Did Disney give you a hero complex?
July 20, 2010 1:37 PM   Subscribe

What are the impacts of stories like Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid, The Tales of King Arthur, Beauty & the Beast, or Aladdin, on contemporary romantic relationships?

This question is the basis of a paper I am writing, and I am having some difficulty writing it because I didn't grow up watching Disney movies (we didn't have a TV). I have seen some Disney films in my adult life, unfortunately this doesn't give me a good concept for the influence Disney or other children's tales have on kids and their ideas of romantic relationships. Do those ideas stay with them into their dating experiences?

SO if you remember a certain lesson learned about romance via Disney (or any other tale/myth you were told as a child) please let me know.

Thanks Metafilter, I couldn't finish college with out you.
posted by toni_jean to Society & Culture (43 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
Surely your professor wants to see your own ability to make connections and draw conclusions. Why not watch a Disney movie or two? Also, a quick one-query Google search found this: Sex, Love, and Romance in the Mass Media. Do you think something like this might be relevant? If so, talk to your university librarian about how to find more. This is not a paper that requires a lifetime of Disney experience.
posted by Wordwoman at 1:58 PM on July 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think the only wrong-headed relationship concept from Disney that really sank in for me was the idea of "happily ever after." They peddle this idea that you can meet the right person, and everything will be right in your life if you can just get together with that person. For a long time I thought something was wrong with me, or with my relationships, because they still required work. There were still compromises to be made, disagreements to resolve, and somehow these people never agreed with me perfectly on every single issue the way I imagined Prince Charming would if he was really the right Prince Charming for me. Not only that, but it turns out that finding your Prince Charming doesn't always mean that life outside the relationship will be easy, either. Sure, it's great to have someone to support you through the tough stuff, but problems with school/work/family/etc. don't all go away even if you do manage to fall head-over-heels for somebody who feels the same way about you.

All of this sounds pretty obvious, I'm sure. I think I realized on an intellectual level that "happily ever after" is unrealistic long before I realized it in my heart. It was easy to say "I know we're all just human and things won't be perfect" long before I finally gave up pining for an imagined relationship that really would be perfect. Once I figured out that "perfect" really means someone who's willing to do the hard work of maintaining a relationship along side me, rather than not having to work at it, I managed to find my prince after all.
posted by vytae at 2:01 PM on July 20, 2010 [7 favorites]


Also the idea that "someday my prince will come." There are children who grow up with the idea that they will be rescued some day by prince charming and swept off of their feet.

That's from the Disney versions, not the originals, or Grimms, those sometimes don't end happily ever after.
posted by patheral at 2:08 PM on July 20, 2010


Here is an article about fetishizing marriage that's sort of tangentially related to Disney movies.
posted by wayland at 2:10 PM on July 20, 2010


A lot of the Disney movies, especially the older ones, revolve around the idea that a woman's only goal in life should be to snag a handsome prince. And there are still a lot of women who believe that.

Also, just look at any traditional wedding in the U.S. and you will see that the whole fairy-tale princess idea is still thriving. They even call them "fairytale weddings" in magazines. Women who have been raised their whole lives with the idea that they are equal to men still dream about the day they can put on a big, white, impossible-to-function-in dress and walk down the aisle to their waiting Prince Charming. They are still 'given away' by their fathers. They still think it's "charming" if a man asks their parents for permission to marry their daughter.
posted by MexicanYenta at 2:10 PM on July 20, 2010


You might write about how this Google search gets 667,000 hits: Cinderella wedding
posted by Houstonian at 2:12 PM on July 20, 2010


Oh yes. I think the evidence is every "Break up or Get Married?" question here. That poster didn't specifically mention Disney, but he did mention romantic movies.

