By Jenny Rollins
BU News Service
Netflix pulled out all the stops to make their new Netflix original, “A Christmas Prince,” which is another perfectly crafted, terrible, Hallmark-esque movie you need to add to your Christmas movie list right now.
It’s a combination of “The Prince and Me,” “Ever After,” “How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days,” and “The Princess Diaries,” with sprinkles of “Beauty and the Beast” (they even fight off wolves in the woods) and “Pride and Prejudice.”
This movie is like holiday fruit cake—kind of gross but consumed anyway in the name of tradition. The characters are so flat that they don’t even have last names.
The over-sweetened Christmas movie features the rom-com staple character—a pretty girl who doesn’t know how pretty or talented she is, with quirks that make her seem ordinary and relatable (e.g. being clumsy, wearing Converse, etc.). However, in this case, the heroine (Rose McIver), is also an undercover journalist with questionable views and ethics.
The movie was not designed to take a specific stance on modern journalism, but it is interesting to look at the number of ethical violations that take place in this movie. Here’s a brief list, based on the code of ethics created by the Society for Professional Journalists:
Going undercover unnecessarily
To be fair, undercover journalism is a pretty long-standing practice. Famous journalist Nellie Bly pioneered a new kind of investigative journalism by entering a mental institution under the guise of a patient and writing an exposé, originally published in the New York World.
But going undercover for a story is controversial because there are issues like trespassing on private property or intrusion if the source gave consent under the impression that the journalist was someone else.
SPJ says to “avoid undercover or other surreptitious methods of gathering information unless traditional, open methods will not yield information vital to the public.”
In the movie, she might not have been let into the house if she had admitted who she was, but she didn’t even try. This makes it a little doubtful that she absolutely needed to lie about her identity and pose as a tutor. Also, the information she was looking for was basically just sexual promiscuity already covered by tabloids, so it might not classify as “vital to the public.”
Conflicts of interest.
Journalists are generally just supposed to be observers, but the journalist in this movie was romantically involved with the subject of the article. She was entirely too involved with the family in general, which means that she cannot remain impartial.
She also personally gets involved with politics, altering the story that might have occurred otherwise. She also doesn’t label her own advocacy or commentary within the piece, so it is no longer a piece of objective journalism.
Allowing subjects to respond to criticism or allegations
The journalist, Amber, writes about Prince Richard’s cousin, Count Simon, suggesting that he is trying to steal the crown from the prince. However, she never directly approaches him about these accusations.
Aldovia might have different laws than another country; however, it’s still a little iffy when a person lies about who they are, gets involved in a relationship with the person they are lying to and then snoops around when the person isn’t there. It gets even more iffy when Amber finds an adoption certificate that could change the entire political climate and then steals it, which is incredibly illegal.
Shutting down opposing views
Amber fought Simon’s claim to the throne without even considering that he had a very real, well-backed argument. SPJ says that journalists should “support the open and civil exchange of views, even views they find repugnant.”
SPJ says that journalists are supposed to “refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and avoid political and other outside activities that may compromise integrity or impartiality, or may damage credibility.”
Amber accepts a room in a palace, lots of free food, a ball gown, a bracelet and special treatment by almost everyone. She also becomes heavily entrenched in the politics and outside activities both literal and figurative. At the end, she accepts an engagement ring, which is the nail in the coffin when it comes to her credibility about this story.
Hiding unethical conduct in journalism
Although the audience never actually sees the article that Amber ends up writing in the form of a blog post, she never actually admits in the movie that her work could potentially be unethical as a journalist. She doesn’t even call out the other journalists who have written libel about the prince already.
Amber changes the stereotype of the playboy prince, but at one point she describes Simon as the conniving cousin trying to steal the throne. In short, she attributes all of his motivations and arguments to this stereotype of the evil powerseeker.
These are just a few of the wildly inappropriate things the heroine does as a journalist. However, it does offer a fantasy solution for all journalists—marry rich and self-publish.