Do you remember the very last frame of Cinderella, in script as she and her Prince are riding away, it says….and they lived happily ever after! Really? Cinderella lost each of her parents in two different ways and was left to fend for herself against a wicked step-mother and her two evil daughters. The prince didn’t seem to have a mother (why is this so common in Disney movies?) and was raised in a privileged household with servants in a mansion. Good luck with that.
Snow White is no different; she left her home forever, running for her life from a crazed witch trying to murder her for her beauty. She ended up living with seven small men and taking care of them. If there was information about her prince, I don’t remember it, but let’s assume he was tall, dark and dreamy with lots of money. Happily ever after? Probably not without some serious therapy.
Let’s take a more recent movie, Tangled, and the story of Rapunzel. A princess was kidnapped as a child and locked in a tower and forced to never cut her hair. Her kidnapper persuades her to believe that she is Rapunzel’s mother and plays serious head games with her. The princess is rescued by a known thief and eventually reunited with her real, royal family. I see no issues there, do you?
Our children watch these dramatic tales of injustice, evil and chivalry and cheer when the damsel is out of distress. Little girls see her in a beautiful princess dress at the end of the movie, smiling and ready to ride off into the sunset with her prince, and they want to be that princess. It is easy to imagine that life after all that turmoil will be simple because they are finally together, happily ever after.
It’s no wonder we are surprised when we learn that marriage is work! We marry people with a lot less drama than those stories, and yet we don’t just automatically live happily ever after. There should be a sequel to each of these movies, showing us how hard it was for the two protagonists to merge their worlds, unload their baggage and sift through each other’s junk. We don’t give our children the proper role models to learn that marriage can be good, but difficult and rewarding, even while challenging. I’m all for the fairy tale that takes you away to another land for a little while, but when it leaves you there – far, far away from reality, the end result is going to be anything but happily ever after.