There's lots of writing about romantic comedies, songs, etc, being inherently sexist. The theme that a woman needs to wait around to be swept off her feet. A guy, no matter how goofy or ugly will "get the girl" with persistence and a grand romantic gesture. Sad thing is, people do apply these invented stories to their real lives, as a rubric of what their relationships should be like.
posted by fontophilic at 2:14 PM on July 20, 2010


Funny you should mention this because just the other day I saw this video:

Bad Ideas from the Little Mermaid

It's obviously tongue in cheek but some of its points are quite pithy. Also it's entertaining. :)
posted by CTORourke at 2:20 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, sidenote, I have been thinking a lot about Beauty and the Beast recently, and I think that when viewed abstractly, it's actually shockingly progressive and gender balanced, because it is the only classic fairytale I can think of where the male and the female essentially save each other.
posted by CTORourke at 2:22 PM on July 20, 2010 [6 favorites]


Are we talking about Disney, or are we talking about the influence of myths and fairytales on people's social interactions?

I would assume that, in terms of sources for your paper, those are two different questions.

My earliest childhood was during that lull between the last of the "old school" Disney animated fairytales and the onset of The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and the like and corresponding ramping up of Disney's marketing to little girls. I tend to think of fairytales like Cinderella, King Arthur, Robin Hood, and Sleeping Beauty as fairytales, not as Disney movies. Whereas, yeah, you say the phrase "Beauty and the Beast" to me and, honestly, Belle and Gaston and all the talking kitchen utensils is what comes to mind.

But my first exposure to Those Other Fairytales came mainly from books, parental retellings, and from this PBS series, which tended to skew a little 70's-80's Girls Can Do Anything quasi-feminism. So my ideas about how fairytales in general have affected my life is probably different from how said fairytales affect girls in the era of Disney Princesses, or how they affected the lives of women of previous generations who would have had still other associations with the various stories.

Just to give you some food for thought.
posted by Sara C. at 2:23 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I really loved Disney when I was growing up--still do, but I take them with much more than a grain of salt--and I somehow managed not to get swept away by the idea of love-at-first-sight. But I know someone who has tried to get serious in almost every relationship, right off the bat. I wonder if that friend is laboring under the misapprehension that love at first sight is a real thing, instead of a creepy one.

I'm glad I managed to rebuff that insidious Disney suggestion, along with the "your only goal in life is to be decorative for a man" and the "happily ever after is a normal end to a courtship" and "getting married significantly changes your life" and also the "it makes sense to give up everything you are for your man."

The main thing Disney did to me was seriously mess up my body image. Oh, and make me *very* sad that animals can't really talk.
posted by galadriel at 2:30 PM on July 20, 2010


Also, sidenote, I have been thinking a lot about Beauty and the Beast recently, and I think that when viewed abstractly, it's actually shockingly progressive and gender balanced, because it is the only classic fairytale I can think of where the male and the female essentially save each other.

In retrospect, I tend to like B&theB more than the other Disney romantic fairy tales; there *isn't* love at first sight, there *isn't* magical fairytale courtship (just, y'know, courtship), there *isn't* an implication that the only reason for Belle's existence is to eventually be arm candy. One character does try to outright *state* that last, and she argues with him.

It's a much healthier view of relationships, even if it's still marked by "everything changes with love/marriage" and the overall "oh look we stuck a male and female character together, obviously they will fall in love" destiny schtick.
posted by galadriel at 2:36 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


In retrospect, I tend to like B&theB more than the other Disney romantic fairy tales; there *isn't* love at first sight, there *isn't* magical fairytale courtship (just, y'know, courtship), there *isn't* an implication that the only reason for Belle's existence is to eventually be arm candy.

Great example of this:

Gaston: This is the day your dreams come true.
Belle: What do you know about my dreams, Gaston?
Gaston: Plenty! Here, picture this: A rustic hunting lodge, my latest kill roasting on the fire, and my little wife massaging my feet, while the little ones play on the floor with the dogs. We'll have six or seven.
Belle: Dogs?
Gaston: No, Belle! Strapping boys, like me!
Belle: Imagine that.
Gaston: And do you know who that little wife will be?
Belle: Let me think...
Gaston: You, Belle!
Belle: Gaston, I'm-I'm speechless. I really don't know what to say.
Gaston: Say you'll marry me!
Belle: I'm very sorry, Gaston... but... but I just don't deserve you!

posted by emilyd22222 at 2:52 PM on July 20, 2010


Step 1: Check the list of Disney Feature Films, and read the plots (Wikipedia is a great source of complete plots, complete with spoilers).

