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The Princess problem and the Prince potential

by Maren Fischer

Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be another article on how the princess culture is impeding progressive feminist ideals and creating beauty-obsessed girls in society. But it is going to be about how the princess thing shapes another real life aspect, something I think is not explored enough: its impact on love and relationships.

Let’s be clear, though – I love Disney movies. I don’t think the Disney princesses are necessarily a bad thing. One of my fondest memories as a scrawny ten-year-old is laying out a “flying carpet” on the floor of my room and pretending to be Princess Jasmine. I may or may not have sung the entirety of “A Whole New World”. (Switching back and forth between both parts, obviously my stuffed panda wasn’t going to get the job done.)

However, there is an unavoidable link between this obsession with princesses and how our girls become women. And I think it has less to do with the actual princess, and more to do with their relationship to the prince. There are indeed aspects of a princess to look up to; they are often kind, compassionate, patient, intelligent, and they usually have a real knack for communicating with animals, which would mean I could finally leave my Deciphering the Various Sounds of North American Rodents text at home.

But they often find themselves in situations where their relationships are decided more by fate than by, say, them purposely seeking out a meaningful relationship, which is what us women here in the real world have to do. All of these men, these princes, just happen to come into these girls’ lives and somehow or another by the end, they’ve fallen in love and are currently luxuriating in their happily ever after.

I think it’s safe to say that women today don’t believe they’re going to be rescued by a handsome stranger and then marry within the week. But I think that somewhere, perhaps buried deep in the subconscious of even the most rational brain, there lives a secret hope in every girl-turned-woman that they will eventually find their real world prince and get their personal happily ever after. Which leads me to the second part of the title: the Prince potential.

The Prince potential is the resulting view and expectations women have of men because of their secret princess story wishes. They don’t expect to find an actual prince – Kate Middleton excluded – but they believe that they will one day find the one man who will be a prince for them and sweep them off their feet. Now don’t get me wrong, I agree that every woman deserves to be with a man who makes her feel like a princess. But where it goes wrong is in the process of trying to find that man, i.e. dating.

I have known more women than I can count who create this issue for themselves. And so many of these friends are independent, intelligent people. As I see it, they construct a projection in their head; an image of what the perfect prince should be. They project this image onto a man, and if the man doesn’t happen to live up to that image, the projection gradually starts to fade until the woman is finally faced with having to recognize what’s really there. And usually, in their eyes, that’s a complete lack of prince.

I see this as the unfortunate cause of many broken hearts. “I know he’s a player, but I thought he would love me enough to finally settle down.” Or, “Well I know that we’re not in the same city and that’s why it’s not practical to start a new relationship, but if he really liked me enough, wouldn’t he find a way to make it happen anyway?” It’s the subtle search for the fairy tale ending.

We in the entertainment industry have such an undeniable influence on society. Sorry to say, but it’s not just the Disney princesses who are warping girls’ minds . . . it’s romantic comedies, too. And again, disclaimer – I love romantic comedies!

I think escapism is an exceedingly important part of movies and art. Sometimes you just need to plant yourself in front of the screen and melt while Meg Ryan falls in love with Tom Hanks. But still, perhaps our subconsciouses can’t quite separate the Pretty Woman fantasy from reality as much as we would like them to.

I understand this is sort of a generalization. Obviously, not every woman on earth is affected by this, and there are many women out there who are able to have wonderful, healthy relationships without any perceived threat from the impending princess doom. And then there are the women who are lucky enough to actually find that story-like romance without even looking for it.

But I do think it’s worth exploring the idea that our princess/prince/fairy tale culture does have an impact on the way we go and live our lives. I myself have fallen prey to secretly comparing men I have been with to Heath Ledger in 10 Things I Hate About You. (I mean, come on, when he sings that song to Kat on the bleachers . . . you’d have to be an emotionless sea cucumber not to wish at least a little bit that a man would do that for you.)

Disney · Pixar’s recent princess movie, Brave, made huge strides toward correcting this princess problem. Finally, there’s a princess who’s not concerned about finding a man before she finds herself! Hopefully we are progressing to a place where new princesses will encourage girls and women to seek a more realistic and meaningful relationship and recognize that even when he’s not perfect, a man can still be a prince.

So, single women of the world, I say: there is a loving partner out there for you! And he can be your own prince, but you have to allow him to be, in his own way. Fairy tale does not always equal valuable. However, no judging if you want to dress up like Cinderella on your wedding day, or any other day of the year for that matter.

Maren Fischer

About Maren Fischer

Maren Fischer is an actress, writer, dreamer, and popcorn lover in New York City. Originally from the good ol' Mitten State (Michigan), she graduated with a BFA in Musical Theatre from Point Park University, and now does way too many things at once, including Shakespeare, musicals, screenwriting, teaching, and even some inventive baking. Her favorite quote: "Ginger Rogers did everything that Fred Astaire did, but she did it backwards and in high heels." -Faith Whittlesey. Follow Maren on Twitter @MarenBFischer

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