“When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are…” Can you not just hear the wonderful, familiar Disney mantra that opens every classic Disney movie? It is one of my favorite theme songs because it evokes feelings of nostalgia and security in me.
I am a huge Disney movie fan, if you have not figured that out. However, I see a few troubling issues in the fairy tales and teen movies our generation grew up with, particularly those appealing to girls.
For starters, I am not a believer in love at first sight, which is a concept that many of our childhood movies revolve around. I believe in physical attraction at first sight, of course. Even a deeper attraction at first sight, definitely. But love? I believe true love requires time to grow into knowing a person for who he or she is.
The concept of love at first sight, in my opinion, cheapens and commercializes love. Many fairy tales and other children’s movies we grew up with fall into the trap of confusing love with infatuation and presenting viewers with the idea that love can happen in an instant.
I have never seen or experienced this version of “love” in the real world, and I am not complaining about that at all, for I think true love is more meaningful because it develops over time. I hope the next generation, our future children, will watch movies that portray true, deep love more accurately.
Another underlying issue in many movies we grew up watching is the fact that marriage is usually the ending of each love story. My boyfriend recently said something surprising and insightful to me that seems important: “Marriage is not the end; it’s the beginning of a whole new dimension of the relationship.”
The institution of marriage is exciting! I am sure kids would enjoy thinking about it. Why did we not grow up watching even a few movies about married couples? As I have gathered from observing others, it is more difficult than dating, so should it not be notable instead of just the end?
The problems married couples face are dramatic, too, and if we truly want to teach children about true love ,we should show them even one children’s movie that shows a married couple persevering in their commitment despite marriage’s challenges. Granted, our main focus should be to display that perseverance and true love in our own marriages for our children to learn from, but media would not hurt as an addition.
I also have a bit of a problem with the fact that everything ends happily in movies. I know young children could not handle a slew of traumatic endings, but showing them children’s movies that only end happily is just not accurate. It is like lying to them. Sometimes you and a close friend grow apart.
Sometimes relationships do not result in marriage, but painfully dissolve. Sometimes things turn out a little differently than what you expected. While it is powerful to send a message to children that everything will eventually work out for their good despite hardships they may face, and to present the world as a positive, hopeful place, I do not think it is fair to portray the world as perfect in movies.
A few mildly sad details in a few overall happy endings to children’s movies would be more honest and beneficial. This is not coming from a bitter singleton, either; I am happily in a relationship with a very sweet guy and have hopes for a future with him, and overall I have a good life. But life is not always sunny for anybody on this earth, and we should not portray it that way even to young children.
Moving on to teen movies: I have become seriously irritated looking back that the goal of main characters in teen movies appealing to girls is to find a boyfriend. I did not date in high school, but felt a lot of pressure coming from society to do so, and I felt really left out, sad, and lonely at the time because of it. I had awesome close friends and family and should not have focused so many of my thoughts on getting in a relationship.
The movies I watched only reiterated the message a teenage girl’s life culminates with a boyfriend. I hope my future daughter will never feel such intense anxiety over finding a boyfriend in high school; teenage relationships do not often last anyway in this day and age. Movie-makers need to make at least some films involving teenagers pursuing other dreams.
One more thing that bothers me about teen movies is that the actors and actresses playing teenagers are almost always in their 20’s. I did not know this when I was a teen, so I thought that I was supposed to look like those actresses at my age.
I looked younger than my age as it was, and those movies fed false beliefs and unrealistic expectations about what I should look like. Do not get me started on the portrayal of women in the media in general and society’s false perceptions about what we should look like; that is another story.
I hope you are not offended by my critique of the beloved movies we grew up watching; in particular the Disney classics like “Aladdin,” “Beauty and the Beast,” and “The Little Mermaid.” These movies will always be special to me because they are a part of my childhood.
I just hope that society will be more conscious of their message when making children’s movies this may minimize the false beliefs in society. Children (and adolescents) are our future, after all, so if we want to make a difference it is important to teach them accurate things about this world (in a way that is not traumatic for them, of course).