Knights in shining armour report back to him, women swoon over him, and he’s Mr Right’s most valued friend, but who is he, really?

    Prince Charming:
  1. A man who fulfills their suitor’s vision of a dream man. He’s perfect, handsome, and does everything. He also happens to be pretty much non-existent. Because there’s no female equivalent of the phrase, it is possible to suggest a Princess Charming, if that’s the gender you prefer.
  2. A man who persistently seeks out the company of women. This is usually meant as a sort of sarcastic reference to the first definition, but could also allude to the womanizing Prince Charming theory (more on that later).
  3. Someone, or something, that fixes/removes a flaw in someone (as Prince Charming saved Snow White from death).
  4. A stock character. He appears in fairy tales at the last moment to sweep the girl off her feet and they all live happily ever after. He can be found in Cinderella, Snow White, Rapunzel and Sleeping Beauty. He is usually an undeveloped character, and is frequently off on quests to save the damsel in distress. A break in this pattern can be found in The Frog Prince, where the damsel in distress must rescue Prince Charming before he can bring her back to his castle far, far away.

Although we are generally raised on visions of the perfect Prince Charming, more recently he has been re-invented as a rather undesirable character. Because many fairy tales use the name Prince Charming (although there are some plays on the name, such as Prince Char in Ella Enchanted), it is not a huge leap to assume they are all the same guy. This casts him in a different light; he appears as a womanizing jerk, one who strings women along before dropping her for the next girl. Fables effectively uses this theory. To quote PC in Into the Woods, "I was raised to be charming, not sincere."

Some fairy tales have eliminated the Prince Charming factor all together, such as Shrek and Shrek 2 (where PC is cast as vain, metrosexual, bitter ex-fiancé) as well as the classic Beauty and the Beast. Both stories send the message that the “monster” can get the girl, and that it takes more than charm and a white horse to win her.

Cannizzaro1 provides another strike against him in a run-down of the Disney Prince Charmings (even if that is not their technical name). Sleeping Beauty/Briar Rose is awakened by a make-out session she never consented to, The Little Mermaid’s PC never seems to notice she’s mute, and to top it off, Snow White is dead when she gets her first kiss from her prince. Necrophilia is generally not thought of as a charming quality.

Although the Prince Charming’s reputation may be a little tarnished, there are still many women (and men) waiting for their very own, but...


Sources:
1 Marie Christine Cannizzaro, Prince Charming: Beast, Loser, or Rapist? (http://daily.stanford.edu/article/2006/2/27/princeCharmingBeastLoserOrRapist)
Prince Charming (http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=prince+charming)
Prince Charming (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prince_Charming)
Prince Charming: Definitions and Much More (http://www.answers.com/topic/prince-charming)

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