There was a fascinating post on Disney Princes last week, so let’s take the fairytale analysis one step further…..what about the ‘happily ever after’?
Now, I admit, I have not watched The Little Mermaid II or Cinderella II or any of the Disney sequels (apart from the Shrek series, which is largely an exception to this post). Growing up, I saw the classics. Snow White. Cinderella. Beauty and the Beast. And I loved them. I collected the videos (those were the days!), I sang the songs.
But it was not the weakness (or not) of the Disney princess that affected me. Nor was it the two-dimensional character of (some of) the Disney princes. It was the ease of falling in love. And the notion that the prince and princess rode off into the sunset to live their lives ‘happily ever after’.
The two things I took away from a childhood of Disney films were:
(a) falling in love hits you like a thunderbolt from the sky – think the Prince seeing Cinderella across the ballroom – and if it doesn’t then it’s not love; and
(b) courtship is the hard part, marriage is easy (the film ends with a wedding, and everyone’s happy).
This had a profound effect on me during my twenties. I wanted the fairytale. I didn’t think love should come with difficulties between the partners – after all, ‘true love conquers all’, and that ‘all’ is always outside the partnership (an angry step/parent, a wicked witch). It caused me to question more realistic relationships that were founded on shared experiences and trust. And yes, I wanted to be looked after.
I now have a wonderful marriage, an equal partnership in which I am both strong and looked after. I have met my match, in so many different ways. Life throws us challenges, and we meet them. It just took me a while to realize that, perhaps subconsciously, I had been looking at relationships though the eyes of a child who sees love and marriage as something easy and simple, all or nothing.
I still love Disney films. I love the songs and the innocent stories. But I do wonder how to make sure that my children don’t fall into the same way of thinking that I did. I have no doubt that they’ll get through it – they’ll ‘grow up’ just as I did and realize that a Disney life is not real life – but I would spare them that experience if I could.