In this series, I introduce princess characters I feel defy stereotypical princess characteristics, some of which I identified in Disney’s classic princesses characters. This time I’ll be discussing May Chang, a character from a popular manga series by the name of Fullmetal Alchemist. While she may not be the main character of the series, her story and the actions she takes throughout distinguish her as an intriguing princess character.
May Chang is the young princess of an Asian-inspired country called Xing, but her title as princess doesn’t give her many special privileges like most princesses. That’s because May is not the first princess or even the fourth but the seventeenth princess born to the emperor by a concubine of the Chang family. With so many offspring of the emperor, there is plenty of rivalry between families so, despite being the emperor’s daughter, May and the rest of the Chang line have one of the poorest social standings among the royal families. I
n an attempt to raise her family’s social standin g, May Chang braves a journey to a neighboring country in search of the coveted Philosopher’s Stone, said to grant immortality, to present to the emperor. However, upon reaching the country, May quickly finds herself embroiled in the dark schemes of another nation.
TYPICAL PRINCESS TRAITS
May does have a few typical traits, the first and foremost being her infatuation with the two male protagonists and her pure-heart. Since I’ve already discussed a non-stereotypical princess with a pure heart, I’m going to focus on the former with May.
May first develops a crush on Edward Elric after hearing of his skill and immediately pictures him as a handsome, prince-like man. After her daydreamed image of Edward is shattered, she very quickly develops a little crush on his brother. This follows more closely with the stereotypical princess characters who all seem to be in love, or fall in love, with someone during the course of their story. May develops these crushes after having spent little-to-no time with the object of her affections which also mimics a number of Disney princesses who spend little time with their knights in shining armor before developing romantic feelings (Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella).
However, unlike Disney princesses, May’s crushes are not the focus of her story and often take on a comical air. (And when I say comical, I don’t mean that May is constantly made fun of in a way that undermines her strengths.) I would also point out that while her first crush on Edward is purely based on a superficial fantasy, her crush on his brother, Alphonse, makes more sense as the series goes on; she actually gets to know him and their personalities work well together. Because of these factors, May’s quick attachments are not grating in the least and take a different route than those of stereotypical princesses.
As a princess in a world that gives her more burdens than what dress to wear to the ball, May Chang has independence, responsibilities, and skills that stereotypical princesses lack. Instead of others fighting dragons or scaling towers to save her, May shoulders her own responsibilities–in this case, the duty to save her clan. While readers don’t know exactly how May came to the decision to travel to another country with only a myth of attainable immortality in mind, it’s hard to doubt that she came to the decision herself once one sees her fierce determination. She’s got a rival family member after immortality and makes new enemies as she discovers secrets in her attempts to find immortality, but even in the face of these obstacles, May won’t go home until she’s found a solution to her clan’s problems. In other words, she’s in control of her life. And while she receives and needs help at times, May does her own share of helping on her quest. These elements are in contrast to those of Disney’s earliest princesses and fiction’s most stereotypical princesses who can hardly help themselves, much less those around them.
As for skills, May has a number of them, but most notable is her expert knowledge of a foreign type of alchemy. Because she is the only one with this knowledge present among the cast of characters, she holds a certain amount of power
and as a result, has a key role within the story. In addition to that, unlike the alchemy used by the rest of the cast, May’s alchemy can be used to heal as well as to fight, giving her yet another skill that makes her vital. Thus, as with the other two non-stereotypical princesses I’ve discussed so far in this series, May’s knowledge plays a role in the story like no stereotypical princess’ would.
Finally, I want to point out how non-traditional May is as far as her appearance in contrast to stereotypical princesses. She is short, never bejeweled, and is not glamorous or beautiful, although she is cute. For most classic princesses, their unrivaled beauty is one of their main traits and this is highlighted by gorgeous clothing, characters constantly speaking of their beauty, and sometimes even by the plot as in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
Granted, May is only supposed to be around 13-years-old, but nonetheless, I appreciate that beauty is not the focus of her story.
To sum it up, May is a princess with real responsibilities, crucial strengths (including knowledge!), and an important role to play that doesn’t require her to look like a supermodel. I think it’s fair to say that, in most cases, a sack of potatoes could play the role of many stereotypical princesses, although I will admit it wouldn’t be as nice to look at.