Fairy tales, Disney Princesses and the Happily Ever After


Yes it’s all good for now but what happens after the happily ever after?

Everyone has been brought up on fairy tales and been exposed to the magic of Disney movies. And what little girl hasn’t thought about being their favourite Disney Princess? But then you grow up and start thinking “where the hell is my magic carpet ride”?

Many girls love the idea of having a fairy tale ending and riding off into the sunset with Prince Charming to have their own happily ever after. Then get disappointed when reality kicks them in the butt. Now I can’t say I really prescribed to their whole Prince Charming thing when I was younger, in part due to the fact that most traditional of the Disney Princes are extremely dull. If you don’t believe me look at Snow White or Cinderella, do the Princes exhibit any personality in their admittedly limited screen time? I bet a few minutes after Snow White had her happily ever after she was begging to be put back to sleep again. Anyway I digress, while I wasn’t thinking about my own Prince Charming, I did want my own ‘happy ever after’, where all the struggles are over and you live in peace and harmony. When you later realise life will never be empty of some pain or sadness it can be hard to accept. After all don’t we expect every story to end with those words ‘they all lived happily ever after…’

But is this really Disney’s fault? Yes they do permit the happy ever after myth but then they are at heart in the business of making kids movies. It would be pretty depressing to see Sleeping Beauty struggling with child care or unable to pay her bills (although having said that I feel a pitch coming on for Cinderella 2:The Tax Return Years). Perhaps more of a concern in these tales is the lack of a feminist message. You look to marry a husband-and that’s your life’s goal.  However if we look back to where and when these fairy tales came from (and some date back centuries) then these fantasies were probably many girls way of escaping dreary reality, and at the time there was limited ways to save themselves. So a dream of marrying a kind, handsome and rich young man was the top priority against living a life of poverty and uncertainty.

For the early Disney films it would make sense to embrace these norms based on the values and society at the time.  However passive Princesses like Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and the animated Cinderella are a thing of the past. Now girls do believe they can save themselves without waiting for a man to solve their problems. These are a new breed of Disney Heroines to reflect that with the likes of Moana, Elsa and Ana from Frozen and even the new live action Cinderella showed more guts and determination than her previous incarnation to pursue her own happy ending.

It would be great if we could herald a new age of ‘happily ever after’ where we redefine the term to mean that life will be full of the occasional and inevitable heartache but also full of excitement and wonder with each person able to be their own hero. Maybe films should end with “and their adventures continued for the rest of the lives…”, after all why should we accept finality when most movies are in the business of making franchises and sequels anyway.

“And with this Lauren finished writing her post and the adventures continued for the rest of her life…”


Filed under Opinion

4 responses to “Fairy tales, Disney Princesses and the Happily Ever After

  1. smilingldsgirl

    Interesting take on this. I think it’s important to have fairytales with happily ever after but I agree other varieties of stories are also nice to see. What did you think of Princess and the Frog with the ending being her getting her restaurant and working hard?

    • Thank you. Yes I liked the ending of the Princess and the Frog, showing the female lead has other aspirations outside of marriage. I think all I would like to see is a good mix of what a happy ever after should be and what that would look like. I wouldn’t want a Disney Movie to end on a downer! Just a bit of variety is good. I think the current trend with Frozen and others is a good sign of where Disney is hopefully heading.

  2. Polly

    A very well written and humorous post. Some apt observations and I enjoyed reading this review.

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