As a little girl, I loved the Disney princesses, like so many little girls do, and don’t get me wrong, I still hold a very special place in my heart for Disney magic. We all want to believe in magic, right? But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that the stuff that happily ever after is made of is hardly the stuff of true love. Disney never shows us the work that it takes to keep a good marriage in tact after the knot is tied. As great as a fairy tale ending sounds, I’m much more interested in what happens after the credits roll.
For this very reason, I don’t really have an interest in having a Prince Charming come and sweep me off my feet. Besides, has anyone stopped to consider the very questionable things that happen between Disney princesses and their hunks? Snow White and Sleeping Beauty both get kissed awake. Hello?! Anyone ever heard of consent? Anyway, I’d much rather know that my love can last through any trial and hardship. That’s true love. And so, here are a few love stories that I’d like to suggest in place of the classic Disney princess tales.
Dirty Dancing: a timeless classic that is, to me, a much more realistic form of love- even if it is still categorically sappy. Baby falls in love with a boy who comes from a lower social class than her, clearly loving him for who he is and not where he comes from (yeah, yeah, I know the same could be said about Titanic). This same man selflessly takes care of his dancing partner during her pain following a botched abortion despite the fact that she was impregnated by another man and his “taking responsibility for her” leads Baby’s father to despise him and forbid Baby from seeing him. On the other hand, Baby submits to the wrath of her father for sneaking out to see Johnny when it provides the alibi he needs in the face of (false) charges for stealing a wallet. Even though Johnny is fired for having a relationship with Baby, she being a patron, he being a worker, he realizes how selfless Baby was in her love for him and how it has made him a better man.
The Princess Bride: brief shout-out to Cary Elwes for being flawless and a beautiful man and making women everywhere swoon with three words: “As you wish.” But all of the male lead’s hunkiness aside, Westley shows us that true love never really leaves us; it always comes back, even if it’s been momentarily captured by the Dread Pirate Roberts. And later in the movie, Buttercup teaches us that true love doesn’t always mean being with your lover when she volunteers to marry Prince Humperdink if it will save Westley from being killed by the prince’s guard (of course reiterating that true love is selfless).
The way that Joe, Queen Clarisse Renaldi’s bodyguard, in The Princess Diaries (2) loves her is enough to make every girl swoon. Joe’s perfect love for Clarisse teaches us that true love always waits. Joe loved the Queen for years, but only when she was about to hand down the crown to Mia did he finally tell her how he truly felt about her, and even when she did not immediately admit her feelings for him, he respectfully backed into the shadows out of love for her. True love waits, and we all know that patience is a virtue.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part II): In a return of the “love is selfless” motif (anyone sensing a pattern here?), Snape shows us the end all, be all: loving someone so much that you will do anything for them even if they don’t love you back in the same way. He watches over Lily’s son for years and does what he can to make sure he stays safe, all while putting himself in grave danger right under Voldemort’s nonexistent nose even though he hated James. He shows us the purest form of love known to man, not only selfless, but for always.
And finally, this video that I accidentally happened to stumble upon while writing this post, and it more than applies: http://expandedconsciousness.com/2015/04/11/husband-catches-his-wife-crying-while-doing-laundry-then-she-tells-him-the-shocking-truth/. What this husband does is so beautiful. When you truly love someone, those are the kind of things you will do for them.
I love stories like these because they show just how selfless true love is, and they show the reality of the obstacles true love has to overcome. But that’s just it: if it’s true love, it will overcome them! None of the hardships presented in any of these movies, not even death, were strong enough forces to keep the lovers apart. And to me that’s more reassuring than any kind of “happily ever after.”
So you can keep your Prince Charming. I’ll take a Johnny, Westley, Joe, Snape, or Louie any day.