Lips that shame the red rose, hair of sunshine-gold. She’ll offer springtime wherever she goes. Arora is stunning, thin, the victim of Maleficent’s cruelty. Arora dances to ‘Once upon a dream’ deep in the forest with cute, furry animals. The prince sneaks up behind her. She’s hesitant – she can’t talk to strangers. But they’ve met before: once upon a dream. She lets her guard down, he takes her in his arms, and right there, and that precise moment, I want to throw myself into the Disney Classic and never return to reality again. The prince is noble, gallant, a little rebellious. It’s love at first sight. He fights the evil dragon, conquers Maleficent and wakes Arora with true-love’s kiss. It ends happily ever after and the prince and princess dance in the clouds to ‘Once upon a dream’.
Love, take me away…
But I know something’s not right when my three-year old daughter is obsessed with Sleeping Beauty. We fight daily – she wants to play the DVD, put on her dress (no pants because Arora doesn’t wear pants!) and twirl with her imaginary prince. When she’s not waltzing, she stares at the screen quietly, absorbing every phrase. I wasn’t any different as a child, fixated on fairytales and Sleeping Beauty. But as I observe my daughter’s perception of love being moulded before my very eyes; when I hear of yet another couple breaking up, another ending in divorce; when I listen to single girlfriends whine that there are no decent guys out there; or girlfriends contemplating ending a relationship because they’re boyfriend isn’t romantic enough, should be more impulsive, has an annoying habit, isn’t more…something (they can’t put their finger on it), or they’re convinced they ‘can do so much better’, I have to wonder:
Did we all watch too much Sleeping Beauty?
Fairytales all have happy endings and these are the ideas we are instilling in our children. In the original version of Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid the prince actually doesn’t choose Ariel and she turns to sea foam(dies). Disney rewrote the ending. But this craving for happy endings, of the man rescuing the damsel in distress, also extends to adult film and literature.
A few years back I couldn’t stop watching the TV series Sex and the City. I purchased the DVDs and watched it again and again. When I think back to that time I realise I was probably trying to make sense of why Big and Carrie end up together. In reality Big and Carrie never would have worked out. He was a commitment phobic. They had orgasmic sexual chemistry though. In terms of a life partner, Aiden was perfect for her and she blew it when she had a lustful affair with Big. We all want to believe that love=lust and maybe that’s why Sex and the City was so successful. After five years of making Carrie’s life a misery he finally(out of the blue) decided she was ‘the one’. The audience pay-off was huge – we got the happy ending and the hot sex too.
A recent example of this in literature is Toni Jordan’s Addition. It’s had huge success but does it have a realistic ending? Without spoiling the ending I can easily say that it is a Hollywoodisation of both love and mental illness. Are we censoring the reality of relationships by feeding this unrealistic craving for romance, lust, and the easy relationship where everything magically falls into place without complication? Are we feeding this notion that when you meet ‘the one’ you’ll know instantly and you’ll ride off together in the sunset? Are our films and literature showing us lust but calling it love? Love is about companionship, compromise, communication. Relationships are bloody hard but bloody rewarding. Are there any successful books or films out there that portray this(and by success I mean sold well). Should writers give readers what they want and ditch reality? Is that being socially responsible?
I can already hear the objections to this post, the ‘I haven’t waited all my life for Mr Right only to settle for second best’ and the ‘if he was the right guy for me we wouldn’t have so many problems’. To me it seems that relationships these days end at the slightest whiff of complication. Or don’t even start up because there was no ‘sexual chemistry’. But if the reality of relationships doesn’t seem to gel well with you and you’re still holding out for prince charming or the little mermaid, maybe you should shut up shop in reality and move into a Disney Fairytale.