They Didnt Live Happily Ever After

And They Didn’t Live Happy Ever After

The beginning of almost every Disney film features Cinderella’s castle along with the highly notable Walt Disney logo displayed across the bottom of the famous image. This opening sequence signaled that viewers were about to embark on an adventure along with some of their favorite characters that encouraged us children to follow their dreams and believe in magic.

For over 90 years, The Walt Disney Company has invited audiences to “Be Their Guest” with a little pixie dust and endless happy endings. From inanimate objects that come to life to fairy godmothers, Prince Charming, and villains, Disney films have enchanted our childhoods. 

But real life isn’t a fairy tale. Some may never find their knight in shining armor or have the courage to escape the oppression of an evil authority figure in their life. Ironically, the Grimms’ Fairytales of Snow White and Rapunzel that were adopted by Disney were not created to foster unrealistic expectations about life to young children, but they acted as cautionary tales to warn children about the tough road ahead. Walt Disney Pictures transformed these tales into stories that fortified the idea that if you are a beautiful princess or a handsome prince, you will find love and live happily ever after.

The reality is that being in a relationship is not always filled with romantic ballroom dances and glass slippers, but some people find that they are happier being alone. The popular Disney song from Snow White “Someday My Prince Will Come” promotes the idea that women must wait around for the man of their dreams to save them from their mundane and hopeless lives.

However, in today’s society, a woman does not need a man to be happy and successful. Women are bolstering gender roles and breaking through the glass ceiling. The days of waiting for a prince to one’s rescue are long gone. Nowadays, women can rescue and protect themselves. Disney has attempted to make efforts to promote feminism in their more recent film, Frozen but their more classic movies that most children watch religiously emphasize old-fashioned gender roles.

You have to work hard to make your dreams happen. Fairy Godmothers do not exist. If you want to get yourself to the ball, there is no magical spell to turn a pumpkin into a carriage. In fact, if you try “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo[ing]” yourself a carriage odds are people may think you are a little crazy. In life, you cannot wait around hoping that someone will help you achieve your dreams, but you have to work hard to make them into a reality.

Disney films also crafted unrealistic beauty standards. Young girls were conditioned from these movies to believe that in order to be considered beautiful, you must have a small waist, tiny feet, and perfect hair. Boys were made to believe that they must grow up to be strong, charming and handsome. In reality, it would be extremely unhealthy to be as thin as a Disney princess and sometimes men are the ones that are in need of rescuing. 

While I have been placing the blame solely on Disney for fostering unrealistic beliefs about life, the media is also to blame. Our culture is obsessed with the idea of happy endings. Most of our favorite blockbusters mirror Walt Disney’s structure of fairy tale romances and unattainable beauty standards. Through these unrealistic depictions, society tells us what our relationships, bodies, and lives should resemble. However, it is with chief importance to remember that we are the directors of our own lives. We have the capability to rescue ourselves from any situation and we do not need a prince to do so.

While Walt Disney has taught us some valuable lessons like the fact that you may have to kiss a lot of frogs before meeting “the one”, I guess The Princess and the Frog movie geared us up for that disappointment. As well as, making us aware that although we are physically aging it does not mean that our mental state also has to. Walt Disney once said, “That’s the real trouble in the world, too many people grow up.” Although these films set unrealistic expectations for the youth that worship them, they also encourage a sense of wonder and optimism in children that is important to maintain through life’s trials and tribulations. The real world may not be made up of happy ending and dreams coming true, bit it is nice to believe that it does for the approximate 90 minutes of a classic Disney film.

I think it is important to recognize that Disney movies are simply movies. They are not meant to reflect real life. We must recognize as the children that grew up on Disney magic, that living “happily ever after” does not have to mirror what was depicted in these films. Not everyone needs a prince, a pair of glass slippers, and even a marriage to be happy. Utilize Disney films as an occasional escape from reality, but do not let them dictate your expectations about how your life should be. After all, they are just fairy tales. Live happily ever after based on your definition of what that is.

PHOTO COURTESY of Lauren Niesz