Step 2: Pick a few, and make a really basic skeleton of the story (example: Cinderella is the story of a beautiful young lady in an unloving family, but her fairy godmother bestows anything she needs upon her and small/lesser friends help her, and in the end she triumphs over cruel people because she was good to the little folks. Love and magic prevail.) Highlight potential expectations for people (looking to be) in romantic relationships.

Step 3: Reflect on people you know, and watch modern television shows for parallels.

Step 4: Write up your findings.

Bonus points: compare and contrast the Disney versions versus the original stories, or even the change of those stories over time. For example, Robin Hood is a general mythical character, source of many tales, whereas Peter Pan was based on a play and novel of a similar name, with fewer versions between. Notable differences: The Little Mermaid has a (debated) ending with less pleasantries than the Disney "happily ever after."
posted by filthy light thief at 3:03 PM on July 20, 2010


I'm not sure whether the above quote is meant to rebuff galadriel's post or reinforce it, but in the movie it's pretty obvious that belle is trying to get Gaston to go away, not seriously saying she doesn't deserve him.
posted by wayland at 3:06 PM on July 20, 2010


I meant that to emilyd22222, not flithy light thief
posted by wayland at 3:06 PM on July 20, 2010


I'm in agreement that Beauty & the Beast was a better influence than several of the other alternatives -- Belle was consistently considered "strange" because of her love of reading and desire for something more, she didn't start out a princess, her desire to trade places with her father showed strength of character, and her love of the Beast was based not on immediate infatuation, but on slow-growing mutual respect and understanding. Not a bad model for a little girl (although there's a bit of a Stockholm Syndrome in there, maybe, but anyway).

I guess the thing that stuck with me (and that I occasionally still struggle with) is the expectation of being wanted with the sort of single-minded wanting of a Disney prince. There's this idea that if the guy is infatuated, he should be willing to undergo any trial to make me feel desired (a small manifestation of fighting dragons, witches, etc.), that he should reliably be bursting with romantic energy. In my dating reality, things have been far more subtle in their loveliness and relationships are more equalized. So it may be the "fault" of culture more generally (Disney more specifically) that despite my not being in love, I can still get stupidly sensitive over someone not being crazy enough over me.
posted by aintthattheway at 3:20 PM on July 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


There's this idea that if the guy is infatuated, he should be willing to undergo any trial to make me feel desired (a small manifestation of fighting dragons, witches, etc.), that he should reliably be bursting with romantic energy.

It's funny, I never got this message out of either Disney movies or fairy tales more generally. The Disney Princes always seemed so wooden, almost passive, except maybe for Aladdin (and the wooing of Princess Jasmine is almost a minor subplot to the film and not present in the original tale at all). In fact, now that I think about it, to the extent that Disney fairy tales affected my ideas about romance, I wonder if one of the messages they instilled in me is that I, the girl, the "Princess", am the one who has to bend over backwards in order to snag a man. Whereas the dude just has to stand around looking heroic (or even not, in the case of Beauty and the Beast).

Think about it - Belle has to sacrifice her freedom. Cinderella has to scheme and magic her way into the ball. Mulan has to fight a war. Snow White has to fake her own death. Ariel has to give up her voice, and even then she's the one who has to do all the wooing. Pocahontas is a cultural ambassador to an alien race and saves her dude's life, and even then, she doesn't get him in the end!

It's certainly something that carries over into my real life relationships with men. Over and over I find myself dating men who expect to sit back and live their lives as usual while I do the work and make the sacrifices. I also have a hard time understanding that love isn't something you can earn through being a better person or working harder or giving more.

Interesting to think of how many of the Disney versions of fairy tales structure their narratives (even bending the original story) so that the female protagonist must work to earn her man.
posted by Sara C. at 4:15 PM on July 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


Why are you assuming that this assignment is about Disney? They've never treated Arthur.

In romantic terms, the Arthur legends are complex. They're ultimately about sex undoing heros: Arthur's kingdom is destroyed by 1. Lancelot and Guinevere's adultery and 2. Arthur's incest with Morgause. The primary lesson, I guess, is that sex is powerful and potentially dangerous, and you should be careful with it.
posted by mr_roboto at 4:19 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


They've never treated Arthur.

