Once upon a time in a faraway kingdom there lived a blonde princess with an out of tune voice and a happy go lucky attitude who dreamed someday her Prince would come to rescue her.
32 years and a divorce later she’s having second thoughts.
It is my best friends’ daughters 8th birthday this weekend and all she wants is the Disney Princess collection. I happily oblige and buy her Rapunzel. We both adore Rapunzel and she is ridiculously ecstatic with her gift. She proceeds to introduce me to all the other princesses as well as talking me through every tiny dress detail and matching hair accessory (ah the joy of being 8). As we sit down to watch Tangled for the 15th time, I ponder ‘how do Disney Fairy Tales affect our perception of the world as we grow up?’
As young girls we watch Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Snow White, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Tangled. Each has a very similar format.
- Young princess with impossibly fabulous hair starts singing
- Bunch of animals skilled in housework appear
- Cue handsome Prince usually on horse with tight trousers
- There is a chance meeting between the two
- There is some sort of predicament that tries to keep the two apart
- Good wins over evil, the beautiful triumph over the ugly
- The Prince and Princess fall in love, we know this because of ‘loves true kiss’
- They live happily ever after, the end
Hmm. So as girls we are taught four key lessons
- You need good hair/a good voice/a skilful menagerie to capture a Prince
- Real men sing and ride horses
- Your dream prince is out there waiting to rescue you
- When you meet him you will live happily ever after
As these princess-wannabes transform into women they throw themselves into relationship under the illusion that once love strikes the ‘happily ever after’ follows. We are not taught in school that relationships take commitment, energy, understanding, maturity, compromise and communication. We look forward to the big diamond ring, the big white dress and that big long aisle (mine was the length of a football pitch). We are simply not prepared for the reality of marriage. I wonder how Belle and the Beast are getting on 20 years later. Are the stresses of running a castle, having a couple of kids and paying ridiculously large heating bills affecting their relationship magic? We don’t know because Disney doesn’t show us this bit. I personally would love to see Cinderella – the Sequel.
Divorce rates in the UK, USA and Russia (hmm wonder if they have Disney in Russian?) are the highest in the world compared with countries like India who only have 11 marriages in every 1,000 ending in divorce. The Indian culture is very different from ours. They are taught a marriage is about duty, family and partnership. Many marriages are still arranged in Indian culture so love, if it happens, is an added bonus. Indian women have a different perspective on marriage. They do not have great expectations and an illusion of Prince Charming. Therefore are they less likely to be disappointed and end up in the divorce courts?
Now I am an adult and have some experience under my belt I can confirm that all the Disney taught lessons above are total rubbish. Good hair and an excellent singing voice do not keep a sex life alive. You can’t spot a real man by how well he mounts a horse. And skipping off into the sunset after the wedding day is not the end of the story, its the beginning. Is it time we ditched the Disney Delusion and got real with our daughters?
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