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Disney movies always are filled with heartwarming, family-friendly moments that involve brave characters, lovable side kicks, and a moral that "the guy always gets the girl." In fact, many of their classic plotlines have become famously copied as rom-coms for adults.
But, many people out there are saying that movies that have those Disney plots may be ruining people's ability to be realistic about love. Frankly, I can't disagree; I'm one of those people.
You see, I've noticed that people tend to believe what they see in mainstream media - and that includes the overall dynamics of relationships.
The more I look at movies, the more I'm realizing that the answer to much of our generation's problems with dating may just have to do with unplugging from Disney movies and the rom-com industry as a whole. Here's why I've come to this conclusion, and why many others have, too.
"You are what you eat."
In social science, it's well-known that hearing the same things over and over again often will cause people to end up believing them. The power of media consumption has shown, time and time again, that it has an ability to make people believe whatever it wants them to believe.
This is why almost every country has a propaganda campaign, why people who read AlterNet tend to vote Democrat, and why people who watch FOX are more likely to vote Republican.
Now, for the most parts, romance-filled movies are apolitical. This is especially true with Disney. They aren't propaganda, really. It's not like Snow White and Cinderella were trying to tell people to vote for tax cuts or anything...
...But what most Disney movies and every rom-com does tell people is that guys always "get the girl" as a hero, even if they aren't attractive. Think about Shrek, even though he's Dreamworks. He got Fiona, and they lived happily ever after. With Snow White, the prince in that film didn't have to even say anything to get her. How is that rational?
They also tell people that girls who they'll get are gorgeous, high-status women who will love them unconditionally. This should be obvious when you take a look at what most Disney movies had. Aladdin had Jasmine, who was a princess, while he was a homeless street urchin who lied to marry her. With Lady and the Tramp, it's even in the name.
If you can be realistic about love for a moment, you'd realize that most women who are knockout gorgeous, high status, and kind wouldn't want to date someone so far beneath them. Those guys legitimately had nothing to offer the girls aside from companionship - and they could get that anywhere.
Moreover, they also tell people that they'll end up finding the perfect love, who will sweep them off their feet to a Happily Ever After. Ariel managed to get the guy without actually saying anything to him, and he just whisked her away. Cinderella got her Prince after just meeting him for one day, and he treated her like a princess for ever.
This is only realistic in fairy tales, mind you. Realistically, you can't get any less realistic expectations about love if you tried. People don't just magically appear like that and offer to marry you, and if they do, they are typically con men.
Remember - when it comes to your reality, what you see in media tends to shape the way you see the world as well as your expectations of people.
Unfortunately, when we keep getting bludgeoned with the same messages, people tend to believe it to be the way things really are.
The biggest problem with Disney movie plots is that it's affected what we believe to be realistic and reasonable expectations of love in relationships. We all see ourselves as Disney heroes and princesses, in a world where the right person will magically come along and save the day.
100 years ago, people would tell you that the real world doesn't work that way. Nobody's perfect, and you have to find someone who you can tolerate and work with, rather than have someone who will always make everything sunshine and rainbows.
The problem with this belief is that it sets us up for disappointment, resentment, and bitterness - all the while giving us a reason to think it's everyone's fault but our own. After all, these kinds of movies subtly tell us we're all perfect snowflakes, so if you can't find that perfect person for you, it's everyone else's fault, not yours.
Additionally, rom-coms also make it seem like everyone gets paired up, and this is also not the case. As sad as it is, there are some perfectly good men out there who end up alone. There are also perfectly good women out there who never find Mr. Right.
If people were more realistic about life, and actually worked to hone their ability to be realistic about love, there would be a lot more happy couples. Moreover, there probably would be less divorce since people would probably realize you need to work in order to make love worth it.
Once again, it's not only Disney movies that do this; it's endemic, and it's hurting our ability to discern what's really supposed to happen.
"Treat me like a princess!"
I wish I could name how many guys I have seen who have passed up girls over the way they looked, despite them having bodies that looked awful. I wish I could name how many girls I know who are waiting for a guy to "treat her like a princess."
Most men will not be able to treat girls like the prince in Cinderella did. They won't be able to rescue girls from towers, or do anything else like that. Moreover, they wouldn't want to do that. You know why? Because guys don't want high-maintenance damsels in distress.
Additionally, other rom-coms that stole the "Disney feel good formula" also make things worse. For example, Just Friends and other movies that helped solidify the idea of the "Friendzone" made life bad for women. After all, it insinuates that men and women can't be friends without an exchange of sex for friendship.
What really hurts about this particular "adult Disney" type of trope is that it ruins many a teenager's ability to be realistic about love. After all, they tend to believe the subtle ideas that movies show - and that leads to a lot of bitterness at other times.
In fact, I really wish that I could just catalogue how many people use rom-com inspired terms like "the Friendzone" to talk about perceived slights they feel due to the insane expectations that rom-coms set. (Yes, we do actually use rom-com coined terms to talk about dating, and that alone shows how far media's reach can be.)
Legitimately, I wish I could name how many I've seen, because there have been so many that I've lost count. That disturbs me. The problem with the rom-com mindset is so widespread that it's beginning to become the standard rather than the exception.
"Shh, don't spoil the movie."
Call me a Debbie Downer, but I often make a point of trying to get people to be more real about love. Unfortunately, no one really wants to discuss this or face the truth about this.
We do not live in a Disney movie.
We are not heroes; we can end up alone despite our best efforts.
There's not always going to be someone better around the corner.
There's not always going to be a perfect happily ever after; even the happiest marriages will have blowout fights.
You can't expect partner after partner to line up.
Sometimes love feels like comfort rather than butterflies, and that's okay.
But, I shouldn't talk and "spoil the movie," right?
Just like with movies, actually removing the magic of romance will get you a bunch of very pissed off people. I want to tell them that the movies they watch ruined their ability to see love the right way. I want to tell them that their ability to be realistic about love is shot.
But, frankly, I don't want to be on the end of the backlash, shushing, and being told that I "am just bitter again." So, I'll watch this tragedy play out in real time, couple after couple, year after year.