The Sword in the Stone.

Though it's really more of a cartoon take on the first bit of The Once and Future King. And doesn't deal with romance at all. Though I always thought Merlin had a bit of a thing for Mad Madame Mim.
posted by Sara C. at 4:24 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Interesting to think of how many of the Disney versions of fairy tales structure their narratives (even bending the original story) so that the female protagonist must work to earn her man.

There's an interesting contrast to this in the case of The Little Mermaid. In Andersen's story, the sacrifices the mermaid makes are viscerally painful: blood and suffering and loss. The Disney version is much milder. In the original story, however, her sacrifice is proven a mistake, resulting in her destruction. In the Disney version, her sacrifice is rewarded by "happily ever after."
posted by mr_roboto at 4:27 PM on July 20, 2010


That doesn't sound so much like a contrast as an illustration of my point.

The original story's moral: "Don't go sacrificing yourself for some pie in the sky romance that's totally unrealistic, or you will surely die."

The Disney version's moral: "If you sacrifice everything in order to win the love of some dude who doesn't even know you exist, you will surely be rewarded with love and acceptance."

See how they did that?
posted by Sara C. at 4:39 PM on July 20, 2010


I'm not sure whether the above quote is meant to rebuff galadriel's post or reinforce it, but in the movie it's pretty obvious that belle is trying to get Gaston to go away, not seriously saying she doesn't deserve him.

It was meant to reinforce it. I never thought of it in that way- I always assumed she meant she assumed better. I'm sure it could be also thought of as tongue-in-cheek though, since he clearly thought so highly of himself.

posted by emilyd22222 at 4:43 PM on July 20, 2010


*deserved better
posted by emilyd22222 at 4:43 PM on July 20, 2010


The main impact on my relationship from Disney is that I inevitably get into heated discussions with my girlfriend about whether or not Disney heroes/heroines are poor role models for children. She accuses me of being willfully blind to the positive morals in Disney stories; I believe she's willfully blind to all the icky things implicit in the Disney worldview (as enumerated above). The eternal struggle continues, or something like that. :p
posted by Alterscape at 4:50 PM on July 20, 2010


I like the line of defense for Beauty and the Beast, that Belle is different and special because of it, find your own path, etc. Except that the entire movie she's trapped in a creepy castle by an emotionally abusive monster. Moral of the story: if you love him, stay! And eventually he'll turn into a prince! Or he'll eat you.
I learned that Princes (men) will fall for blue eyed, small waisted Princesses with daddy issues. Disney movies (romantic ones at least) are breeding grounds for image related self-esteem issues.

One of my favourite cartoon movies growing up was the Secret of NIHM. The girl was the hero, she saved her family and her guy, or they worked together and got a turn to save each other. I'll have to watch it again. Also, the crow was greatly concerned with what he could do to make his girl happy (or get a girl to make happy). Has a much more balanced relationship influence than typical Disney movies (it's not Disney). Also, not a classic fairy tale, as your project requires, but a good contrast for the movie portion maybe.
posted by Carlotta Bananas at 4:54 PM on July 20, 2010


Also, it might be worth noting the differences in cultures from when those plots were originally written and today, or the 50's, whenever they were released. Women's rights have come a long way since Hans Christian Anderson's time.
posted by Carlotta Bananas at 5:07 PM on July 20, 2010


I'm not sure whether the above quote is meant to rebuff galadriel's post or reinforce it, but in the movie it's pretty obvious that belle is trying to get Gaston to go away, not seriously saying she doesn't deserve him.

Well, I think saying it's a "great example" of what galadriel said is pretty clearly intended to support what galadriel said. I don't think anyone's misinterpreting the Gaston scene.

