My thought process has been awoken and slightly disturbed with an article I just recently read regarding the detrimental effects of fairy tales and overly predictable Disney films designed for our young children. I assure you, I read the article with an open mind, absorbing all of the criticism and outrage in these films leaving our children with the impression that life is glamorous, full of possibility, limitless, and always ending with a troubled prince and a beautiful princess living happily ever after. Hold on….
These films are being ridiculed because they are opening our children’s eyes to possibility? No, certainly not. Let’s try again, these films are being ridiculed because they give the impression that life ends with a happily ever after?
The first thought that comes into my head is “bah humbug,” but I hesitated in typing that because then, the second thought immediately to follow is: “I wonder how my family’s doing Christmas this year?” But that’s besides the point. If bah humbug doesn’t reflect the disgust I’m feeling, or if it reminds you of an old man being haunted by ghosts, then feel free to insert your own “disgust” phrase, whatever it may be.
The truth of the matter is, is that these films do not portray ONLY positive instances in life, why that would be utterly unrealistic ( a word I absolutely despise, but feel is appropriate here.) In all of them, there’s conflict, and in most, devastating conflict. I think the only negative impression this may leave is the time frame it portrays. I mean come on, the producers have roughly two hours to sum up a story;an adventure. Children may possibly get confused when they enter the real world, only to find that their resolution to the such conflict in their lives may take more than 120 minutes to hit the surface. For the most part, however, it teaches 5 valuable lessons:
1.) Even those with the seemingly most glamorous lifestyles endure conflict and stressful circumstances- You can take two different people, with two very different lives, and both experience an inner conflict that ultimately leads them to an external conflict. Take Ariel and Jasmine for example. From afar, both princesses seem to have everything a little girl could envy. They have royalty, a loving family and friends, but yet both are still unsatisfied and seem untouched by their worldly possessions. This teaches us that happiness does not come from the golds in our pockets, but rather from inside. We cannot truly experience happiness until we follow our passions; our hearts.
2.) Where you begin is not necessarily where you must end- This teaches our children possibility.The best story to reflect this is no other than Cinderella. Dressed in rags and at service to her family, Cinderella, from the outside, seemed only destined for a long life of enslavement. But if you know the story, which you must, Cinderella rises above such miserable torment and becomes of elite status; royalty, all the while maintaining her poise. Dare you tell me that this picture is unrealistic to the real life in which we all have the opportunity to experience. Rags to riches stories are written every second of every day. Possibility- what a fabulous concept to implant into our children.
3.) Looks do not “make” a person- In Beauty and the Beast, Bell falls in love with, what she first proclaims to be ” a monster,” only to find that his heart, encapsulated in anger and resentment, is at the core, genuinely kind. Bell, the beauty of the story, sees past the hairy flesh of this creature, only to recognize and adore the soul within it.
4.) Stepping out of our comfort zone can lead to marvelous things- Yes, OK, I know what you’re thinking. When Jasmine mustered up the courage to jump over the palace walls, she was introduced to an adventure full of adversity and challenge. When Ariel decided to leave her home to seek out the Prince, she fell into a wicked witch’s trap and lost her voice. It seems as though, it would have been much better maintaining the mundane, unsatisfied, status both princesses endured. They may have still been “craving” an adventure, but both would have been comfortably safe. Here’s the thing, it takes courage, and there’s bound to be challenges and trials awaiting your “jump,” but fleeing your box, is the only way happily ever afters are created. Both would have never met their “true loves,” and both would have never been living their dreams. Cinderella, if she would have told the fairy god mother “ eh, that sounds good and all, but the ball is a little outside of my comfort zone," she would have forever been dressed in rags and drenched in misery. Courage, what a valuable lesson.
and last but certainly not least…..
5.) They teach us about life- They teach us that there are people in this world that will bestow horrible behavior upon us, in which we need to watch our backs. They teach us that love is real, valuable, and one of the if not THE most important thing this world has to offer. They teach us that conflict WILL arise, despite our status, but with courage we can face and conquer anything. They teach us hope.They teach us family dynamics. They teach us that a good heart is much more powerful than a cold, wicked one.
And more than anything, they teach us that this life is an adventure and should be viewed precisely as that. That we are our own characters in our own tales, and with courage, we can create the fairy tale we so desire.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I believe my daughter and I are going to go watch some wildly “unrealistic” Disney Fairy tale :)
Ok, ok, as a pre-warning, the majority of the activities I have supplied you with below, are activities you are more than likely already encouraging your child to do. They’re simple and the obvious factor of them being creative are… well obvious. The key here, however, is that you MUST do all of these activities with your tot ( my word for really cool kid/toddler). Yes, you MUST do all of these with them, or else….
1.)Draw/Color/Paint- I see you, over there, rolling your eyes. Well, duh Nicole, my kid does this on a daily basis- no, on an hourly basis. I think it’s safe to say that of the “obvious" ones I mentioned above, this is the most obvious, the most “duh.” I get it, so I’m going to go ahead and apologize for stooping into such an obvious- a word I’ve said roughly 100 times already- level. However, in my defense, how many of you mommies are sitting down and coloring WITH your babies? Ah huh, not so obvious now is it? (101 times, for the record). We all know that this stimulates creativity and imagination, not to mention expression which is just, if not more important ( I don’t think too many things are more important than creativity, so my saying that expression is, well this is a monumental moment.)
2.) Making up your own lyrics- “The wheels on the bus” is probably the best song for this. Yes you’ve got the wheels, the driver, and the kids all on the bus, BUT what else is on the bus? Hmmm…. I’ve got your minds wondering, do I? Great! Now go get their little minds turning as well. I’ve gone thirty minutes with this song. We’ve included everything from a crying baby on the bus to a lizard on the bus ( yea, try coming up with what a lizard does on the bus.) This is a great exercise because it stretches the imagination. Plus, it’s a great song to get stuck in your head— which it will.
3.) Exploring the jungle- Your back yard is an adventure waiting for you. It’s covered in rich green, screaming with monkeys, tigers, and….. bears? No, scratch that, no bears, not in your jungle (unless you want them in your jungle.) Snakes, spiders, and sloths ( I believe those are in jungles) are all awaiting you, all living amongst your jungle. Now, go explore! Are you in your explorer outfit? What is an explorer outfit, you ask? I have no idea, so allow your imagination to lead you ( if all else fails, Dora wears shorts and tee- great reference.) Besides this exercise being creative, it’s plain out fun, and the extent in which your children “get into” it, well it’s really exciting to watch. Talk about what the animals look like, what you all are seeing and hearing. Does it smell? What does a jungle smell like?