Monday, October 17, 2011

The Disney Delusion

To the well meaning people who keep trying to "console" me in my singleness:

Thanks but No Thanks.
*stepping up on my soapbox*

*wipes chocolate from face as an afterthought*

Now before you accuse me of destroying fantasy and fun, I love me some escape into Disney cartoons. I’d love to believe that every girl is a princess too. But my 2 favorites have no sleeping princesses. No blonds. No handsome princes either. Belle is a bookworm who fights her battles, and falls in love with a monster. She saves him just as much as he saves her. Same thing with the Princess and the Frog. Tianna is a waitress and chef who works for her dream. Neither Belle nor Tianna start out as princesses. Neither of them are given anything more than opportunity to prove themselves. They aren’t any more special than the next girl. No entitlement. But when they are faced with a foe, they step up. They make themselves more than princesses. And their male counterparts are no different. Not dreamy, no white horses, not even desirable. All they’ve got is a foe to be face, a battle to be fought. And they fight together, and they save each other. Now that’s a romance. And you aren’t left wondering how they are going to face future battles together.

What is this thing I call the Disney delusion? I’ll tell you. It starts with all those little girls dressing up as princesses. I’ve already said my piece regarding pre-made Disney store costumes and dying creativity, tons of little girls growing up believing in the most simpering and weak aspects of fairy tales. The parts where they dance with forest animals and sleep through pain and trauma until prince charming kisses them awake. And the movie ends with a wedding.


Do you really want any story to end with a wedding? It seems to me a wedding should be a beginning, not an ending.

And that’s not the worst of it. Because you see, the story doesn’t end. Stories never actually end. The movie ends. The book ends. But the story goes on and on. Whether the story is about a fictional princess or the 3 year old that has been taught to believe in it, the story keeps going. And there are grown women, lots of them running around believing the story, and believing that it ended with the kiss, and the wedding. This is evident in the sales of movie tickets and DVDs to the genre “romantic comedy”, better known as the “chick flick”. It is evident in the number of grown women obsessed with characters from youth literature, juvenile descriptions of a fantasy relationship with little to no depth of character or story line. It is evident in the TV shows that are popular. It is even evident in commercials! At every turn, I am being told what to expect out of life. Prince charming. Sweeping me off my feet. Whisking me away to live in some dream. The Brawny man! Cleaning my kitchen for me! Fighting my battles, defeating my foes, and oh if only I wear just enough makeup, the cutest figure hugging dress, and stand at my window and sing, he’ll come along!

I absolutely hate it when people tell me “don’t worry, there’s someone wonderful out there for you.” “One day when you least expect it…” “It only takes one guy to finally see…” Blah Blah Blah, platitudes. What makes you think I’m sitting in my tower waiting for someone to come along and fight my battles?

And those little girls hoping for prince charming become young women waiting for prince charming. And some of them are just pretty enough to get the fairy tale. And others are left bitterly waiting. You promised! You said if I waited at my window and sang, he would come on his white horse! You said if I say my prayers and read my scriptures, he would take me to the temple! You said if I majored in Early Childhood or Elementary Education, we’d have babies that never grew to teenagers!
And when the real battles came along, when the story continues and it turns out you don’t get to sleep through the rough parts, suddenly things are different. The dream becomes a nightmare. All you want to do is wake up!

Oh yes, there are casualties in the Disney Delusion.

Now, here’s something else to consider. There is another casualty in the Disney Delusion. Because while little girls and young women are running around waiting for their prince to come, there are young men who have been exposed to the same barrel of horse manure. They aren’t watching the same movies and buying the same costumes, they are dressing up as Iron Man and Spiderman instead. I submit though, that the only difference is the gender of the title character. The same story line applies. Pretty girl. Big bad guy. Man with unrealistic qualities fights battle. Girl with unrealistic waistline cowers in corner/is tied to nuclear bomb/doesn’t want to ruin her manicure. He triumphs, she kisses him. The end?

Same story. Different casualty. Because you see, while women are complaining that they are expected to be thin/blond/perfectly coiffed, they are expecting their men to be superheroes. Strong, silent, winning every battle, defeating the foes, building a castle, showing up on a white horse or fast car, sweeping off of feet.
Have you seen the article about how men are getting less educated and spending all their time playing video games instead? Can you blame them? While girls are obsessing over body weight, because no one will ever sweep her off her feet if she weighs more than 105, boys are obsessing over saving the princess and fortifying the castle. And I can hardly blame them for escaping the ridiculous prince charming expectation by playing in a fantasy world where they get lots of lives. It may even be healthier than the way women escape the princess expectation with diet pills and plastic surgery.

And it gets even more complicated than that!

We’ve grown a society of people who think that the story ends with marriage. We live in a fantasy that teaches that “falling” is the only way to land in “love”. And if I don’t get that “falling” feeling, I must not be in love.

Well people, here’s the kicker for you. Love isn’t a falling thing. Love is a choice. It always has been. Since God created Adam and Eve and a tree in a garden, love has been a choice. The funny thing is, we call the fruit thing the “fall”. But no one tripped into the tree and landed with their face on an apple. Eve chose. Adam Chose. There was temptation. But the choice was only ever theirs. And what they chose was to work together, by the sweat of their brow.

And you know what, it makes sense. Because we are commanded to love. And we always have a choice as to whether or not we are going to follow the commandments. It follows then that we are never going to “stumble” into love. And if you are lucky enough to think that you have “fallen”, I would invite you to run with that, and see how long it takes for the falling feeling to go away, and you find yourself having to choose whether or not you are going to continue loving.

So. To the men who are sitting at home playing video games avoiding the expectations of all the Disney princess wanna-be’s: Quit living in the fantasy. I’m sorry the expectations are ridiculous. They are just as ridiculous for us girls as they are for you. Don’t place a Disney princess expectation on me and I won’t place the prince charming expectation on you. If you want a Snow White, you’d better go out and find yourself a white horse and maybe slay a dragon or two. But if you are looking at fighting some real battles, you’ll want something more than a princess by your side.

You have a choice.

And to the girls who are sitting at their windows, eating celery, painting their nails, and waiting for a man on a white horse to come over the horizon: Get down out of your tower. Slay a dragon or two of your own. You may find a few battle worn soldiers fighting by your side that are more real than any fantasy you could have while sleeping through the battle.

You have choices as well.

The real love story is in the battles fought together. The real love story doesn’t end with a wedding. The real love story doesn’t end. You get up every day and choose to love. And it doesn’t do anyone any good to love a fantasy. In just the same way that we have faith in things that are true, we love people that are real.

I love fairy tales. I love that the good prevails and dragons can be slain. I love romance. I love that even a scullery maid can find a castle and companionship. I love beautiful gowns and fairy godmothers and wishes and magic. They are all real. But I don't want to sit in a tower waiting for someone to come and do all the dragon slaying for me. So don't tell me to "just wait." those skinny princesses in their towers are missing out on years of adventures and fun sized candy bars.

*stepping down from my soapbox*

*and taking another fun-size candy bar*