Ever since I was a little girl, I was fascinated with the romantic gesture of falling in love. Growing up in a white middle-class family, I was surrounded with adults who were happily married and I would stare at these couples in awe and appreciation in hopes that I would someday accomplish what they have.
I had this goal thanks to my love for movies that always showed me I would meet my Prince Charming and live happily ever after, just like Cinderella. Little did I know falling in love was nothing like Disney portrayed it to be.
Yet my parents still let me watch these movies and dress up as Belle from Beauty and the Beast for Halloween, all the while knowing my innocence of love would soon be tested once I hit high school.
As I became a teenager, falling in love and meeting my Prince Charming was a reality that seemed obtainable. Although my middle school years were anything but glamorous, I knew from growing up with Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty that a boy was going to save the day and we would live happily ever after.
Only, that never happened.
In almost every Disney movie, the princess is at the center of a difficult obstacle that only true love will get her out of. In The Little Mermaid, Ariel is changed into a human in exchange for her voice and must receive a kiss in order to stay on land. Similarly, in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Snow White eats a poisonous apple that puts her to sleep and can only be awakened by a true love’s kiss.
Disney audiences have seen very few instances where the female character triumphs alone. We are taught at a young age to rely on a man to help us out of a problem and in return we fall in love. We know women are capable of fighting off evil and achieving success. But why has Disney never portrayed women as independent instead of hopeless romantics? Furthermore, why do they give little girls who admire these princesses, hope that true love exists for everyone?
False hope and an altered reality is what these movies are doing to young minds. Looking back at my childhood, I wish I knew that life wasn’t going to be like a Disney movie. I was never going to have a fairy godmother that could transform me into a princess just in time to meet my prince at the ball. I was never going to be awakened by a true love’s kiss and live happily ever after. Instead, I was going to enter high school, fall in love, and have my heart broken into a thousand pieces.
Why don’t Disney movies prepare you for these moments instead of leaving their viewers wishing for a life that begins with once upon a time?
However, there is hope for the newest generation of children who have become just as fascinated with Disney movies as I was. The newest member of the Disney family, Frozen, is a film that teaches audience members that love can come in a variety of ways from a multitude of individuals. Although the main character falls in love with her prince, the love of her sister is what ultimately breaks the spell she in under.
This box office hit can be seen as an opportunity for Disney to teach my former self and those alike, what love is actually about. Some will find the fairytale love Disney taught us to dream for, and others will learn their independence is more important than love. Maybe some girls will never find their Prince Charming or maybe their prince is a princess, just like themselves.
This four-letter word is commonly used and seems easy to obtain, thanks to Disney. But reality has shown me it is a lot more complicated.
As I look back at my childhood self, the image of my green eyes widening as Prince Charming saves the princess at the end of the movie is all I remember. Even though my 21-year-old self knows now that Disney tells stories, I still find myself wishing those fairytales I grew up watching, will one day become my reality.
And I’ll live happily ever after.