Saturday, March 31, 2012

Let's Be Realistic

I have noticed a slew of posts on Facebook and Pinterest about how the movies from Disney that we loved as children are inappropriate or giving our kids the wrong messages. We all know about the phallic symbols in the Little Mermaid and various other examples of inappropriate images. I am talking about the more subliminal messages that people seem to be freaking out about.

They say that Ariel encourages changing everything about yourself for a man. Sleeping Beauty lays around waiting for a man to save her. The list goes on and on. Apparently the men in the stories are no better. The Beast is verbally abusive. Prince Eric will only settle for the perfect woman. Same goes for Prince Charming. Blah blah blah.

The stories these movies are based off of were set in a time when women would have waited for men to save them. Let's be realistic. Have you ever read the real version of the Little Mermaid? It takes on the drama of a Shakespearean tragedy. Her prince falls in love with another woman. In order to become a mermaid again she has to kill him and his bride, but she chooses to become sea foam and to never really be at peace. Most fairy tales aren't really that magical. They are dark and horrid. Hansel and Gretel is based on a father abandoning his children and a witch that practiced cannibalism.

I don't think that the princess and prince finding True Love at the end is that awful. Most of the princesses in the recreated stories are strong women but in a subtle way. For example, Cinderella had to have the courage to leave her terrible home life and go after what she really wanted. She had some moxy. Ariel saw what she wanted and made the changes to get it. She wasn't happy where she was. She changed it, and helped to defeat Ursula in the end. The men in the stories are virtuous and supportive.

Well, what about Bambi? They kill off his mother. It is sad. That's true. Let's be realistic. There is tragedy in this world. Many children lose their parents. There is evil and pain and people that will want to hurt you for the sake of doing it. That is life. Not everything can be sunshine and daisies. Children get kidnapped. People get killed. I believe that these movies help teach those lessons. Even from childhood we have to recognize the danger and beauty of life. Yes, Rapunzel was taken from her family and used terribly. She left. She found a man who loves her and she loves back. He has some flaws. (So do the rest of us.) She found herself and her home.

I think that parents that only allow their children to watch nonviolent movies or read them nonviolent stories are doing their children a disservice. They aren't going to be prepared for the real world. There might not be princes and princesses in the aspect of fairy tales anymore. But there are people out there who have those attributes. They exist, as do the villains.

The fact is the characters in these movies aren't willing to settle for anything but their dreams. Too many of us are doing the opposite. We settle. I love these movies for their imperfections. I still believe in fairy tales. I'm living in one. Because the true fairy tales aren't perfect. They are hard and gritty, but in the end it is about finding your dreams and being happy in a less than perfect world. I hope my daughters can still believe in fairy tales when they are my age. Life isn't perfect, and finding the happiness within it is the real fairy tale. 

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