How Princess Cyd succeeded in reflecting today’s society, gender fluidity and representing the new generation of movies by portraying empowered, independent and sexually liberated female characters.
Written for a UCLA class.
Writer/Director Stephen Cone has accomplished a movie free of clichés about women, and has instead given them back their true colors. Princess Cyd is the portrait of two very different women, from different generations and with diverse interests, who end up learning from each other, growing together. The movie depicts what is often missed by others; strong female characters. It is remarkable how it is accurate in its depiction of modern women, not only the ones that exist in movies but the ones you meet in your everyday life, that’s how authentic the characters appear on screen.
Princess Cyd now hits Netflix after being critically acclaimed at film festivals. Cone previously directed and wrote The Wise Kids (2011) and Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party (2015) which both received a generally positive response from film critics. It follows the lead of a new generation of movies, tinted by, at last, the appearance of LGBTQ characters and minorities in leading roles. Box office giants like Black Panther and Wonder Woman are the confirmation that those who were previously left out on the screen, limited to background characters or clichés portrayals, now also get to enjoy the central place on the poster. While Black Panther hopefully opens the door to more black-led movies, Wonder Woman is the first LGBTQ superhero icon.
Cyd (Jessie Pinnick) is a teenage girl who lost her mother at a young age, and lives alone with her father in South Carolina. As father-daughter relationships are complicated, they both thought it would be for the best if Cyd was spending her summer at her aunt’s in Chicago. The move-in is a bit laborious; Miranda Ruth (Rebecca Spence) is a successful writer and Cyd doesn’t “really read books.” Eventually they both learn to appreciate each other’s personal traits and learn from each other. Miranda gives Cyd a taste for reading and Cyd reminds her of and letting go and enjoying life’s simple pleasure, like lying in the sun.
In Chicago, Cyd meets Katie a local barista who will eventually become more than a friend. Cyd finds a mentor in Miranda as she goes through her journey of self-discovery, and begins to question her sexuality. In the meantime, her aunt is having her own struggles, managing her love life along with her professional life. Her personal quest for joy, it turns out, resides in literature, friendship and…cake.
Setting up unachievable standards for women is an issue in cinema that can prevent viewers from relating to characters. People, as we see them in movies – and especially women – are not real. They are characters, products of fiction. A movie character, as we are so often used to, is flawless, too good looking to be real, always wake up with perfectly neat hair, never sweats or turns red when going for a run, or even has pores.
But what strikes us in Princess Cyd is the authenticity and the accuracy in the women’s portrayal. We finally see real people on screen. And yes, they sweat when they run. Nor are the characters extraterrestrial beauties; they look like everyone who crosses your path everyday. Miranda could very well be an aunt living next door and Cyd just a teenage girl. This is what we need: an healthy and accurate representation of women in films. We need portrays and stories of strong women, queer women, tomboys, girly women, scientists, athletes, nurses, we need them all. We need a more fair, diverse, closer to reality, representation of women. It’s time for movies to reflect the reality of today. Gender roles are being totally exploded and gender fluidity is far from uncommon. It is important that movies give a voice, a story to everyone.
Cone did well in his portrayal of modern women. Female characters are often forsaken, caricatured, lost in the shadow of the leading man or serving the sole purpose of being the love interest of the hero, or his mother. Women are that, but they are also so much more; there is so much ground left to cover in movies. In Princess Cyd, women have complex personalities of their own and a male character is not needed to get the plot started.
Princess Cyd plays with the conventional notions of gender roles and the preconceived ideas we have of people. Cyd likes girls and boys, she plays soccer, wears a tuxedo. Miranda has not been in a single relationship in 5 years but that doesn’t prevent her from experiencing joys on her own. Katie is hard to identify either as a girl or a boy at first look and knows a lot about books whereas Cyd thought she “doesn’t really seem like a reader.” to which Katie answers “what a reader even looks like?” This rings true with the message that the movie conveys. We are not binary people, girls play soccer, some others prefer the company of a book more than the one of a man, some people fall in love with others regardless of their genders. “We are different shapes and ways and our happiness is unique.” says Miranda. This is a story about growing up, feminine solidarity and finding your own joy.