Unless you’ve been living in a hole your entire life, chances are you have at least heard of Disney. And while Disney World and Disney Land and the world’s largest (and cutest?) rodent are certainly images that quickly pop up, there is one phrase that undoubtedly makes every feminist within 100 yards shudder and gag.
Most girls have their favorites and can name them immediately upon questioning. Turn on a Disney movie and most girls (and some boys) can sing along with every. single. sappy. word.
Not only is that vaguely annoying (does anyone really need to remember all those lyrics?), but it’s also disheartening: girls (and boys) see these films and assume that this is what love is like.
There are two major fallacies that Disney movies perpetuate:
- Every girl dreams of growing up and finding a husband
- “…and they lived happily ever after!”
Both of these are insidious: the first is damaging (on many levels) to boys and girls, and the second is damaging to relationships. Much like pornography gives people an unrealistic view of sex and physicality, Disney movies often promote the idea that all of life’s problems are solved by finding your “soul mate.” I’m not here to disparage the idea of true love, but I do know that it does not solve everything.
I often tell people that my odd sense of romance and what is “ladylike” comes from my reading too many novels, but I know that my ideas of love and marriage were very heavily informed by Disney princesses. So when real-world relationship problems came calling, I was less than prepared.
I know that what I’m saying may sound cruel; everyone deserves to have dreams about their lives or “that special someone,” but sometimes I wonder if we’re setting kids up for disappointment or failure. Maybe failure is the best way to learn.
That’s why I enjoy the realism of Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt plays. They were (and are) famous for making musicals less about sunshine and rainbows and happily ever after, and more about some of the obstacles common in relationships. The best example of this happens in Jones and Schmidt’s first big hit, “The Fantasticks” (1960). Act I draws to a close with the young lovers staring rapturously into each other’s eyes, totally enamored, and seemingly perfect for one another. Then Act II opens with these words by El Gallo (the narrator):
“Their moon was cardboard, fragile.
It was very apt to fray,
And what was last night scenic
May seem cynic by today.
The play’s not done,
Oh, no — not quite,
For life never ends in the moonlit night;
And despite what pretty poets say,
The night is only half the day.
So we would like to finish
What was foolishly begun.
For the story is not ended
And the play is never done
Until we’ve all of us been burned a bit
And burnished by — the sun!”
It turns out that the lovers must experience some difficulties — must be burnished a bit — before reaching their true potential. “Without a hurt, the heart is hollow”–without facing some rough times together, couples are doomed to failure, because they never learn to work together. An always-happy and problem-less relationship teaches no lessons, and leaves no impact on anyone.
And that’s where Disney fails. They only show Act I, convincing the audience that that’s all there is, when there’s really so much more — good and bad.
There’s nothing wrong with fantasy, but sometimes I think we should inject a little reality, too.
What’s your opinion on Disney films? I heard that “The Princess and the Frog” broke the mold a bit–did anyone see that? Who’s your favorite Disney princess?