The Fairytale Illusion | Teen Ink

The Fairytale Illusion

August 9, 2014
By CallMeAria PLATINUM, Vancouver, Other
CallMeAria PLATINUM, Vancouver, Other
30 articles 27 photos 73 comments

Favorite Quote:

A little girl selects a worn, thick book from her bookshelf. She places it in her mother’s lap and her mother smiles, the corners of her eyes crinkling, “This one again?”
The book is large, with many pages and stories, full of typed words and extravagant watercolor illustrations of enchanted forests, magical animals, flowing dresses and pastel castles. The little girl stares down at the page, beaming as she traces a small finger over the dress and hair of the beautiful princess on the page.
Many teenage girls today struggle with feelings of confusion, anger and depression, twice as many boys that suffer from the same issues. Their life doesn’t feel fulfilling enough, and they feel as if every aspect of themselves falls short of all expectations. Teenage girls today feel as if they are simply not good enough. I believe that this problem stems partially from a specific aspect of a girl’s childhood: fairy tales.
From the ages of one to seven, a child’s world is limited. Their universe consists of their house, neighbourhood, family and school. They are curious about many things and are learning the many aspects of life that young adults feel they have mastered: how to communicate and interact with others, what to expect from those around you and what expectations you have to meet. During this interesting time, many little girls’ heads are filled with fairy tales, princesses and riches beyond imagine. If you were to ask a group of young elementary school girls what they wanted to be when they grow up, many would say that want to be a princess. Fairy tales give these girls the first impression of what the world is like, what they must be like to be successful in whatever they do. Unfortunately, these are some very, very high expectations.
What, exactly, does it take to be a princess? What does she have? Allow me to break it down for you, using the example set by classic and popular Disney princesses, such as Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. Characteristically, a princess must be kind, helpful, thoughtful, cheerful, and very intelligent. She must be strong, but also gentle, personality switching for the benefit of those around her. She must never appear angry, bored or selfish, because that is not the princess way. She will show innocence, but also rebel against unjust things. She is peppy, enthusiastic, mature and independent beyond her years and socially delightful, being all these things at all times. Physically, a princess is beautiful. A perfect ten, with long, shiny hair, tall and poised. Her body must be slim and trim, strong enough to assist in physical work, such as running and singing through the forest, without breaking a sweat. Her skin, more often than not, is pale and the color of fresh cream, shining and flawless. She must have a clear sense of right and wrong, the uncanny ability to tell who the villain is and the necessary physical and mental charm to get the prince to fall in love with her at first sight. She is talented with music, homemaking, and a quick scholar. She cleans well, cooks and bakes, and performs all the task of a housewife perfectly. Her closet is full of expensive and breathtaking clothes and jewellery and her house is the biggest and nicest in all the land. Her parents, if they are involved, must be just as perfect as her. They give advice and praise often and never argue or raise their voices. Her friends are also quite particular: helpful, fun, moral, beautiful, but not better than her, of course. Even if they were, though, she wouldn’t be jealous because her friends are so helpful. They are there for her, supportive and kind, almost as if they don’t have lives of their own. How can they be there for her all the time if they have their own problems, troubles, conflicts and duties?
I hope you’ve been taking notes, girls, because that’s what it takes to be a princess.
The expectations that are now being set in a seven-year old girl’s mind are very high, as we now know. She expects to have gorgeous skin, a kind and respectful prince and to live in a gold and satin mansion with specially-made gowns. So what happens when nine years later she’s struggling with aggressive acne, her boyfriend has cheated on her, and she’s living in a basement apartment, wearing hand-me-downs? This is where her problems begin.
She has grown up with expectations too high for anyone to meet, dwelling and dreaming on them. Even as she grows older, she still clings to common themes, now delivered by television and young adult fiction, such as true love, beautiful clothes, a perfect body. She keeps raising her expectations and falling short. Each time she falls short, she wonders what is wrong with her. The little girl in her head feels inadequate and ugly. Each time a boy rejects her, a new pimple pops up on her face or she doesn’t pass a test, she is becoming less and less like the princess she wants to be. Her boyfriend doesn’t do romantic things, her friends seem so distant and her parents can’t stand being in the same room as her. Her self-confidence is lowered, she feels like she doesn’t deserve to be happy and she is still trying to be perfect, while everyone else around her, classmates and friends, seem to have it all together. Where does that leave her on the princess scale? A girl may not consciously realize that she is still comparing herself to an early model of perfection, but she does know that she isn’t meeting up with the standards that seem to make people happy. The sadder she gets, the worse it is. Princesses don’t get depressed.
The solution I offer you may not be the obvious one. I don’t think that people will ever stop reading fairy tales. Stories, written and spoken word, imagined and beautiful tales are a part of many cultures and lives. I have two ideas, though, that could make this problem less consistent: a) making the princesses in fairy tales and movies more imperfect and therefore, more realistic. They don’t have to be flawless, they can show cracks and fears and sadness sometimes. In recent years, with the release of movies like Princess and the Frog and Frozen, we have made many strides in the right direction. In Frozen, Queen Elsa’s freezing powers could be related to anxiety and other mental illnesses, showing girls that princesses don’t have to have it all together perfectly. Secondly, b), parents need to reinforce the notion that you don’t need to be perfect, sometimes things won’t work out, etc. from an early age. Girls need to know that no matter how they look or what they do, they are still beautiful and will be loved.
When and if I have a little girl, I will read fairy tales to her when she hands me the large book full of watercolor illustrations. I will allow her to dress up as a princess and have tea parties and experiment with lipstick and if she is poised and graceful and kind, I will be a very proud mom. But if the situation arises where she falls and scrapes a knee or her spelling isn’t correct or she can’t seem to make friends at school, I will remind her that these things are natural and normal and that beautiful, happy and successful women do them too.

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This article has 2 comments.

on Aug. 30 2016 at 11:34 pm
CallMeAria PLATINUM, Vancouver, Other
30 articles 27 photos 73 comments

Favorite Quote:

@beyondthesky that sounds fascinating! I plan to take sociology next semester and I'm excited :D thank you for your feedback lol and feel free to stalk my other works, I love feedback.

on Aug. 29 2016 at 10:45 pm
beyondthesky PLATINUM, Santa Monica, California
34 articles 3 photos 65 comments

Favorite Quote:
It's nicer to think dear, pretty thoughts and keep them in one's heart, like treasures. I don't like to have them laughed at or wondered over.
-L.M. Montgomery (Anne of Green Gables)

This is so true. I took sociology this past summer and we learned about how Disney movies have racist and sexist aspects that teach children to think in certain's pretty scary. ps just casually stalking haha