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Where are all the great fictional reporters?
In Netflix’s 2017 film A Christmas Prince, Rose McIver plays Amber Moore, a budding journalist at a magazine called Beat Now. The film, like many other romantic comedies that revolve around a reporter, doesn’t offer a very accurate portrayal of working in media.
Amber is a junior editor but is forced to rewrite a writer’s lazy copy, she receives printed rejection letters for freelance articles, and she poses as a tutor while working as a journalist in order to gain access to her sources—which many news organizations would consider unethical. But, if Amber didn’t go undercover in the fictional country of Aldovia, she wouldn’t have met and fallen in love with the titular Prince Richard (Ben Lamb).
This is a sentimental Christmas movie, and so everything works out for Amber in the end, both in her professional life and her personal life. She quits her job after her boss refuses to publish the story (“It’s a puff piece!”) that she was sent to report on, and she starts her own blog. Richard, after becoming king of Aldovia, proposes to Amber, and she says yes.
Even though thinking too hard about the plot of a cheesy Christmas movie is probably a fruitless exercise, I had a few questions after the credits rolled. Can Amber continue working on her blog as a queen? Megan Markle deleted all her social media accounts before her wedding. It seems unlikely that Amber would be able to keep a blog, especially one that offered private details about the royal family. Can Amber report on stories outside of Aldovia? Again, it seems extremely unlikely that a soon-to-be queen would be allowed to have a public-facing career as a journalist or travel for stories. A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding, which was released Friday on Netflix, mostly answers these questions.
The sequel to A Christmas Prince—a surprise hit for the streaming service—follows Amber as she prepares for her royal wedding. If you thought she left her journalism career behind once she found a prince, you’re wrong! Her career involves running a blog with a title that makes it sound like a teen’s blog in the early aughts: “Amber’s Blog.” We never find out if she makes any money from it, but either way, it seems like a massive conflict of interest since she’s marrying into the royal family and is inherently compromised as an objective authority on them. I won’t completely spoil the movie here, but Amber argues in favor of continuing her blog while becoming a royal.
It’s all very silly but also frustrating: Do we really need another on-screen journalist who is bad at her job and/or carelessly forgoes ethics and boundaries?
Women journalists in TV shows and films seem to fall into familiar narratives: They get sidetracked by a romantic interest, they sleep with a source, and/or they go undercover. There are a few notable exceptions and even instances of a woman choosing her career over a man. (Holly Hunter’s Jane Craig decides not to pursue a romance with another journalist in 1987’s Broadcast News after she finds out that he’s an unethical reporter.) But, in recent years, the women journalists on-screen have left something to be desired.
In Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, Rory Gilmore (Alexis Bledel) publishes a piece in the New Yorker but has trouble sustaining a career as a freelance writer. While freelancing is hard, Rory doesn’t appear that committed to making it work. She isn’t shown regularly pitching stories to any publications. When assigned a story about people waiting in lines, she ends up complaining that the idea is stupid after spending an entire day reporting on it. (Which includes sleeping with a Wookiee!) She doesn’t appear to finish the story. Then, during a job interview with a millennial website that she thinks is below her, Rory shows up completely unprepared without any ideas for stories. Unsurprisingly, she doesn’t get the job.
Rory’s trajectory from Yale Daily News editor-in-chief to an unprepared freelancer was disappointing. Several publications ran stories on Rory being a bad journalist after the series was released in late 2016. In the first season of House of Cards, another Netflix show, reporter Zoe Barnes (Kate Mara) begins sleeping with the source getting her all her political scoops: House Majority Whip Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey). In season 2, she is killed after Underwood pushes her in front of a moving train because she was investigating him.
A handful of TV shows and films offer more positive depictions of women journalists. The excellent Good Girls Revolt, which was canceled after only one season in 2016, is based on a true story of the group of women who sued Newsweek for gender discrimination in 1970. The Amazon series is filled with believable women characters who passionately care about their jobs. And Spotlight’s Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams) is probably one of the most accurate representations of a news reporter on-screen. She works late hours, knocks on sources’ doors, and wears comfortable clothing. We only see glimpses of her personal life, which is a welcome change from how Hollywood usually portrays women journalists.
The appeal of A Christmas Prince and its sequel is obvious. It’s a feel-good romantic story about an ordinary woman becoming a queen of a small country; The Princess Diaries for a new generation. Most people are probably not concerned with the accuracy of the storyline. But Netflix missed an opportunity to show us a journalist in 2018 with at least a few believable qualities. In the first film, Amber doesn’t properly secure her laptop or documents that are vital to her story. In the sequel, she doesn’t seem concerned with running a blog as a queen—and gets mad when another character “censors” it. (Also, the ethics of going undercover and when you should do it are completely swept under the rug.)
Amber, who mostly publishes confessional updates from inside the castle, would make more sense as an Instagram influencer.
Tiffany Kelly is the Unclick editor at Daily Dot. Previously, she worked at Ars Technica and Wired. Her writing has appeared in several other print and online publications, including the Los Angeles Times, Popular Mechanics, and GQ.