I am going to start this post with a very obvious statement, which is that Frozen was an incredible success financially and artistically. Well, artistically is my opinion, you are certainly free to disagree with me, but I think many people would stand by me there; especially for the bridge Frozen provides between old and modern--and I don’t believe I am wrong in saying that Elsa’s line “You can’t marry a man you just met” has at least something to do with it. In fact, the first time I saw Frozen in theaters, when Hans proposed and Anna accepted, I heard groans all through the audience, and then when Elsa told Anna no, I even heard a loud “THANK YOU.”
General positive feelings are thus illustrated by this meme:
So I’m just really interested—let’s examine this, shall we?
Disney movies, especially the princess ones, have always gotten a lot of flak for their portrayal of love. Mostly, I think, it’s because of the expectations we’re afraid this will give children; chiefly that you can know you’re in love from a cursory glance and that it’s okay to rush into a committed relationship—I’m talking to you, Snow White and Ferdinand (yup, that’s his name), Cinderella and Charming, Aurora and Philip, and Ariel and Eric. Even the couples who take the time to fall in love, mostly from more recent Disney films, don’t really take that much more time—Aladdin and Jasmine have an escapade in the marketplace and then a song, Flynn and Rapunzel have two days and one and a half nights, and while they don’t get married, Kristoff and Anna presumably start dating after about two days. (Beauty and the Beast is not mentioned because anytime anyone mentions Beauty and the Beast, there is an 85% chance of getting into a discussion about Stockholm Syndrome).
So yeah, I get it. That’s not how love works, Disney. Stop teaching our children that “but we’ve met before—once upon a dream” is a valid excuse to ignore the rules of stranger danger, and that admiring a man’s ability to remain manly while playing a pipe and dancing with a dog equals automatic love. I mean, jeez, get with the program.
But isn’t its sheer impossibility and its fantastical nature exactly why we should enjoy Disney love, and not fear for our children watching it?
Now of course I can’t speak for all kids, but when I was little I didn’t take Disney for the template on love and happiness, because any man desperate enough to find me that he sends out his servant to try on a shoe on every girl in the kingdom can just come do it himself, please. But I understood that Ariel could know she loved Eric after a few seconds, and that Aurora knew she had “met” Philip before 'once upon a dream,' and that Jasmine could marry Aladdin because of a single magic carpet ride--because that’s how Disney works. Even as a child I understood there was a fictional distance between me and them, because, although I did watch Disney abnormally more than my counterparts, there were still moments I couldn’t be in front of the TV and I had to live in this world. And in this world, like many children, I was surrounded by people who actually did date. I heard stories about my parents, I heard stories about my sisters, I heard stories about my sisters’ friends, and I understood love and how to go about finding a soulmate or whatever from that perspective, not only from Disney’s, and I think these other influences will generally balance kids out if they start to believe a thing too much.
Now did I fantasize about Disney love, like dancing till midnight or going on a magic carpet ride or being in a boat and serenaded by singing animals? Oh, totally. Do I still fantasize about experiencing Disney love? Well now romantic floating lanterns are a thing, so yeah, definitely. In fact, as I grew into the dating age and this whole love nonsense became relevant to me, I started enjoying the implications of Disney love more. Because, guys, wouldn’t it be awesome if love actually worked that way?
In real life, dating is full of uncomfortable feelings and social anxieties and awkward moments and unsure ones. Instead of asking the barista at Starbucks out and risking a higher chance of knocking your drink onto your pants from sheer adrenaline, you would look up, share one heart-stopping-eyes-meeting moment, and then, in lieu of a probably-awkward date, experience some sort of wacky adventure together that facilitates your love and brings you closer together and BAM HAPPILY EVER AFTER. And if you weren't meant to be, it just wouldn't happen. You could simply trust in a higher providence instead of hating yourself for being scared and unsure and maybe not good at flirting. In Disney there's basically just love and dancing and magic and more love.
A world where everything romantic is perfect and sure and there are no break-ups ever because you get it right the first time might be unrealistic, but ultimately, what's wrong with that? Not to risk marginalizing because this isn't top priority for many people, but don't at least a lot of us want this love-at-first-sight magical experience? I mean, fantasizing about something real isn't so much fun, so what's wrong with letting kids watch something that sets high, fantastical, and fun expectations regarding their future love life? No kid I know thinks they're going to get super powers just because they watch a superhero film, so I think the expecting-stuff-from-fiction mindset is generally safe. And these are fairy tales, after all, which are supposed to be dramatic and over-the-top--which is the point of a movie anyway. I don't hear complaints about romantic comedies as much, but those are the same way, they reinforce eventual love guaranteed through some higher power guiding the protagonists to each other. They're just generally worse.
Having said all this, I still think Disney is moving in the right direction with this “you can’t marry a man you just met.” It’s more in-tune with modern sensibilities, and it’s really fun watching a Disney princess go through somewhat normal dating practices. I just don’t think the older films deserve the level of scrutiny I often hear them getting.
So those are my thoughts. Anyone still out there? Still reading? Ah, this was fun.