I have always been a lover of Disney movies. Even so, I used to believe that they set a bad example for us gals. Whenever a princess, a step sister, a mermaid, or basically any girl with power to sing to animals would find herself in some sort of trouble, along would come prince charming (or another perfect prince, Eric, John, whatever the name) and he would save the day and they would live happily ever after.
It isn't even the happily ever after part that bothered me, even though, that is a tough one. It was the perfect prince, and the easiness with which the princess, stepdaugther, mermaid, etc, snagged him. I mean, I dated. A lot, and not once did I find a prince. Now I could chalk this up to the fact we live in a democracy and I would need to travel across the pound to find an actual prince. But I think the more likely explaination is that there are no Prince Charmings. No Prince Erics.
But as I sit here watching Tangled with my daughter, I have an even bigger issue with the more recent Disney movies. It started with Beauty and the Beast, kept on with The Princess and the Frog, Tangled, and even Cars.
What these movies teach is that you can turn a beast into a prince with your kindness, a snowball fight, some singing dishes, and well, love.
It teaches that the lying, fun loving prince who is broke and looking only to marry for money will have a change of heart after his time as a frog.
A thief will completely change his ways after watching you hit a few guys with a frying pan, dance, and share a moment in a boat watching flying lanterns.
To me, this message is more dangerous to our daughters than the idea that there is a prince charming waiting in the wings. It is the idea that they can take a horrible person and change them into prince charming. If they just love him enough, sing enough songs, and of course, share some kind of dance (dancing seems to be the key).
This isn't to say that people can't change. Certainly they can and do. But falling in love with someone with the idea that you can change them, well, that is even more absurd than happily ever after. If you look at someone and think, "I could love him if just...." Or "I'm sure that once we are together he will stop...." Well, that isn't fair to the princess or the theif. If someone has to completely change who they are to earn tour love, they will never be happy. And neither will you.
Because people change because they want to change. Not because someone is constantly nagging them, or singing, or even dancing with them. I have seen a lot of relationships that start with the hopes of one person changing the other. I haven't seen many of them succeed.
Because whether we marry Prince Charming or the Beast, we should love them for who they are. It isn't our job to change them. It is our job to look at their shortcomings and faults, to see their distinct lack of royalty, and decide we love them anyway. Just like they are.
So maybe Disney movies aren't the best guide to relationships. Which I guess is why I, as a mom, have to show my daughter how to love unconditionally. I hope as she watches me unconditionally loving her daddy she will learn that she should fall in love with the man who is, not who she wants him to be. And as she watches him love me unconditionally, she should learn that she should never have to change who she is for a man.
Because if he truly is a prince, charming or otherwise, he will love her for exactly who she is. And she will do the same.
That is how I found my happily ever after.