Tuesday, April 26, 2011
THE PRINCESS BRIDE EFFECT
I will admit straight away that I am looking forward to watching the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Catherine (Kate) Middleton. That said, I will be viewing the event with a certain amount of cynicism as well. One cannot help but recall what happened to William's mother following her fairytale marriage ceremony. Yet, the hope for a "happily ever-after" lives on in many hearts. All these years following the Women's Liberation Movement, little seems to have changed in the way marriage and romance are viewed. Young women have plastic surgery, dress like their favorite celebrity icons, whiten their teeth, and scan the horizon for princes or knights in shining armor. They wait to be rescued.
Is it in a little girl's best interest for society to perpetuate fairytales that set up unrealistic standards for husbands and marriages? I am not against marriage; I have been married for many years. However, the road to find my husband was filled with many obstacles for which I was not prepared. A couple of men I believed to be princes (at heart) were not. One boyfriend especially became physically and emotionally abusive. I concluded there was something wrong with me. A prince doesn't act that way unless provoked, right? Luckily, my sense of self preservation kicked in, and I took a Kung Fu class. Not only did I meet my future husband in that class, but I also gained enough confidence to leave my abusive boyfriend.
Interestingly, the classic fairytales known now are not the same as when they were written. Not all the tales had happy endings. At the conclusion of "The Little Mermaid", by Hans Christian Andersen, the Prince marries another, and the Little Mermaid turns into sea foam. In the Grimm brother's version of "Rapunzel", Rapunzel is separated from her Prince, gives birth to twins, and lives in terrible conditions for many years until he finds her.
I do not have a daughter, so I am not sure whether I would encourage her to read or watch fairytales. Could I deny her the fantasies and dreams of happily ever-after? Probably not. What I would do is tell a daughter that even happy endings take work to maintain. And if her prince or knight turned out to be a villian, I would damn well make sure she knew how to rescue herself.