Talking Point: Are Fairytales Setting Our Kids Up For Heartbreak?
As a little girl, I adored fairytales. And admittedly, whenever I feel run down or a bit defeated by life (being an adult
isn’t always is never easy) I still snuggle up on the sofa and treat myself to a ‘Disney day’ – matching pyjamas and all. Fairytales are wonderful things. They give children hope of a better life and teach us to believe in magic. But as grim as it sounds (pun absolutely intended) I think fairytales have a lot to answer for when it comes to our unrealistic expectations of adulthood and romance. As much as I hate to admit it, I think the originals written by the Brothers Grimm would far better prepare children for adult life.
When I was little, I loved all Disney films but I was particularly fond of Cinderella, Snow White, Beauty and the Beast and Sleeping Beauty. Beauty and the Beast in particular taught us invaluable life lessons – none more important than the platitude that beauty is only skin deep, and it’s a philosophy that has served me well. Whilst the Beast simply longed to be loved for who he was on the inside, real-life romance is often much more shallow. We select potential partners on popular dating sites such as Tinder by literally swiping away the ones who we feel aren’t attractive enough for us. How awful is that? When did we become so superficial?
Although some fairytales teach us valuable morals, so many of them cast unrealistic depictions of life. Some teach young girls that when they fuck up and get themselves into deep shit, there will be a knight in shining armour there to rescue them. When Snow White bowed down to pressure and ate the poisoned apple, who came to her rescue? When Briar Rose pricked her finger on the spinning wheel, who was it who battled Maleficent to save her? We’re independent women who can deal with our own dramas. We get ourselves into shit, we get ourselves out again, unlike the princesses in the stories. We don’t always want a man in our lives, let alone need one turning up unannounced and declaring himself the hero of our damn story. What we do need, however, is to be prepared for life. We need to be aware that sometimes, a seemingly sweet old lady offering us sweets can be a huge danger – as we learned from Hansel and Gretel. And sometimes, somebody who at first seems to have a huge attitude problem (I’m talking to you, resting bitch face) can turn out to be a godsend – hello seven dwarves.
Obviously, I’m not saying children should be allowed to watch Saw or The Hills Have Eyes, but let’s be honest – they’d better equip us to deal with real life. Sometimes shit hits the fan, and the people we’d considered our closest friends run for the hills to save themselves. It’s amazing how quickly you discover who your real friends are when you really need somebody to lean on. At the age of five, I was enchanted by Disney’s portrayal of happily ever after. I’d find my Prince Charming, he’d fall desperately in love with me and sweep me off my feet. We’d have the most glorious wedding in a beautiful castle and then ride home in our horse-drawn carriage to our woodland cottage surrounded by singing animals. No creepy characters would ever come knocking, no evil stepmothers would attempt to dull my sparkle. And if ever I did find myself in a spot of bother, my Fairy Godmother would appear right on cue to make all my woes disappear with a flick of her magic wand. Bibbidy, Bobbidy, Boo.
Whilst I’ve been lucky enough to find love, it hasn’t always been easy. My eight-year relationship hasn’t been without its disasters and I certainly wouldn’t call my partner a knight in shining armour – even though I adore him. He’s definitely more of a knobhead in tinfoil.
When the chips are down, we can only rely on ourselves – not seven dwarves, not a lobster named Sebastian, and certainly not a family of mice. As actual adults who need to have their shit together, we’re responsible for our own lives. There’ll be no singing woodland animals to help you cook the tea after a 12-hour shift in work. And the washing up won’t do itself, either. When money’s tight and we’re invited to a party, there’ll be no magical dress or pumpkin to transform into a carriage.
I’ll always love fairytales and believe they play an important role in a child’s life – their imaginations need to be allowed to wander and we should all believe in magic. But kids also need to be prepared. Life isn’t always easy, and happily ever after is a myth.
Until next time,