I'm a little surprised that people view Disney movies in general as advocating that women should be "arm candy." The ones I'm most familiar with (from watching them repeatedly as a kid) are The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. Don't both of those feature a woman as a protagonist, driving the action, having the interesting and complex motivations and psyches, while the leading men are pawns by comparison? I'd say these movies are more progressive and woman-centric than the typical romantic comedy, which always focuses on a male protagonist trying to achieve the ultimate goal of "getting the girl." (Sara C. has a good comment along the same lines.)
posted by Jaltcoh at 5:14 PM on July 20, 2010


Disney movies (romantic ones at least) are breeding grounds for image related self-esteem issues.

My first memory of worrying about whether I was pretty or not, and of realizing that there was something "wrong" with my body, was noticing what tiny beautiful feet and ankles Cinderella had in the Disney movie and how they were, well, different from mine. My feet grew much faster than the rest of me when I was a little girl, and it's a reality of my particular build that I have thick sturdy joints despite the fact that I'm generally petite.

I'm over it now and probably have a healthier body image than most. Though if I'm going to obsess about anything, it's my "cankles". Thanks, Disney!
posted by Sara C. at 5:16 PM on July 20, 2010


@Carlotta

I certainly am not saying that BatB was *perfect*, and yes indeed the way you read it there, it certainly could be seen to promote staying around abusive relationships--or even just BAD relationships--in the hopes you can "fix" him. This certainly is a romantic misconception in women that is just as common as the Damsel in Distress myth perpetuated by the other movies, but is perhaps not as easily identified or commonly addressed.

But I still like it best >.<>
Also I agree that the Secret of NIMH is a FaBuLoUs movie, but I think it should be grouped well outside of these other stories being discussed. Perhaps one reason it is so different is because it is a modern story based on more modern and self-aware values. I dont know, just throwing that out there. I know I personally would much rather the children-i-may-or-may-not-have watch that movie or Miyazaki movies or Pixar movies over Disney fairytales.
posted by CTORourke at 5:22 PM on July 20, 2010


Ah yes, I forgot to mention something else about prince charming...

In the stories , he always slays the dragon, gets rid of the evil stepmom, and/or kills the bad guy. Because that's what princes do... So the moral is, once someone finds true love then everything wrong will be made right (or all of the wicked people will disappear or die).

Just doesn't happen in real life. Even after people find true love the bad guys are still around and prince charming can't just go around killing them off or make all the unhappiness magically disappear - even if he is rich. I believe that some people honestly think that if they are unhappy in any way, they're not in love, or that if their guy can't make it all better then it's not true love.

BTW, I suggest watching Into the Woods for a twist on some of these stories - and how the playwright see what happens after happily ever after.
posted by patheral at 6:03 PM on July 20, 2010


I also seem to remember that the book The Last Unicorn had some interesting meta-commentary on fantasies and stories and how they really play out in real life
posted by CTORourke at 6:31 PM on July 20, 2010


These are all fantastic responses. Thanks!
posted by toni_jean at 6:47 PM on July 20, 2010


I'm a little surprised that people view Disney movies in general as advocating that women should be "arm candy."

Well, as I said, B&theB is a sort of counterexample, which is nice. It's still got some flaws, tropes, cliches, but it does do a better job.

Just so we're clear, though, what exactly is an attractive redhead who can't speak and is utterly unfamiliar with her surroundings going to do as the wife of a pre-modern prince? And what exactly would the prince see in her, if not "hey, arm candy"? If she did manage to snag the prince within her original constraints, she had given up all semblance of the independent, quirky, somewhat rebellious life she had exhibited up until she decided she loved that one guy based on a brief encounter. She may have been driving the movie, but as a buffoonish mute she was not going to be anything but arm candy. And we should aspire to that?

Cinderella: they fall in love based on one encounter during a ball, and he swoops her away to be his wife. He clearly wants her for her personality, right? He's taken into account all her talents (for cleaning) and thinks she'll make a good queen, right? Or does he just think she's attractive and he doesn't care who she really is? It's clear why Cinderella would go for this--she's abused daily and used for free slave labor, and anything would be better. But he didn't select her because of who she is.

Sleeping Beauty: they fall in love based on one encounter in the woods. Obviously he thinks she's going to be a capable partner on the throne, right? Or does he just think she's attractive and doesn't care who she really is? And why should SHE go for this? It's a cute story (my husband and I sang the "Once Upon a Dream" song at our wedding) but it doesn't have much in the way of translation to a real relationship.

