All is Fair in Fantasy
Walt Disney has crushed my dreams of living happily ever after. Although the protagonist in every Disney fairytale overcomes his or her obstacles and achieves success and happiness, I now understand that realistically, it will never happen to me.
As a modern-Orthodox 21-year-old with five friends engaged in two months, I have a keen interest in love and marriage. As Disney continually idealizes the world and masks reality, viewers continually respond sentimentally and deceive themselves. I will confess that not only have I given into the fantasy of meeting my Prince Charming, I have devoted superfluous hours to emulating Cinderella herself, when I acted as Cinderella in my high school Rodger and Hammerstein's rendition of the musical. As I delved into the character of the infamous Cinderella, I found myself repeating my rehearsed lines offstage. The more dedicated I was toward my character, the more I saw the difference between myself as a chirping princess in a fairytale and myself as an independent person in a sentimental world.
My perception of the fairytale was finally addressed when I read Peggy Orenstein's Cinderella Ate My Daughterand then interviewed her at SCW. After she held a discussion entitled "From Princesses to Pop-Tarts: A Look at the New Culture of Girlhood," I identified with the way she exposed Disney Princesses' commerciality and influence. Are all girls sucked into society's pink vacuum? While many are comfortable with the mold society shapes, I am not.
Orenstein solidified my belief that I will never meet my Prince Charming, maybe because he only exists for Disney Princesses. This garnered my interest in the connection between the way women judge things based on their personal appearances, beliefs and experiences and the way they judge themselves as a potential mate. After speaking with Orenstein, I questioned, if human perception is continually changing and our personalities are malleable enough to be impacted by Disney productions, then why do we not all look, love and live the same way?
If Disney has exposed the lack of reality in his films, and Orenstein offers no solace in her literature, is there hope for my inner-Princess? While researching Cinderella to better play the character on my high school stage, I was surprised by her origins. Also known as Aschenputtel by Brothers Grimm, Cinderella embodies the rags to riches story. Furthermore, the fairy tale, which originated from folklore, blurs the line between fantasy and reality. The audience continuously views Cinderella as an authentic role model, when in truth she is living in a fantasy. While Orenstein determines the Cinderella character is a mirage, Disney continually tells every little girl that she must prefer the perfect, royal lifestyle, despite its fictitious nature. It is readily apparent that Disney should reevaluate its message before waving his magic wand, even though the balance between fairy tales and reality remains a blur.
Unsatisfied, I continued to look for an answer and finally found it in one sentence. The words of designer Richard Seymour spoke more to me than the four billion dollar Disney franchise. While discussing beauty, Seymour said, "We see things not as they are, but as we are." Before looking for someone to fit into our preconceived fairytale, first, we must look for ourselves. Before looking for someone to fit into our preconceived fairytale, first, we must look for ourselves. Before Cinderella miraculously found her Prince Charming, she reconsidered her life as a maid to her and internalized that she deserved something better. While all Cinderella needed was a fairy godmother to whip up her happily ever after, perhaps all we need is to reflect upon ourselves in order to write our own love stories. Forget the magic wands, we need some mirrors.
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