We all love a good fairy tale. Disney's empire is proof of that! We enjoy the 'triumph over adversity and win the girl love story because they make us feel good and help us to escape from our humdrum life. I am sure we have all wished we were Beauty in Beauty and the Beast or Aladdin finding the lamp and having all our wishes come true.
We read them to our children and buy them all the films because (in part) it keeps them quiet and they love them. They seem harmless enough, promoting good versus evil.
But with divorce at an astonishing rate of 42% here in the UK and Disney films as popular as ever, can we really ignore the trend?
Well first off we need to look at what message they are selling.
Firstly, that good always wins no matter how big and terrible the enemy is or what powers they have at their disposal.
Now in theory this is a great lesson for children. Encouraging them to always do good and believe in the power of goodness. But what happens when something terrible happens in their world? A grandparent dies or we are subjected to another terrorist attack. How does that fit in with the fairy tale world? It can be hard for a child who has such a strong belief in this happy-ending world to suddenly be challenged by the reality of life. I know from my own experiences that I was brought up reading fairy tales and even as an adult I love a good Disney film, but it has made it hard for me to process events which go against this idealistic view. When my dad got ill, I couldn't cope and sunk into depression. It didn't fit in with my view of the world and my brain (and heart) struggled to adapt.
But it's not all bad. Believing in this happy-ever-after world has actually made me a very positive and therefore RESILIENT woman. I do believe that good will always triumph over evil and so when I have been faced with my own demons, I always clung to that belief and eventually came out the other side. Had I not believed in fairy tales, when those bad things happened, it would have reinforced my belief that the world is evil and left me hopeless and afraid.
My beliefs have kept me going through the depression and lifted me out and back into the sunshine.
Secondly, your prince charming will always come to your rescue and love you no matter what
As an NLP Couples and Family Therapist I know only too well that relationships are NEVER as simple as they are in a fairy tale. Now I know that all those stories have their battles (in the Lion King, Simba leaves the family unit out of shame and guilt, in Snow White, Snow is repeatedly attacked by the evil step mum) but prince charming never falters. He makes mistakes and there are misunderstandings but they never give up and always get their happy ending.
But what happens after the loving reunion? Fairy tales don't share the realities of living with one another. The arguments over whose turn it is to wash up. The threat of another woman. They simply end with "and they all lived happily ever after". This can create an over idealised view of what relationships are like and so, when we get into a serious, loving relationship we are shocked and unable to comprehend why things aren't as easy as we believed they would. We take those challenges to mean that this one isn't the dream guy/girl for us. We view each argument as proof that the relationship is doomed and eventually we give up and start again. Even finding a partner can make us question our view of the world. After all, in these vast fairy tale kingdoms, prince charming always finds his princess. If you've ever tried dating for very long you will know that it can feel like finding your knight in shining armour is a quest in itself. And as for kissing a lot of frogs .......
On the flip side though, my belief in "happy ever after" has meant that I have never settled for second best. I have always aspired to finding my prince charming and, even in my darkest moments, always believed that he would find me. They made me resilient to the realities of love and relationships. And more importantly, instilled hope in me for a happy ending.
So are fairy tales responsible for our high divorce rate? I believe that they do play a role in forming our beliefs about the world and about relationships which can be unrealistic and impossible to achieve. However there is much more at play here. Our beliefs are always impacted on by other things, not just fairy tales. We learnt how to love, communicate and be in a relationship from our parents as well as outside influences. Soap operas play a part, films play a part, friendships play a part. Even our gender and health play their part. So for me the answer is NO, fairy tales are not responsible (at least not solely) but they do influence our beliefs and for me they have given me a positive outlook on love and life so I'm off to watch Beauty and the Beast with my very own Prince Charming :)
I'd love to know your thoughts and experiences so please do comment below - I promise to respond to each and every one of you.