Snow White: again, they fall in love based on one encounter, but in that one they aren't even on the same side of a WALL. Not to mention she looks like she's 10 years old. What exactly is she expecting, in this situation? She thinks the guy is gonna love her for her mind?

Interestingly, Robin Hood has one of the best romance relationships. Clearly Robin Hood and Marian have a lot of history from before the beginning of the movie; they have a lot of mutual respect and they're much more of a settled relationship than a "I just met you and must sweep you off your feet and carry you away" relationship.
posted by galadriel at 9:10 PM on July 20, 2010


Galadriel, your comment made me aware of something obvious that I had never thought of wrt Disney Princesses (or fairy tales in general) before.

Back in the day when most of these fairy tales take place, why did a dude of noble birth choose any particular woman to be his wife?

Because doing so would confer some benefit on him, his family, or his domains.

Henry II of England/Normandy married Eleanor of Aquitaine so that he could add her vast territories to his own, creating a huge Anglo-Norman empire.

Henry VIII had to marry Catherine of Aragon because it was important for diplomatic relations with Spain and there was no other eligible Spanish princess to be had. Even though it meant marrying his sister in law.

In a more recent history, Edward, Duke of Windsor's marriage to Wallis Simpson was a dealbreaker that cost him the crown, and it's pretty obvious that Diana was carefully chosen as an appropriate mate for Prince Charles.

Doesn't that make it a little weird that any of the princes in the Disney movies would want to marry an orphan servant, a bookish bourgeoise, or a member of another species? Snow White has an edge, as she was already royalty, but as a renegade who was cast out by her family and thought dead? What would be the advantage of choosing her?

I think Aurora in Sleeping Beauty is probably the only traditional Disney Princess who was actually a real princess in good standing when Teh Prince chooses her (isn't a marriage between Aurora and Prince Charming brokered when she's born, at the beginning of the story? That always creeped me out as a kid).

I wonder to what extent Grimm's and Andersen's tales were documentation of the shift from arranged marriages to love marriage in Europe? Or, if these elements aren't part of the original tales (I have to admit I haven't read them in their original versions as an adult), what is this saying about Disney, or modern ideas about marriage?
posted by Sara C. at 9:35 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Doesn't that make it a little weird that any of the princes in the Disney movies would want to marry an orphan servant, a bookish bourgeoise, or a member of another species? Snow White has an edge, as she was already royalty, but as a renegade who was cast out by her family and thought dead? What would be the advantage of choosing her?


Yes, this is by-and-large historically inaccurate (although not unheard-of), but that's part of the modernization of these fairy tales. The "advantage" of choosing the "orphan servant" would have been "true love," a concept that early-Renaissance families of note did not give much thought to. In fact, the concept of "marrying for love" is rather unique to late-modern Western culture (ca. 1800's as a widespread phemomenon, if even that early). So, no, the prince would not have married the orphan, generally speaking.

But, we can't have Disney movies aimed at the 20-21st century princess-in-the-making suggesting that because Dad owns a gas station, no hot prince for you! So we substitute a 15-inch waist for Dad's money. Works every time, apparently.
posted by deep thought sunstar at 12:02 AM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


"your only goal in life is to be decorative for a man" and the "happily ever after is a normal end to a courtship" and "getting married significantly changes your life" and also the "it makes sense to give up everything you are for your man."

I don't disagree that those elements are present, but I think it might be a problem with the genre itself, rather than these movies in particular. Stories about romances usually end when the couple gets together. They're a bit simplistic, sure, but they're fables, and fables rarely end with a clean, happily ever after ending. The Sword in The Stone ended with Arthur succeeding and everything being great, not with moral ambiguity and political ramifications. The difference between The Sword and The Stone and Aladdin is that the goal in one was to get the sword, while the goal in the other was to get the girl. The neat, pat ending is standard.
I certainly wouldn't deny sexism in the Disney princess movies, but the ones that I remember from my childhood (Aladdin, Beauty and The Beast, Lion King) all had pretty strong female leads. In the case of Jasmine and Belle, neither of them were out to get a man. As seen in interactions between Belle and Gaston, and between Jasmine and those shitty suitors, both characters would easily choose being single to marrying someone they didn't like.
Fun fact that isn't true: Mad Madam Mim from The Sword in The Stone was voiced by Valerie Solanas. Many of her recorded lines had to be cut because she insisted on shooting Andy Warhol during takes.
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 1:04 AM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


