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How ‘Willow’ Flips the Script on Arranged Marriages in Fantasy

Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers for Episodes 1 and 2 of Willow.Disney has a long and storied history of featuring arranged marriages within its vast catalog of films in the fantasy genre. We all know the classics like 1959’s Sleeping Beauty where Philip and Aurora were betrothed to wed from the day she was born. Aladdin (Jasmine and Jafar) and the Disney Pixar movie, Brave (Merida of DunBroch) relied on the familiar formula as well. Over the course of 70 years, Disney’s outlook on arranged nuptials has undergone quite a transformation, and we’re seeing it more prevalently than ever from the evolving streaming service. Willow, the new fantasy series streaming on Disney+ is just the latest to flip the script on what had been a long-held tradition of the union of a man and a woman. In Willow, there is yet another arranged marriage set to take place between a prince and a princess, but unlike in the past, the princess resists not because her true love lies with another man, but because she is actually in love with another woman.

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Kit and Jade Continue a Trend of Arranged Marriages

Image via Disney+

In Willow, it is established right out of the gate that Princess Kit’s (Ruby Cruz) marriage to Prince Graydon Hastor (Tony Revelon) has been arranged by her mother, Queen Sorsha (Joanne Whalley). The only problem with that is the tomboyish Kit pines for the attention of another. Her true love is Jade (Erin Kellyman) who is a novice knight designated to protect the princess and the realm from foreign invaders. Their burgeoning relationship through the first several episodes is the latest in Disney’s foray into queer relationships and arranged marriages – a topic the kid-friendly entertainment conglomerate had been hesitant to address until relatively recently.

In fact, the streaming giant has started to explore queer relationships in several of its current offerings including the well-received Andor that just wrapped up its first season on Disney+ and is now also available to watch on Hulu. In the prequel to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the characters of Vel (Faye Marsay) and Cinta (Verada Sethu) are openly in a relationship as fellow rebels in the Alliance vying to overthrow the Empire. And though they are not in an arranged situation, it does illustrate how Disney is evolving with the current social zeitgeist and openly portraying queer relationships.

Related: ‘Willow’: Ruby Cruz on How She Carved Her Own Unique Path to Becoming a Disney Series Star

Arranged Marriages Are Common for Fantasy Stories

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Image via HBO

More adult-oriented networks like HBO have been addressing arranged marriages within the fantasy genre for much longer and in greater detail than Disney. Sansa Stark was forced to marry twice in the hit series Game of Thrones. She was betrothed to the cruel Joffrey Baratheon, then married to Tyrion Lannister, and later again to the barbaric Ramsey Bolton. In the prequel series to Game of Thrones, House of the Dragon, Rhaenyra Targaryan is promised to Laenor Valeryon, who happens to be a closeted gay man.

In both of those characters’ cases, the arranged marriage was forced upon the women in an effort to establish alliances or to unite kingdoms and fortify the standing of their houses and families. The arranged marriages forced the young women and men into compromised positions. Sansa is left traumatized through her association with the Lannisters and then again with Ramsay. While Laenor is forced to remain closeted and can only escape marriage by faking his own death.

How Willow Shifts the Focus

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Image via Walt Disney Studios

Kit and Jade’s forbidden love marks the first time that a same-sex couple will more or less take center stage in a Disney fantasy story. Dove/Elora Danan’s (Ellie Bember) apprenticeship under Willow (Warwick Davis) and her development as a prominent figure in the battle with the evil Gales will also carry the series, but how the relationship between Princess Kit and her true love is portrayed over the course of the season will be interesting to follow. Bucking the establishment and going against the wishes of her mother will inevitably be the main storyline moving forward.

Oftentimes, as we’ve seen in previous secret relationships, going against custom compromises the character and forces one or both of the lovers into unforeseen peril or dangers that would not be a factor if it were a traditional romance. It will also show how far Disney has come in its effort to catch up with an entertainment industry that has outpaced the animation and kid-friendly programming service in addressing same-sex relationships. Series creator, Jonathan Kasdan appears to be going all in on Kit and Jade in his reboot of the 1988 hit movie, and we’re eager to see where it goes.


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