crystal was standing in front of the window and ran at her with her arms outstretched – apparently she had no magic in her repertoire that would provide a solid nudge.[10] The Prince watching from above saw what was happening and gasped. Crystal heard him and looked up, distracting herself from the rubber ball which she stepped on and fell over, cracking her cheek on the marble. Sathar, arriving at the empty space where Crystal had been moments before, tripped on her niece and went tumbling out the window… again conveniently lacking appropriate magic to prevent herself from toppling to her grizzly death a hundred feet below on the rocks.
The Prince rushed to Crystal’s side.[11] She took one look at him and the improbable meeting of hearts (AKA “lust”) occurred again, just in time to neatly wrap up the narrative in a convenient little bow.
The Prince kissed her see-through lips and…. Okay now that I’ve used those words – “see-through” – I realize I never addressed how Crystal dressed.  Its not specifically germane, and thus I didn’t really think of it. But if she was practically invisible one would have to wonder how much she cared about what she wore.[12] And that would become immediately relevant when the Prince kissed her because, as always happens, that disrupts the magic and poof Crystal is suddenly transformed back into a normal girl… but with a cute little dimple where her cheek got cracked. No details after this matter whatsoever until we get to…
Happily Ever After.

[1] Yeah, it’s the oldest cliché in the fairytale universe, but here’s the thing – reality check – it has to be that way. In most cases at least. If the parents were in the picture, either they would solve the issue or there never would have been an issue in the first place. Snow White. Mom lives? No evil queen marries into the family. Ditto with Cinderella. Frozen? If Mom and Dad are around to solve the dispute then the film doesn’t happen… or they are the worst parents ever.
[2] Chances are you didn’t “get” that. But assuming you did… Yay Star Frontiers! I miss that game. I went looking for an appropriate evil name for the villain and an unanticipated detour landed me on a website about Star Frontiers.
[3] Okay, okay! Something like: “Everyone in the kingdom would know that Sathar was the number one suspect, and once she had been exposed as a murderer she would be forced to abdicate the throne (to the number three person in the line of succession who otherwise has SFA to do with this story.)” Of course that does leave the question open of why Crystal’s aunt, the witch went entirely without suspicion when Crystal mysteriously was turned into a block of glass.
[4] In private, of course.
[5] I totally want to pluralize “princesses” as “princessii” even though there is absolutely no grammatical sense to it. It could just as erroneously be “princessa” or “princessae” or “princessatae” or “princesseax” or “princeves” or “princessieus” or “princessera” or “princesseries” or “princesseren” or STOP! Just stop it. Stop. …Thank you.
[6] Not unlike the insomnia that is spawning this tale.
[7] Loge - /lōZH/ - noun: a private box or balcony enclosure in a theater. Origin – mid 18th C. French.
[8] No clumsy metaphor intended.  It simply isn’t there to be had… but if someone doing a screen adaptation can make it work; Hey, more power to ya!
[9] This may be somewhat deconstructionist, but Frozen already let the air out of the “love at first sight” trope. So I’m stuck with either blantantly retreading that single example, or acquiescing to the demands of the genre… which is also by definition retreading – and in so doing actually copying far more works than the single outlier. Funny, that.
[10] This would not have been an issue for a Jedi.  However, on the other side of the coin, there is no Jedi Mind Trick that will turn anyone into glass, so circumstances would have never got to this point. Force-choking on the other hand….
[11] Which if you think about it, probably took an agonizingly long time due to the architectural vagries of classical castle construction, but only takes a moment on the page or courtesy of non-linear editing software.
[12] It has been pointed out, quite rightly, that I dropped the ball here. Of course Crystal is clothed. Its a frikkin’ marketing opportunity. The Mouse House wouldn’t have made that error.  Every single one of their princesses has a TM’ed look that withdraws cash or credit directly from the pockets of the parents of four year old girls everywhere.  Of course Crystal has her own unique dress… but I can guarantee it isn’t cellophane with clear trim.