You can get all kinds of examples and ideas from Mefites, but you won't be able to cite them--we're not credible, peer-reviewed sources--so I'm not sure what the point is. I'd suggest you expand your research, instead, to help you write your paper. I actually took an entire course on Cinderella (the folktale, not the Disney story), and this was our primary text. If you can get a hold of it, I recall several essays that would probably help you expand your argument. At least one of the essays references the Disney tale/Perrault version of the story directly.
posted by litnerd at 4:56 AM on July 21, 2010


galadriel: I'll assume you're right about the lack of substance to the relationships in those movies (since I haven't seen them recently enough to judge). But a few things:

- You're putting your own adult interpretation and logic on these movies: there isn't any serious development of the connection between the leading men and women; therefore, by process of elimination, the woman's looks must be the only thing the man sees in her. For one thing, I wonder why you only apply this in one direction. What are the men valued for? The AskMe question didn't mention gender, and I don't see any reason to assume that boys are less influenced than girls by stories or the media. I also find it a little implausible that kids follow the same process-of-elimination reasoning that you do rather than taking it as a given that the characters belong together because of "love" or "destiny," or just because that's the plot and it's not something to be questioned.

- In the movies where the woman is the protagonist, why even focus on what the man sees in her? As the protagonist, we automatically care about her because she's the one we've been following. If she scores a guy who's out of her league, we'll just be all the more happy for her -- just like in so many romantic comedies where the average guy gets the amazing girl in the end, right?

- Some of what you're describing seems like a straightforward matter of Disney movies not having complex character/relationship development. The complexity -- what makes the movies so entertaining -- is in the plot (how they get to the goal of being together), the musical numbers, the comical secondary characters, etc. Doesn't this make sense as a reliable formula for making love stories that will appeal to kids? I'm not sure what we're seeing is sexism so much as a strategy of leaving out the boring (to kids) relationship-y stuff that would be better suited to a Woody Allen movie.
posted by Jaltcoh at 4:56 AM on July 21, 2010


You could write about the fact that women are actually trying to imitate these fairytales with their wedding purchases. Disney has bridal dress and jewelry lines so you can look just like your favorite princess on your special day.
posted by p. kitty at 8:18 AM on July 21, 2010


Surprised this hasn't come up yet, but Bruno's Bettelheim's The Uses of Enchantment is a psychological analysis of some of the fairy tales, looking at their emotional and symbolic importance. Could be a good place to start.
posted by litleozy at 9:37 AM on July 21, 2010


Surprised this hasn't come up yet, but Bruno's Bettelheim's The Uses of Enchantment is a psychological analysis of some of the fairy tales, looking at their emotional and symbolic importance. Could be a good place to start.

I thought about mentioning it, but since the OP asked about Disney fairy tales soecifcally, I decided against it. I agree that he has some interesting ideas about the original fairy tales, but I don't think they apply to the Disneyfied versions. However, it is a good book to read about the original fairy tales.
posted by patheral at 10:01 AM on July 21, 2010


I think I was much more influenced by the romantic comedies I watched when I got older than I was by Disney romances. There are similar elements, but for me it was easier to recognize fantasy as such in a Disney movie because there were so many other fantastical details to remind me that what I was watching wasn't a representation of the real world. Adult romantic comedies, on the other hand, aren't populated with genies and evil witches and talking animals, so they felt more real even though the relationships portrayed are just as unrealistic as Disney.

What Disney did was make the formula seem normal to me. When I started seeing the formula play out in a more real-world setting, I had already been primed to buy into it.
posted by spinto at 10:16 AM on July 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


« Older Does anyone have any experienc...   |  Can anyone advise me on some s... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.