Netflix / WIRED
According to Albert Einstein – and other people in the know – it is impossible to rip a hole in the fabric of the universe. The intricate weaving of space and time can curve, sure, but it cannot be torn apart. At least, that’s what Einstein thought. Now, 65 years after the physicist’s death, Netflix has made a mockery of his “theories” by debuting The Princess Switch: Switched Again.
Let’s backtrack, just for a moment. Last year, the good people at Netflix announced the existence of the ‘Netflix Holiday Movie Universe’, now more commonly known as the ‘Netflix Christmas Cinematic Universe’, or the NCCU.
Via Twitter, the streaming behemoth explained that many of its original Christmas movies are actually interlinked – the country of ‘Aldovia’, for example, exists in both A Christmas Prince (2017) and The Knight Before Christmas (2019), while characters in 2018’s The Princess Switch can be seen watching A Christmas Prince on TV. Fine, good, forgivable; Einstein’s chilling in his grave. But this year, Netflix messed it all up.
This year, The Princess Switch: Switched Again ripped a hole in the NCCU as easily as a teen tears through his mum’s snowman wrapping paper to get to the Lynx Africa Duo Gift Set within. Despite the fact that the main characters in the original Princess Switch once watched A Christmas Prince on TV, the characters from A Christmas Prince now cameo in Princess Switch 2. Let’s stay calm, the simple explanation is that A Christmas Prince must actually be a documentary – Einstein couldn’t care less. But no.
If A Christmas Prince is a documentary, then this sets what shall henceforth be known as the NCCU Documentary Precedent. Which other movies in the NCCU are also in-universe documentaries? It could – and now will – be argued that The Knight Before Christmas (TKBC), a movie about a time-travelling fourteenth century knight, is either a documentary or a piece of reality TV. This is because an extremely important, royal-owned, handmade, one-of-a-kind ornamental acorn from A Christmas Prince also features in The Knight Before Christmas – the main character’s parents brought it back after a trip to Aldovia. Why would the royal family of Aldovia give this prized possession to ordinary Americans? The only explanation is that they’re actually important Americans who have in fact been followed by a camera crew for years. (There may be other explanations but I frankly don’t want to hear them.)
TKBC’s status as a documentary is deeply upsetting not just because the movie (sorry, documentary) features a woman known literally (and only) as “Old Crone” but because by the end of the doc, our knight protagonist Sir Cole hints that he is going to join his local 21st century Ohio police department. This police department previously praised Sir Cole for holding a sword to the throat of a teenage mugger. We can now establish two things: 1) Time-travel is canon in the NCCU, and 2) The people of the NCCU need to defund the police.
But here’s the real problem: Vanessa Hudgens stars in both TKBC and The Princess Switch films. If all of these movies are documentaries and all of these characters exist in the same universe, then Hudgens’ TKBC character (a science teacher) is totally chill with the fact that Hudgens’ internationally-famous Princess Switch character (the Duchess of Montenaro) looks exactly like her. The Princess Switch already established a pre-existing doppelgänger for the duchess, while its sequel makes a whole doppelgäng out of three lookalikes. The in-universe addition of Hudgens’ science teacher means there are now four women who look exactly alike in the NCCU, and – somehow – nobody even bothers to freak out.
We live in a world with repercussions, and while Netflix itself has noted the Hudgens Paradox, not enough has been made of the way these revelations affect all of the other interconnected Netflix Christmas movies. For example, a character in 2018’s The Holiday Calendar flicks past A Christmas Prince on TV – if, as we’ve already established, ACP is a documentary, then the kingdom of Aldovia also exists within the world of The Holiday Calendar. It therefore stands to reason that The Holiday Calendar is also a true story within the NCCU – which should trouble any right-minded individual, because the movie is about a wooden Advent calendar that both predicts the future and possesses the ability to (creepily) open its own doors.
Now, if time-travelling knights and fortune-telling sentient calendars exist in the same universe as the Christmas Prince and Princess Switch movies, this creates some disturbing and alarming problems. For example, A Christmas Prince’s sequel, The Royal Wedding, sees the Aldovian population going on strike because the kingdom is experiencing economic difficulties. If magic and time-travel demonstrably exist, then royals Amber and Richard are horrifically cruel monarchs who deprive their subjects out of some kind deep-rooted perversion. At the very least, they could have invested in a magic advent calendar to predict Q4’s economic turmoil.
Thankfully, mapping the NCCU like this does help explain 2019’s previously inexplicable A Christmas Prince: The Royal Baby. The movie sees Queen Amber fearful that a deadly curse will befall her firstborn baby – she freaks out about it so much that she faints in front of other dignitaries. In a universe where magic calendars/hunky time-travelling knights/witchy crones don’t exist, Amber’s behaviour is properly out of order. In a universe where Amber has watched Panorama: The Holiday Calendar, and Dispatches: The Knight Before Christmas, she’s a totally reasonable head of state.
What about the rest of Netflix’s Christmas offerings? A Christmas Inheritance (2017) is seen on TV in both The Holiday Calendar and The Princess Switch, but thankfully due to the lack of additional crossovers, we can assume this remains (in both real life and the NCCU) a plain old fictional Christmas movie, thank you very much. This is a massive relief because at one point in A Christmas Inheritance the main character marvels over her love interest’s great, auction-worthy artwork, and it looks like this:
(Sidenote: a character in The Knight Before Christmas also watches 2019’s Holiday In The Wild, but again, as there are no other crossovers, this Netflix offering remains firmly in the “movie”, not “documentary” category.)
The NCCU is a place where it is entirely normal and not at all notable if four women have exactly the same face. It is a place where the scourge of police brutality has not yet been eradicated. It is a place where magic and time-travel exist, but both are widely considered to be less remarkable than a woman wearing both a ball gown and Converse.
And it’s only going to get stranger. To date, there have been 19 Netflix Original Christmas movies, but as the streaming giant continues to grow, the tangled fairy lights of the NCCU will only become increasingly tangled. The possibilities are endless. Will Queen Amber go back in time? Will a magical calendar feature in the Princess Switch: Switched Again Again? How many Hudgens can one universe hold, in the end?
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