I first met my personal heroine, Mia Thermopolis, on my eighth birthday at a movie theater in Ohio.
I enjoyed the film adaptation of The Princess Diaries well enough, but the magic really began a few months later when I picked up the book that inspired the movie, embarking headlong into an adolescence full of adventures with Princess Amelia Mignonette Grimaldi Thermopolis Renaldo, or Mia for short.
The Princess Diaries, with its bright pink covers and female lead, fits into a genre called “chick lit.” (Embarrassed,I often pulled the pink dust jackets off my books before taking them to school as a child.) Chick lit, the stereotype says, is mindless fluff reserved for women and girls, or colloquially, “chicks.” Boys don’t have their own gender designated genre, because society considers their experiences the standard. Everyone reads boys books, but only girls read girl books.
This, my friends, is ridiculous, and it was Princess Mia that taught me as much.
Girls’ interests are not less “serious” by default. Mia wrote about her love of Greenpeace and her path towards Jungian self-actualization. But she also wrote about school dances, sleepovers, and her favorite movies. When Mia wrote so seriously and passionately about everything in her life, I saw that I could care about things that are often coded as feminine and, by extension, silly.
Mia also taught me that we can hold many truths at once. She could write about both the importance of literacy (Mia taught me that Iceland has a 99% literacy rate) and her cat, Fat Louie, swallowing socks in one diary entry. Today when my feminism, another trait I learned from Mia, requires me to hold too many heavy truths, I can follow in the princess’s footsteps and remember that when you’re trying to change the world, sometimes you have to fix the sock swallowing too.
Finally, Mia taught me that you don’t have to be completely serious all the time to be taken seriously. As she opined during her run for class president, “Give me anime or give me death!” Mia understood that when the world is stressful and you’re about to inherit the throne of a small European nation, sometimes you need a bit of self care.
I would not be who I am today without the guidance of the Princess of Genovia. Fortunately, I think the world may soon stop hiding role models like Mia away in the pink auspices of “chick lit.” Children have completely changed the rules when it comes to who they look up to. Children of all genders love Captain Marvel, Princess Elsa, or Rey from Star Wars. I hope that the young adult literature section will soon go the way of the silver screen.
I also think that Captain Marvel is super awesome, and I’m definitely seeing the Star Wars movies. But no one will ever quite eclipse Mia Thermopolis for me. Thank you Princess Amelia Mignonette Grimaldi Thermopolis Renaldo. You may be fictional, but you made a real impact on me.
Girl Museum Inc.