Cable television Christmastime romantic comedies are now as ubiquitous during the holiday season as Black Friday sales. Popular channels such as Lifetime and Hallmark have doubled down on the trend during the past few years. Their tried and true formula typically includes a blonde female lead, a blandly attractive male lead and a series of silly meet-cutes in either the winsome charm of small-town America or the frenetic energy of the Big City.
Late last month, Netflix jumped into the market, releasing its first Christmastime romantic comedy titled “A Christmas Prince.” And like the films before it, “A Christmas Prince” sticks to many of the same tropes that have made the seasonal sub-genre so beloved in the first place. Our blonde heroine, Amber (Rose McIver), travels to the small, picturesque and fictitious European country Aldovia and subsequently falls in love with their prince, Richard (Ben Lamb), after a meet-cute misunderstanding.
But unlike other Christmastime romantic comedies, “A Christmas Prince” revolves around the journalism world. Amber visits Aldovia to write a story (her first, after spending years working as a copy editor) about whether the prince will abdicate the throne.
And, like many previous movies about the journalism world, “A Christmas Prince” takes great creative license in its depiction of journalistic practices. Halfway through the film, you realize it’s no wonder Amber never wrote a big story in the past. From her shoddy notes to her lack of transparency and web of lies, Amber seems to know as much about journalism as she does about the prince she’s investigating. Here, we’ve broken down many of the glaring mistakes and breaches of journalistic ethics riddled throughout the film.
- Plagiarism is no big deal: At the beginning of the film, Amber copy edits a brief fashion week report from one of her publication’s writers. After Amber discovers Vaughn plagiarized quotes from subjects in the story and confronts him about his misdeed, Vaughn dismisses her concern, implying that it's standard practice.
No, plagiarism is not standard practice. It’s perhaps the most severe journalistic offense, and for “A Christmas Prince” to so flippantly feature it at the top of the film sets a disappointing precedent for what to expect throughout the rest of the movie.
- A journalist’s first story is their biggest story: Our protagonist spent years working on the copy desk, but for her first assignment, her editor sends her halfway around the world to write about the Prince of Aldovia.
In what world would a fresh-faced reporter jump from begging for an assignment to deep embedment in a different country? Wouldn’t this publication have (or try to find) European correspondents rather than spend frivolously sending a new journalist overseas? In this economy and with the world of journalism in a state of flux, this felt like one of the biggest misconceptions.
- The official word is the only word: Amber arrives in Aldovia for a press conference in the royal palace, only to be dismissed (along with a gaggle of other journalists) after just a few minutes and no details about the prince. The representatives leave no room for questions, even for journalists who (like our protagonist) ostensibly flew halfway around the world during Christmas.
Although the first third of the film makes a big deal about whether the young prince will take the crown, by the middle of the film, all of the curious journalists from across the globe have seemingly abandoned the story. (Wait, on second thought, maybe this could happen.)
- Lying about your identity is perfectly fine: Fueled by her desire to complete her first big assignment, Amber sneaks into the palace and lies about her occupation to further investigate the story. The royal family assumes she is the new tutor for Princess Emily and does no further investigation to confirm this news, allowing Amber free reign of the grounds to continue her “snooping.” When Amber’s editor finds out about her scheme, she encourages the lie.
Quick, what journalist do you know who would lie about their identity to write a story about a prince potentially abdicating the throne?
- Trading “gifts” for positive coverage is standard: Princess Emily soon discovers Amber’s true identity and makes a deal with her: If Amber agrees to write a positive story about her brother, she will not reveal her identity. In the journalism world, we would consider this agreement a “gift” in exchange for favorable coverage.
- Who cares about notes?: Clearly not Amber, whose shoddy notes would be an embarrassment to the industry. I wrote better notes while “working” on my high school’s newspaper staff, and yet Amber can only muster a few bullet points after days in the royal palace. Is she solely relying on her memory to shape her final story?
- Everyone crosses professional boundaries: The plot of “A Christmas Prince” would fall apart if Amber did not fall for and kiss the prince, and yet we can’t ignore her behavior. Like many on-screen depictions of women journalists, “A Christmas Prince” falls into the unfortunate trope of a writer falling for/pursuing her subject romantically. In the real world, this kind of behavior might encourage biased reporting, and yet Amber doesn’t reveal her identity or put a stop to their growing attraction toward each other.
- Who cares about facts and details?: There is a total lack of fact-checking from our journalist. She makes wild leaps and assumptions about the characters in the film and from appearances, and does not do thorough background research on the royals in the movie. She seems to know nothing about the country of Aldovia, its customs, the prince or even the succession of the crown.
- If you don’t research it, just steal it: At one point, Amber takes documents from the prince and does not inform him of the content of the papers, creating an even more significant disagreement and misunderstanding later in the film. She sees nothing wrong with her actions and only regrets her choice once the prince finds out what the documents say, not because she broke journalistic protocol in the first place.
- What is on the record? What is off the record?: Ostensibly, Amber’s entire journey in the royal palace would be off the record as she never reveals her true identity. But that doesn’t seem to faze her, and in the end, she does write a story based on the “notes” and conversations she had in the palace. Her editor later rejects Amber’s story about the prince for being too fluffy, but I think most editors would dismiss it for lacking any quotes, any details or any semblance of truth.