Any number of Hallmark, Lifetime, or Netflix original holiday movies will try to tell you what Christmas is about. They will tell you approximately two-thirds of the way into their films that “Christmas isn’t about presents, it’s about being with the ones you love.” Or, “Christmas isn’t about how much you have, it’s about how much you give to others.” Or, “Christmas isn’t about working in the big city as a marketing executive, it’s about moving back to your hometown to fall in love with a sentient puffer vest while you restore an old Victorian inn together.”
These movies will tell you what Christmas is and is not about, and every single one of their holiday lessons will most assuredly hinge on Christmas’s obvious connection to romantic love. But I am here to tell you that Christmas isn’t about any of those things. Because as of 2018, Christmas is about one thing, and one thing only: Netflix’s The Princess Switch.
And The Princess Switch is, of course, about Vanessa Anne Hudgens in her dual roles as Duchess Margaret and Stacy De Novo from Chicago. Hallmark has Cameron Candace Bure, Lifetime has 11 months of original movies about the dangers of cyberbullying, and Netflix … well, Netflix has Vanessa Hudgens in as many different shades of matte lipsticks as they can possibly slap on her.
We come for the Hudgens, but we stay for the multiple Hudgenses, and Netflix knows it. That’s why this holiday movie season, they said: “You can take your pathological need for a coherent plot and notable chemistry over to Hulu, folks, because we’re creating a mythology here. It’s as unintelligible as it is palatable, and you—yes, you on the couch with nowhere to go, nothing to do, and a burning desire to clear your mind out completely, only to fill it back up with dancing images of more flattering peacoats than any one suitcase could ever possibly hold—you are gonna watch every second of it.”
Look no further than Netflix’s tweet about their sequel, The Princess Switch: Switched Again to see how confident they are in their hold over their viewership:
there are three of them pic.twitter.com/iYLE8HDZQe— NetflixFilm (@NetflixFilm) November 17, 2020
That’s it. That’s the tagline! It’s not even capitalized.
But of course, Netflix is completely right—there are three of them, and that is all we need to know in order to lap up this second Princess Switch like the delicious hot chocolate Duchess Margaret and Kevin never quite finish making because they get into one of their signature sugar fights …
Netflix knows that The Princess Switch: Switched Again doesn’t have to be good; it doesn’t have to be bad. It just has to give the people what they want: more HUDGENS.
And on that front, it more than delivers. Switched Again brings back Hudgens’s original performances as doppelgängers-cum-prank pals, Margaret and Stacy, and adds on a feisty European cousin, Fiona, who has a wardrobe that dares to expose a collarbone and motivations that dare to skew darker than just switching places in order to get a break from the monarchy. In Fiona, we get an element of actual humor, and a character much closer to the Vanessa Hudgens of Instagram that we know and love. It’s a character who might learn sexy TikTok dances and post stylized photos of herself in 18 different Halloween costumes; a character who might have annual VIP passes to Coachella; a character who might conceivably trill on an Instagram Live, “Like, yeah, people are gonna diiiiie, which is terrible, but, like … inevitable?”
The addition of Vanessa Hudgens’s performance as Fiona in this sequel is an absolute necessity, but the narrative need for another princess switch is thin. Margaret wants some alone time with Kevin, so naturally Stacy is all, “Only one solution: we gots’ta gets’ta switchin’!” But we’re more than aware that the switch is not the goal. The goal is Hudgens—as much Hudgens as we can possibly get.
Which raises the question: How much Hudgens can we get?
Applying simple math, and even simpler logic, I surmise that if the first Princess Switch had two Vanessa Hudgens performances, and the second has three, then the third will have four, the fourth will have five, and so on until Vanessa Hudgens … departs this mortal plane? Demands too much money? Loses her own identity in the deep narrative well of switching places with fictional versions of herself???
We can’t really know how far this Princess Switch horse might ride, but this is what I do know: We’re on the second movie, and the franchise has only just now incorporated another hair color to differentiate between Hudgenses. So, there is room on the board for more Hudgens. And we also now know that there is canonical precedence for things getting dark in the world of The Princess Switch. For example, would you be surprised if I told you that in The Princess Switch: Switched Again, one Hudgens chloroforms another Hudgens and then locks her in a dungeon in order to steal from her? That’s real!
In the grand tradition of made-for-TV holiday films, it doesn’t have to make sense, it just has to be a movie. So, why stop at three Vanessa Hudgenses? Why stop at four, or five, or six Hudgenses?
I can almost assure you that Netflix will not stop, so the question remains: How many Hudgenses can a studio with seemingly limitless funds ultimately fit into a franchise? Let’s have that conversation.
