By Ariel Steinsaltz
From Matt Groening, the creator of “The Simpsons” and “Futurama,” comes Netflix’s “Disenchantment,” a new animated series with a satirical take on classic medieval princess fantasies.
In a world where princesses married their betrothed and they all lived happily ever after, “Disenchantment” barrels in with its feminist attitudes and dark humor. The rebellious Princess Bean and her two best friends, an elf named Elfo and Luci, her personal demon, partake in all sorts of adventures after the princess refuses to marry her prince and runs away from her own wedding.
There’s a lot to like about this series. Bean, (Abbi Jacobson), is a female protagonist centuries ahead of her time. She is searching for her own identity and ready to get to the nitty gritty ends of the world to find it.
Whether she’s throwing a wild party while the king is out of town, trying to find a job, or going on a wild adventure to save her demon friend from an exorcist, Bean handles her exploits with all the grace of a drunk 19-year-old.
From likeable to loveable, Elfo (Nat Faxon) is the fun, optimistic sidekick needed to lighten up any adventure his friends embark on. Coming from a world of candy-making elves who are always happy, his bubbly attitude often provides a contrast to the darker humor of Bean and Luci (who is delightful in his own sick, raised-in-hell sort of way). Elfo is not a stereotype, though — he has an emotional side, which comes to light particularly in the last few episodes of the series.
A significantly less likeable character is King Zog, Bean’s father and the king of Dreamland, the fictional kingdom in which the show is set. Zog is overbearing, manipulative and greedy — but like the other characters on the show, he is not one-dimensional. His growth throughout the series adds even more charm to the show, as he realizes that he has been a bad father with motives that differ from the audience’s perception.
There are certain aspects of the series I could have done without, particularly Elfo’s backstory in the middle of the season, but overall, the show is very entertaining and makes good use of humor that mocks classic fantasy tropes — such as making Bean’s stepmother a literal tentacled creature.
The show takes relatable scenarios about being a young adult and places them in the context of the medieval world including palaces, diplomacy and even the plague. It makes humor out of real-world issues, like when Bean says, “I didn’t know elves were racist,” but it also includes outlandish situations, such as poison that turns people to stone or a drink that turns people into pigs.
The show takes a lot of interesting twists and turns that I didn’t see coming, and subverts a lot of classic tropes. I would definitely recommend the show for anyone who’s a fan of strong female characters, dark humor and satirical medieval fantasy.