Royal Pains

A Christmas Prince 2’s bizarre anti-union subplot.

Ben Lamb and Rose McIver in a production still from the Netflix movie A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding. They stand facing each other in front of a Christmas tree.
Unions are ruining Christmas!

No one comes to A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding, Netflix’s sequel to last year’s A Christmas Prince, with any illusions that the movie will be high art. It is comfort viewing for the same dummies—and I’m one of them—who enjoyed the original surprise sensation. Fittingly, critics have hailed the movie as “cozy trash,” “awesomely bad,” and “beautiful, royal garbage.” All seems correct.

But viewers primed for a dopey story about an American girl marrying the king (he’s not a prince anymore, despite the title, but just go with it) of a made-up country may be taken aback to discover a particularly odd subplot that turns Aldovia’s labor unions into one of the villains. I wish I was joking. If you aren’t thinking about it—and it’s definitely easy to believe that no one involved with the making of this movie was thinking much—it’s possible to miss what’s so strange about this subplot, so let’s break it down.

Devoted Christmas Prince fans will remember that Amber (Rose McIver), the former put-upon junior editor—who, at the start of the sequel, is getting ready to marry King Richard (Ben Lamb)—bonded with his younger sibling and her future sister-in-law, Princess Emily (Honor Kneafsey), during the events of the first movie. In this one, our little Emily is becoming a woman, and she is super-excited because she’s starring in a Christmas play opposite the boy she has a crush on. Aside from Emily’s budding adulthood, the other thing that’s changed since we were last in Aldovia is the nation’s economy, which is now in shambles. Richard has implemented a program he thinks will fix the country’s financial crisis, but things only seem to be getting worse, and a lot of people are out of work. Which sucks for them but is also kind of messing up Christmas for the royal family, TBH, because Richard doesn’t have time to hang out with them! In short, what a mess.

The first time organized labor comes up, Richard must renege on his promise to go choose a royal Christmas tree with Amber because the unions are calling for a nationwide strike over unpaid wages. Far be it from me to comment on politics, but this seems pretty reasonable? Shouldn’t workers be … paid? But for the movie, the conflict is: It’s Christmas, and Richard promised Emily he would pick a tree! A labor insurgency is not very festive.

These radicals calling to be compensated for their work only continue on their path of holiday destruction after that. Emily has a rehearsal for her play, which tells an Aldovian myth about how Santa got his powers that involves a maiden, a turtle, and an ogre. Emily and her crush are about to do the scene where they kiss—which it sounds like they’ve literally never done before, even though the play is the next day—when all the lights in the theater turn off. You guessed it: The mean old unions shut it down! The theater workers have gone on strike—you know, for money—and the performance is canceled. It’s scary; they put chains on the door and everything. Emily is sad. Where are these people’s Christmas spirit?

But don’t worry, our dear Amber saves the day—by asking a royal aide if they can move the play to the palace. Yes, she flouts the starving workers and makes scabs of all the children in the play, their parents who come to watch it, and the palace workers who no doubt have to clean up after their mess. Still, in the movie, this is a major triumph, because Emily gets to kiss her crush and the show goes on. No one at the palace gives a second thought to the striking workers they just undermined as they continue to be perplexed by the strange forces that are wreaking havoc on the economy. Though Amber feels somewhat sympathetic to the downtrodden workers—as evidenced by, uh, her going to a bar (disguised in sunglasses) to talk to one of them—it never really occurs to anyone that maybe the royals don’t deserve to enjoy their usual Christmas festivities at the same time that many of their subjects are suffering.

Meanwhile, the fate of the economy—and, ultimately, the workers—is framed as a curious mystery, where no one can figure out what is wrong with the darn math they’re using. Eventually, and thanks in part to Princess Emily’s heretofore undisclosed hacking skills, Amber, Richard, and co. figure out that a royal advisor has been siphoning off funds into his own pocket, a Madoff in lord’s clothing. Now everyone will be paid and even get a bonus! All’s well that end’s well? Except for those of us who are now hoping that the next sequel will be told from the point of view of the Aldovian workers’ uprising: A Christmas Prince: The Peasants’ Revenge.

Maybe A Christmas Prince’s politics shouldn’t come as such a shock—a movie that pegs its fantasy around a monarchy is going to have some reflexive conservativism in its DNA. But did this movie need to be so laughably retrograde? Amber, with her blogging and her American ways, was supposed to be, à la Meghan Markle, a modernizing force, but it’s fair to say she fails in that endeavor. The absurd labor politics instead feel like an accident, the result of Christmas fluff clouds floating way out of bounds and never being reined in. This is no credit to Netflix: Imagine creating a cheesy Christmas movie so dumb that, completely without meaning to, it also serves as anti-union propaganda. Now streaming!