Netflix and Disney set their festive films in a made-up mishmash of France, Switzerland, Romania and everything in between. Is real Europe so hard to love?
Netflix’s Christmas universe is an inescapable one, and two of its most successful franchises are The Princess Switch – which recently saw the release of the series’ third film – and A Christmas Prince. Both these franchises take place in a particularly interesting non-place: their American heroines travel to a made-up country which is a perfect synthesis of a certain Europe as seen through certain eyes. This territory – whether it’s named Belgravia, Montanero or Aldovia – does not exist on the map, and yet gets built again and again. It is a curious mishmash of Romania, Switzerland, Italy and everything in between, topped off with a healthy dose of bad British accent.
What are the characteristics of this strange enclave? Does it have national ambitions, and if so, of what nature? Can we understand its people? In investigating this potpourri Europeland it’s best to shift away from Netflix and turn to another blockbuster franchise, The Princess Diaries. Based on a YA book series, the two Princess Diaries movies have introduced us to Genovia and its capital Pyrus. Anne Hathaway plays American commoner Mia Thermopolis, who, in Europelandish dialect, becomes princess Amelia Mignonette Thermopolis Renaldi. The name alone distils a funky mixture of France, Greece and Monaco. “Whatever, it’s Europe!” – we can almost hear the Hollywood executive growling in the back.