The Princess Switch: 2 Switched + 2 Serious (2022)
With the appearance of a fourth look-alike, Lily (Hudgens in a pixie cut and milkmaid getup), it’s time to take this doppelgänger thing more seriously. The gals are finally starting to get freaked out. Gone are the powdered sugar fights and original songs about candy-cane kisses by Sam Palladio (oh yes, the final song in Princess Switch: Switched Again is a Prince Edward original—it really is too bad about his upcoming fate).
A little digging through the archives reveals that Margaret, Lily, and Fiona were all born on the same day in the same Montenaro castle, but split into three different households where they grew up to become a princess, a pauper, and a party girl, respectively. But as it turns out, Lily is the first born and rightful heir to the Montenaro crown, not Margaret. Stacy sides with Margaret in her vie for the throne, but amid all the hubbub, she doesn’t notice Fiona winning the affections of Prince Edward. The film ends with Fiona as the newly wed Princess of Belgravia, Lily as the Queen of Montenaro, and Stacy and Margaret in despair.
HUDGENS COUNT: Four
Questions for future sequels: Where the hell did Stacy come from (other than Chicago)?
The Princess Switch: Chicago (2024)
Audiences did not respond well to the Hudgenses turning against one another in 2 Switched + 2 Serious, so it’s time for the real Vanessa Hudgens to do what the real Vanessa Hudgens does best: a televised musical, baby. In contract negotiations, Hudgens demands a classic Broadway musical that honors Stacy’s Chicago roots for the next sequel, and Netflix demands two more signature performances so that the “Cell Block Tango” can be fully outfitted with Hudgenses.
If you’re listening to “Cell Block Tango” and wondering if that means that Stacy, Margaret, Fiona, and Lily collectively murdered their hunky husbands, Prince Edward and Kevin the Sous Baker from Chicago … yes, I’m so sorry, it does. But the good news is: more room on the call sheet for Hudgenses.
HUDGENS COUNT: (Pop) Six (Squish, uh uh, Cicero, Lipschitz)
Questions for future sequels: How will these gals get out of prison?!
The Princess Switch: Se7en (2026)
The two Hudgenses freed at the end of Chicago break the other four Hudgenses out of prison on account of doppelgänger loyalty. But oops, turns out one of those murderers really should have stayed in there, because she goes on a sociopathic killing spree as soon as she gets the chance, staging morbid scenes based on the seven deadly sins for the other five Hudgenses to discover. Forced to track down one of their own, the other Hudgenses catch up with her just before she’s able to get to her final “greed” themed victim …
And what’s that now? The near victim is the real-life Vanessa Hudgens starring as herself in what amounts to an act of either meta genius or utter hubris?! In an attempt to get ahead of the narrative about her unquenchable thirst for more parts in one single franchise, Princess Switch producer Vanessa Hudgens casts Vanessa Hudgens the actress as “Greed,” immortalizing herself as the seventh member of the Princess Switch mythology.
HUDGENS COUNT: Se7en
Questions for future sequels: … is Vanessa Hudgens okay? (And, of course: What’s in the boooox?)
The Princess Switch: (Deus) x (Machina) (2030)
In a shocking crossover event, sci-fi mastermind Alex Garland teams up with The Princess Switch franchise for his unexpected sequel to Ex Machina. Stacy De Novo’s unknown origin lends itself perfectly to revealing that she’s been the escaped humanoid robot, Ava, all along.
So, yes, just as you might have assumed: Ex Machina actually did kick off the Netflix Holiday Cinematic Universe in 2014. Ava changed into her Hudgens-shaped physical form after using data proliferation to deduce the most common human form in the world: that of Duchess Margaret, cousin Fiona, actress Vanessa Hudgens, and so on. But after settling into the life of Stacy De Novo the Chicago baker turned princess (turned murderer turned amateur detective and savior of actress Vanessa Hudgens), Stacy became comfortable enough in her skin to forget she was a robot at all …
But now that her true provenance has been recovered, who knows where this power could lead.
HUDGENS COUNT: 10
Questions for future sequels: Who are these three new Hudgenses following Stacy around, and where did they come from?
The Princess Switch: Fiona 14 (2034)
With limitless intelligence at their disposal, an ever-rising thirst for power, and a gift for disguises, it’s only natural that The Princess Switch picks up where the Ocean’s franchise left off. It’s back to movie basics with a classic heist film and a team of 14 Hudgenses. Each member has a unique skill; each member has the face and body of Vanessa Hudgens; and together, they’re going to rob every casino on the Las Vegas Strip.
HUDGENS COUNT: 14
Questions for the sequel: What are 14 Hudgenses going to do with $30 billion?
