When I was little I wanted to become a princess. Well, tell a lie, I wanted to become a princess, then a singer, then an actress, then a princess again. But each time my parents asked me “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I always gave them the same answer. I looked at them blankly through big brown innocent eyes, took my thumb out of my mouth and said “Pwincess,” batting my eyelids. My answer was invariably met by two different responses from each of my parents. On one hand, my father, finding my naivety endearing would hug me, laugh and say “Well you’ll have to nab yourself a prince, won’t you darling?” On the other hand, my mother responded candidly, firmly telling me that this was a wistful aspiration and it was not ‘in my best interests’ to bet on a life of affluence at the expense of a prince who would most likely not be knocking at my door or throwing pebbles at my window.
I say all this because this week I ended up watching Tangled (for those of you who don’t know, Tangled is a Disney film based on the story of Rapunzel) and found myself reminiscing about my youthful, naïve desire to become a princess. The Disney films that I relentlessly watched as a child didn’t exactly help to quell my unrealistic, fanciful notions but instead allowed me to indulge subconsciously in a world of fantasy and happily ever afters, making me believe that finding my prince would be perfectly possible. It’s no wonder that girls grow up searching for their 'prince' and thinking that becoming a princess would be a perfectly obtainable feat when they are spoon fed fairytales involving tiaras, glass slippers, and knights in shining armour. But the fantasy and ‘false hope’ are precisely the reasons why Disney films are so popular. They subtly trick impressionable unsuspecting girls, into thinking that they can experience a love that knows no limits no matter how dire the situation.
Let’s take a look at some examples. Cindarella: An abused, oppressed, unloved girl who lives a woeful life under the negligence of her wicked stepmother, goes on to become a princess with the help of some mice, a pumpkin and a fairy godmother. Or how about Sleeping Beauty: Aurora, a young girl forced into exile to avoid the fateful omen of the wicked witch, is aided by three fairy godmothers who endow her with beauty, and a soulful voice which conveniently happens to attract the attention of a gallant prince. Or even Ariel from The Little Mermaid who is smothered by her overbearing father and dreams of being ‘part of this world,’ so sings tune or two and cops herself a prince AND some legs. Shockingly impossible. The list of examples goes on and on; I’m sure you can easily come up with a few more examples that back up my point.
I also want to make a point about the portrayal of men in Disney films, because in comparison to the ladies, it seems they have an easy ride. For instance, Beauty and the Beast. How in God’s name did that frightful beast gain the affections of beautiful Belle? She could have had Gaston and his 12 dozen eggs, but instead she chose a hairy beast? Are you kidding me? Talk about aesthetically ill-fitting:
No wonder guys grow up to think they can get any girl they want, no matter if they look like the back of a bus. But it’s true; think how many ugly male friends you know who’ve punched above their weight and managed to snag a beautiful girl…which leads me on to Lady and the Tramp. The title evidently backs up my point of ugly man (dog) and gorgeous girl (bitch) but that’s not the main point I want to make here. It’s the observation that the dastardly tramp woo’s the luscious lady with some leftover meatballs and spaghetti and she readily falls for his bad boy ways hook, line and sinker, even after finding out he has other bitches on the go. To put this into a more lifelike perspective, think how many times you’ve seen a guy pursuing a girl who is so obviously out of his league, and then cheat on her once they start going out. Aladdin is another good example of a man trying his luck; a ‘street rat’ reverting to trickery and masquerading himself as a prince so that he can marry into ‘official’ royalty. Most Disney heroines are too innocent to ask their dwarves (Snow White), fairy godmothers (
) or mice (Cindarella) to help them deceive their target. They are bestowed with good manners, luscious looks and a melodic voice at birth. Aladdin on the other hand was allotted nothing but shabby trousers, a penchant for thieving and a cheeky monkey called Abu, so it’s no surprise that he’d take advantage of his three wishes and con poor, unsuspecting princess Jasmine into wedding him. Yet again we can easily translate this example into a real life scenario, although men may not lie about being a prince to gain the affections of a potential lover, they lie about cars, salary and status all the same. Aurora
But even with all the stereotypes, false hopes and over romanticized views about becoming a princess, at 24 years of age, I still find myself watching Disney time and time again. Watching, wishing, hoping and waiting for a dashing prince to come knocking at my door, professing his undying love for me. It’s a tad pathetic I know, but what’s worse: giving yourself false hope or giving up on love? Right now those are my only two options and the ‘happily ever after’ looks much more appealing.