Perhaps the actual, physical Mars, the one we may well visit in this century, is not in urgent need of them. But Mars of the imagination wouldn't be the worse off for a princess or two. And for one specific Mars of the imagination, Barsoom, is in absolute need of one.
A fair disclaimer: I have never met HRH Dejah Thoris in person, literarily speaking. I'm not quite sure why, and have no excuse for it. It certainly wasn't because I thought I was too good for her. I took in all of the Conan canon that I could get hold of. I even sank so low as to to read a few Gor novels. (A meeting between Dejah Thoris and John Norman would be ... interesting to contemplate. Somehow I don't think Her Highness would be the one who ended up wearing the gold slave collar.)
Ahem, and back to the point. It turns out that the upcoming film, though based on Edgar Rice Burroughs' debut novel, A Princess of Mars, will not be called A Princess of Mars. The title will have no reference at all to Dejah Thoris, a fact that has caused a bit of well-justified kerfuffle. But for that matter, the film's title evidently has no reference to Mars.
It is merely John Carter. To those of us who know our pulps - even if only by cultural osmosis - that name would be enough. But most of the moviegoing audience, even for thud-and-blunder actioners, probably never heard of the guy.
Disney, it seems, changed the title because they say that guys won't go to movies about princesses. (Or that simply have Princess in the title.) I would suspect that it depends a good deal on the princess. As one commenter to the linked piece snarked, The Princess Bride didn't seem to be hurt by having the P-word in the title.
I do not come to this subject with perfect, disinterested objectivity. As longtime readers may know, I have a certain literary interest in the subject. Thanks to Turner Classic Movies I can even identify the source of this oddity: the 1953 movie Young Bess, which I saw on TV at some impressionable age. Jean Simmons, plus (implied) galleons - what wasn't to like?
In any case, I have my own variant theory of why the Disney corporation wimped out of giving the movie its rightful royal title. It isn't, I suspect, about princesses in general but about Disney princesses. Which are a highly specialized and, by all accounts, an extremely profitable franchise. And Disney is nothing if not ruthlessly commercial.
Whatever else can be said about her, Dejah Thoris is most certainly not a Disney princess. So she must be kept strictly out of sight of four-year-old girls, their parents, and the parents' wallets. Lest brand-damaging havoc ensue.
Which still leaves the puzzling question of why they also got rid of Mars. Granted that Barsoom has only a very modest similarity to Sol IV (a lot more modest than Dejah Thoris, if Frank Frazetta was anyone to go by), it is not as if mere issues of scientific plausibility ever troubled Disney or anyone else in Hollywood.
Speculations are welcome.
Speaking of Mars - the real one, in this case, or at least an arguably Plausible Midfuture one - a reader, Chris Gerrib, contacted me to let me know that he has a science fiction novel coming out, Pirates of Mars. If Mars can't have princesses, at least it can have pirates. Author and book were featured a few days ago on John Scalzi's 'Whatever' blog.
The image comes from the Mars page at Space.com.