The Princess: The Prequel (2036)
In an appeal to be taken more seriously by the film industry, The Princess Switch dials it back to just one Hudgens performance, rolling out a Jane Austen–style prequel about Duchess Margaret coming of age among European nobility …
It bombs and is universally panned by critics and audiences alike. No one wants to see just one Hudgens, and Hudgens herself doesn’t know who she is anymore without at least one Hudgens performance for every finger and a wig for every toe. And the worst part? The $400 million budget that nearly tanks Netflix.
HUDGENS COUNT: One
Questions for the sequels: Should there even be another sequel?
The Princess Switch: The Parent Trap (2038)
The only thing that can save the franchise now is a slam dunk, sure thing for The Princess Switch’s 20th anniversary sequel. And you know what that means …
It’s switchin’ time, baby! After a 15-year time jump, 62 new junior campers arrive at Camp Montenaro only to discover that roughly a third of them are Hudgenses, all spawned by the original adult Hudgenses we’ve come to know and love. By this point, CGI tech has advanced so far that not only can Vanessa Hudgens play 20 versions of herself, but those versions can also be made to look like they’re 12 years old. Chaos ensues as the girls play pranks on their counselors, short-sheet each other’s beds, and eventually, all return from camp to the wrong household.
HUDGENS COUNT: 20
Questions for future sequels: Is there something … off about these kids?
The Princess Switch: Clone Wars (2042)
With children involved, and at least 40 known Hudgenses on the loose, it’s time to refocus on figuring out why so many of these doppelgängers exist. The audience needs answers, Vanessa Hudgens needs new motivation as a performer, and Netflix still needs to regain their losses from the Princess Prequel in order to fund their space program.
Using Stacy’s AI super brain, the Hudgenses discover that Stacy identified the Hudgens body as the most common all those years ago because they’re all clones, created by Montenarian scientist named Dr. Natasha Stella in 1988. Dr. Stella is, of course, played by Hudgens (using CGI to make her look older). Once the Hudgenses track her down, Dr. Stella explains that the Montenarian monarchy commissioned her to create them as a league of super-soldiers. But when it turned out that Montenaro didn’t really need super-soldiers, they just dispersed the babies around the world to become duchesses, usurpers, occasional murderers, and what have you.
Dr. Stella expresses concern that the clones have been spawning offspring, but dies before she can explain why.
HUDGENS COUNT: 274 known clones
Questions for future sequels: Does the world need to fear an army of clones whose main skills are singing show tunes and destroying monarchies?
The Princess Switch: Being Vanessa Hudgens (2044)
A look back on Vanessa Hudgens’s life playing 274 different roles in one franchise in 26 years that includes her bouts with paranoia over her true identity, her feelings about being the wealthiest woman in the world, and what led her to ultimately buy the studios that made her (yes, both Netflix and Disney). This Emmy-winning docuseries offers a rare glimpse into Hudgens’s secluded life on her private island before she takes her final Princess Switch bow.
HUDGENS COUNT: Immeasurable.
Questions for the sequel: How could any of this possibly end?
World War P (2046)
There’s really only one way it can all end. Vanessa Hudgens brought The Princess Switch into this world, and Vanessa Hudgens will take it out. As the younger generation of Hudgenses begin to come of age all over the world, certain concerning traits start to emerge. They’re completely disinterested in the sugar fights and switch-related hijinks that once brought them joy; they communicate only in grunts; their heartbeats stop, and their skin begins sloughing off. Indeed, the younger Hudgenses are turning into zombies, but the world at large needn’t fear them. Because they’re only hungry for one thing: other Hudgenses.
In an end so violent it’s almost poetic, all of the Hudgenses devour one another, until it’s almost as though there was never any Margaret, or Fiona, or Lily, or Pop, or Squish, or Lipschitz at all …
All except for one Hudgens, that is. Because there’s only one Hudgens who could watch all of the other Hudgenses be destroyed by their own DNA without being destroyed herself. To quote the very first line of that seminal 2020 classic, The Princess Switch: Switched Again: “You probably remember me—I’m Stacy, that baker from Chicago.”
HUDGENS COUNT: 1,729 known Hudgenses, and then, all at once—only one.
Coming October 1, 2048 from Netflix, The Witch Switch:
Saoirse Roberts, daughter of Emma Roberts, stars as Dana and Sadie, teenagers who discover that not only are they twins separated at birth—they’re witches! (Vanessa Hudgens to cameo as Stacy De Novo, robot mayor of Chicago.)
Jodi Walker is a freelance pop culture writer with bylines in Entertainment Weekly, Vulture, and Texas Monthly. She writes about The Bachelor franchise at absurd length in her newsletter, These Are The Best Things.