The Happiness Connection  

Fairy-tale marriages

The 2018 Academy Award winners will be announced tonight. I love movies and have been on a quest to see all nine best picture nominations before today.

Did you know that Walt Disney holds the record for the most wins and the most nominations for an individual in Oscar Award history? From a total of 59 nominations, he has won 22 and been given four honorary awards.

In 1939, the Academy gave Disney a special award for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the first feature length animated film. They presented him with one full-sized statue and seven miniature ones. It is no wonder that Disney is synonymous with family entertainment.

I’m sure you have all watched Disney movies, either as a child or with a child. They may seem harmless enough, but these well told tales have had a part to play in the dissatisfaction many women feel about marriage.

I say women, only because little research in this niche has been directed toward men.

Fairy tales were originally told for adult entertainment. It wasn’t until 1812 that the first versions for children were written. Folk lore and myths weren’t intended to just be good stories, they supported, validated, and taught the accepted morals and behaviors of the society they were written for.

The Brothers Grimm version of Cinderella includes the step sisters mutilating their feet, so they could get into the tiny glass slippers. The prince discovers their deception because he sees blood on the shoe.

The evil queen in Snow White is punished by being forced to dance in a pair of red-hot iron shoes until she dies.

These stories were not meant to be sentimental or inspirational. They were meant to caution children about life and how they should behave.

These gruesome endings were removed from the Disney versions before being turned into animated masterpieces. The fairy tales may have been sanitized, but there are consistent underlying themes running through the stories that are possibly more harmful than those gruesome endings.

I believe the happily ever after endings portrayed in these films are making the already difficult task of staying married, even harder. From an early age, girls are forming beliefs and expectations of what the perfect grown up life looks like.

Boys are doing the same thing, but not enough research has been carried out to know if they are affected to the same extent as girls.

I don’t believe that there is just one person you are meant to be with for the rest of your life. There are many people out there you could be happily married to, but it takes work. Even if you are with Prince Charming.

I don’t believe that marriage is the ultimate goal for women. It is an option, but not the pinnacle of success. Nor do I believe that everything that happens up until her nuptials are just the prequel to her real life of being a wife.

I don’t believe that marriage guarantees life-long happiness. Being married has huge benefits if you can make it work, but making it work takes a huge amount of effort. Few marriages look like the ones at the end Disney fairy tales.

I don’t believe that you can change your man into the epitome of prince charming. He is a unique individual and although you can help him minimize his less endearing qualities, and maximize his good ones, he will always be a version of the person he was when you married him.

Research shows that although many people in western societies know the fairy tale themes that run through the Disney movies are fantasy, they cling to the hope that it will become reality. They compare the ending of Snow White to their own life and feel dissatisfied.

The more exposure you have to romantic popular media, the greater your chance of having unrealistic beliefs about marriage. You know that what you are watching, or reading is fantasy, and yet you believe it could happen in to you.

Disney isn’t the only one to encourage these fantasy beliefs, but I am singling them out because they are aimed at young viewers who are absorbing everything like a sponge.

This contradiction between fantasy and reality is causing problems for what people expect marriage to be like. You know marriage is hard, and yet you cling to the fantasy you unwittingly watched unfold on the screen as a child.

These movies are thought to play a major role in forming identities, goals, and dreams, especially for girls.

Children identify more with the characters than the plot of the story. They know they may never live in a castle, but they can be like the princess and be rescued by a prince, regardless of where he lives, or whether he appears riding a horse.

We see Disney as great family entertainment, so for the most part we don’t question whether our children should watch their movies. I am not suggesting you should boycott Disney, but I am advocating more conversations about the stories.

Talk about what happens to the princess once she is married.

Discuss whether you think it was best for Cinderella to do everything she was told to do, or whether she should have stood up for herself a little bit more.

Chat about what would have happened to the princess if she decided not to marry the prince.

Raise the consciousness of what is fantasy and what is reality to help shift this internal conflict between fantasy and reality.

The Disney studios have come a long way from the early fairy tales. They are trying to give their heroines more gumption and they don’t necessarily get married at the end of the story. They have also tried to create greater variety in the physical features of the heroines.

It is difficult enough to form lasting, committed relationships amongst the conflict and pressure of everyday life without clinging to the hopes of a fantasy life you created in your mind.

Why can’t happily ever after focus on finding meaning in your life and living to your full potential, whether that is with another person or not?

Let’s talk more openly about what long-term relationships are like and how to find a happy ending, regardless of the path you have chosen.

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About the Author

Reen Rose is an experienced, informative, and engaging speaker, author, and educator. She has worked for over three decades in the world of education, teaching children and adults in Canada and England.

Research shows that happy people are better leaders, more successful, and healthier than their unhappy counterparts, and yet so many people still believe that happiness is a result of their circumstances.

Happiness is a choice. Reen’s presentations and workshops are designed to help you become robustly happy. This is her term for happiness that can withstand challenge and change.

Reen blends research-based expertise, storytelling, humour, and practical strategies to both inform and inspire. She is a Myers Briggs certified practitioner, a Microsoft Office certified trainer and a qualified and experienced teacher.

Email Reen at [email protected]

Check out her websites at www.ReenRose.com, or www.ModellingHappiness.com

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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