First Published in Trespass Magazine on July 30, 2010
“When you wish upon a star, your dreams come true,” the prophetic words of a wise cricket. But when you transport yourself back to your childhood days and think about your dreams, don’t you just want to laugh in disbelief? Did all young girls dream about finding a prince charming and riding into the sunset after a white wedding?
In this modern day and age, where dreams have broadened to include knowledge, experience, a career and aspirations, are the Disney’s fairy tales outdated?
In Sex and the City: The Movie, Carrie Bradshaw reads the story of Cinderella to a young girl named Lily. At the end of the story, she looks at the little girl and says, “You know this is just a fairy tale, right sweetheart? Things always don’t happen like this in real life”.
Hallelujah Carrie! You nailed that one. If everyone had a “happily ever after”, it would certainly not be called “a life”, right? Life is full of challenges, imperfections and bad-hair days. We can wish to wake up every morning in a ball dress with perfect skin and nails that don’t need buffing but, in reality it doesn’t always work that way.
Princess Aurora a.k.a. Sleeping Beauty made her daily life look so effortless when she swayed amongst the forest animals and hummed a melody while picking berries. She didn’t have a doctor’s appointment, or an empty pantry that desperately needed refilling. But it also makes me wonder if this princess phenomena is a healthy barricade from the unpleasant sights of our society, or the ‘real world’. Perhaps Disney merchandisers have assisted a young girl’s mind to be safely armoured in the fantasyland.
These girls crave to sit on their magical carriers, glide through a ballroom and fall into the arms of their hero. The society has an undying fascination with “happily-ever-after” and it entails in every movie genre nowadays.
There are chick-flicks where, even after a nasty break-up, you’d find the hero sprinting across the airport terminal, stopping the airplane from taking-off and pulling the sobbing lady into his arms. In action movies, the bad guys are either arrested or killed, but your eyes won’t miss a passionate, sweaty and greasy (blame the bomb blasts) kiss between two lovers.
For obvious reasons, Disney wouldn’t want to break the trend. They follow the same strategy of magically-killing the evil character and bringing the two loved ones together.
It can be argued that little girls have an innate desire to live the fantasy of being a princess. It is either the red luscious-locks of Ariel or the perfect spotless skin of Snow White; every girl wants to be the owner of that perfection. This makes me wonder, does this princess craze hurt a girl’s self-image? Have the Disney princesses trained a generation of damsels in distress?
If you closely inspect the Disney princesses, you wouldn’t argue when I say that each one of them has ditto-same features, and are only racially unique. The difference in their hair and skin colour is prominent, but the rest is scarily similar. These princess beauties have created a stereotype of beauty in society. They have forced girls to believe that, if only you had a fairy godmother and a 24-inch waist, you will have a magical wedding. This multi-million dollar industry has camouflaged society’s ugly side and made it a hypothetical mess.
But in a world where Lindsay Lohan has loud and atrocious nail art while she’s getting sentenced to jail, and Miley Cyrus does her infamous booty dance; letting your child indulge in that blissfully perfect world seems like the best bet.
I find it obligatory to quote Carrie Bradshaw again:
“What if Prince Charming had never showed up? Would Snow White have slept in that glass coffin forever? Or would she have eventually woken up, spit out that apple, gotten a job, a health-care package, and a baby from her local neighbourhood sperm bank?”
Unlike Disney, Pixar studios pushed the boundaries of fairy tales and came up with honest and real screenplays. The heart-melting family movie, Toy Story, showcased a beautiful matrimony between eerily realistic computer graphics and old-fashioned story telling. The twinkling wit and sexual innuendos, which only adults understood, and the intricate detailed screenplay that demanded in-depth study, gave Pixar studios breaking box-office records.
Despite its collaboration with Walt Disney, it showed the audience a new perspective of life. It changed the trend and shoved the Disney-stereotype in the back seat.
Take the delicious 2007 comedy, Ratatouille, in which a rodent mastered the art of French cuisine. The picture attributed to the art of cooking the importance of trust in a relationship. While Wall-E attacked consumerism, Up made every adult weep in the first 15 minutes of the movie. The brilliantly-scripted, Finding Nemo, sent every child running back to his father and promising to never outdo their words of wisdom.
These blockbuster hits didn’t just find a place in every movie-lovers DVD collection racks, but also in the hearts of every child and adult. They don’t have pink seas and diamond tiaras – they have real families, real friendships and real human emotions. Emotions that can make a 40-year-old man shed a tear in front of his four-year-old son.
Disney’s promotion of Prince Charming had crossed the “let’s-be-realistic” borderline, but Pixar saved the day. It expanded the genre of ‘Fairy Tale’ by making it more universal.
No more does a family cringe when the kid yells, “Let’s watch an animated movie!” No more do movies end with a wedding scene. And the ultimate dream is no longer about ‘finding a lover’ or ‘having a perfect wedding’.
Thank you Pixar.