This is a teen-written article from our friends at Teenink.com.
By globalconcepts, Blue Bell, PA
Like many young, naïve youth, I spent most of my childhood reading and watching fairy tales. From "Sleeping Beauty" to "Cinderella" to "The Little Mermaid," I knew them all. I adored the idea of lavish parties and stunning gowns and was mesmerized by the thought of becoming a princess. However, looking back on these stories, I find that I have to utterly reject what I most loved about the stories: the concept of love at first sight.
For the sake of this paper, I will only be addressing the Disney versions of these tales, as the original stories tend to differ greatly and are not what most of the public has been exposed to. In "Sleeping Beauty," Princess Aurora and Prince Phillip stumble upon each other in the woods and fall madly in love. It just so happens that Phillip is the prince that Aurora’s parents wanted her to marry, and so they get to live happily ever after. In "Cinderella," Prince Charming falls in love with Cinderella the second he sees her in the dress fashioned by the fairy godmother and they manage to live the rest of their lives together in bliss, or, at least, that is what is implied. "The Little Mermaid" has Ariel fall head-over-heels for Eric when she sees him on his ship and they end up marrying and living out their fantasy. All of this seems harmless; they are simply made-up stories to entertain the minds of young children and give them hope and optimism for their futures. But is this really what these movies achieve?
From a purely technical standpoint, if one falls in love with another person only at “first sight,” there can be nothing more than superficiality driving that love. One cannot glean another’s true character or personality from just a glance. In these Disney princess movies, though, they do. All of the princes are just as perfect as they are two-dimensional, giving viewers of these films a basis for believing that love at first sight always produces positive results. So what does it matter if the beginning of a romance is a bit superficial if the rest is picture-perfect? Well, the truth is, nobody and nothing is as perfect as these people and romances may seem. What does happily ever after even mean, anyway? Are we, as an audience, really supposed to believe that Ariel and Eric never had a little tiff regarding the proper nomenclature of silverware? Did Cinderella and Charming never disagree on the position of servants? Surely, growing up as one herself, Cinderella would have had sympathy, whereas Charming would completely approve of the belittling of servants as he had grown up a prince. The ideas of happily ever after that are planted into our heads by these movies are completely false -- however, they come across as believable because we want to believe that they are real.
The main idea given to girls through these princess movies is that the first guy they fall in love with will and should be the one that they marry. This is simply not true. With a few exceptions, the majority of young girls will go through multiple relationships before they find one that works long-term, if they ever do. Fiction, whether in the form of films or novels, is an escape, so people continue to seek solace in it throughout their adolescence and adulthood, especially regarding this topic of love at first sight. This explains the popularity of "Twilight," "Romeo and Juliet," and "The Notebook." Edward and Bella are instantly drawn to each other in "Twilight," Romeo and Juliet fall in love at a masquerade ball, and Noah and Allie fall in love at a carnival. These stories take basic fairy tale concepts and put them into a modern setting. However, there are movies that tend to copy most aspects of specific fairy tales and these movies are also incredibly successful. Examples include "Pretty Woman" ("Cinderella"), "Jane Eyre" ("Beauty and the Beast"), and "My Fair Lady" (also "Cinderella"). The concepts placed into our minds from a very early age follow us throughout our lives and affect how we perceive happiness and true love.
Another reason why I have to disagree with the positive depiction of love at first sight in fairy tales is the ridiculous expectation it places on boys. When girls are looking for their perfect prince, guys are expected to be or become that prince or risk never getting a chance. This is detrimental to a boy’s confidence, especially at a younger age. Prince Charming probably came across as so charming because he was only in a few frames of the movie. Prince Eric came across as distant and alluring, but those are the only personal qualities I can think of that would draw a girl to him. Beast seems like the exception to these rules, except for the fact that he turns into a prince at the end of the movie and then he marries Belle. This destroys any chance the movie had of promoting something other than utter perfection in men, for now Belle’s love interest is rich, smart, kind and gorgeous.
Overall, the concept of love at first sight, that two people who are made for each other will just know upon laying eyes upon each other, is a nice one to fantasize about, but I disagree with the concept when it is falsely represented as realistic. Love at first sight is a kind of magic and, although I wish it were, magic is not real.
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