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We Want the Fairy Tale

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So many girls grow up on Disney princess stories and fairy tales. What is it about the concept of being a princess that captivates us so much? And what do these stories drill into our minds that might not be healthy, godly ideas for marriage?

THE DREAM

Fairy tales tend to focus on the girl, her life, her suffering, her dreams, her loneliness and her plight. The princess pictures a handsome prince sweeping in and rescuing her from the drudgery of her real life and carries her blissfully into happily ever after where she never has any problems ever again.

That dream is not necessarily bad. In fact, it kind of makes me think about Jesus and His church. Some of the most amazing stories have patterns that match what Jesus did for us. Jesus is the Prince Who comes and rescues His bride-to-be and suffers great agony, anguish and pain in order to save her from her captor. Then, one day, He will come and carry her away to be with Him to live happily ever after in heaven.

God did design marriage to be a beautiful representation and living picture of the relationship between Christ and His church. So I think that is why the princess stories grab the imagination of girls and women so much. That is what we long for – to be rescued, cherished, adored, loved, cared for and protected.

It is SO easy to turn that good desire for marriage and romance into the most important thing in our lives – more important than Jesus. When that happens – the desire can become an idol.

THE PROBLEMS

I see a few issues in some fairy tales and princess stories that may not prepare women well for a godly marriage. I have a wonderful little 6 year old girl. We have watched princess movies at various times. And then we talk about the messages the movies send. You are welcome to add your thoughts!

  • The stories focus almost entirely on the girl – her feelings, her desires, her dreams, her suffering, her perspective.
  • Cinderella’s prince and Snow White’s prince didn’t even have names!?!?! Much less an identity. That is just so wrong!
  • There is ZERO character development of the prince. (Except in Beauty and the Beast)
  • It doesn’t really matter who the prince is – they often decide to get married the day they meet many times based on immediate attraction. They don’t even know each other! They don’t examine each other’s character or faith in God at all. NOT GOOD! And they spend no time getting to know each other or each other’s families.
  • The Little Mermaid was EXTREMELY disrespectful of her Daddy and his authority – and everything worked out just fine. She pursued the man she wanted, against her father’s advice. (She didn’t wait for him to pursue her. Although, not having a voice was probably helpful!) She almost caused her Daddy and the whole kingdom to become prisoners of the evil Ursula because of her defiance. But everything worked out great. Her rebellion had no real consequences.
  • Modesty is definitely lacking in most of the princess movies. Not the best message for our girls.
  • The way the princesses are drawn is very unrealistic – it sets up an unattainable expectation for body image.
  • The pinnacle of the very short whirlwind relationship is the wedding. And then there is almost nothing ever shown after the wedding. There seems to be no conflict. There are no differences of opinion. Marriage seems to take zero work, effort, tears or struggle.
  • The prince’s life is often not explored at all. His calling, his decisions, his royal responsibilities, his aspirations, his dreams, his perspective are completely unnecessary and superfluous to the story.
  • Most of the time, it is the princess’ outer beauty that is the focus, not her heart and character. Although, I do have to say that Cinderella’s character and Belle’s character have some beautiful inner qualities.
  • In real life – we won’t have a perfect Prince like Jesus. We will have a human man who sins against us and hurts us at times. Yes, according to Ephesians 5:22-33, husbands are to represent Jesus. But they will not be perfect and they will not BE Jesus. When we expect total perfection, by our own definition and standards, we are extremely disappointed by reality. It is easy for us to make our men idols – to expect them to be 100% responsible for our own happiness. And if we are not happy, it’s their fault! That is not true! I am responsible for my own emotions and happiness and my own spiritual growth. Beauty and the Beast is a bit more realistic about this particular issue!
  • In more modern princess stories – the princesses are taking charge themselves more and more and are becoming more sarcastic, independent and these movies often show the men as being complete idiots and the movies portray marriage as being utterly unnecessary to have a fulfilling life for a woman. Of course, marriage is not necessary for fulfillment as a woman – Jesus is the main necessary thing in our lives. And He does call some women to singleness for seasons of their lives or for their whole lives. But movies like Brave make marriage look like torture. The men are AWFUL! Have you seen that movie!?!!? Marriage is made out to be oppression.
  • There is no demonstration of how to live out a godly marriage. The idea is that once you are married, things are just automatically perfect and wonderful and happy every moment of every day for the rest of your life.
  • Another issue is that while we girls were watching these princess stories – our male counterparts were watching hero movies. They didn’t learn the role that we expect them to fill. They were imagining battles and conquests. If you have ever seen Shrek – Fionna gets angry at Shrek for not “rescuing her properly.” She is SO disrespectful to her hero and tells him what to do and how to do it in a very condescending manner. GREAT example of disrespect and lofty expectations that are unrealistic. The language in that movie is not the best. So if you haven’t seen it, I wouldn’t recommend it.These concepts affect us, our expectations of marriage and our husbands as well as ourselves. How are we impacted by fairy tales? What have you noticed in your life or in those around you?

We will be discussing romantic movies, books and songs in a future post and how those impact us, as well!

35 thoughts on “We Want the Fairy Tale

  1. The stories would be closer to Jesus and the church if the princess turned around in a murderous rage and killed the prince when he came in the door, but I see your point.

    At what point does it become appropriate to discuss the book of Hosea with your kids? I too have a 6 year old daughter, and I’m not quite ready for that, but it is a much closer to reality analogy for Jesus and the church.

    1. Jay Dee,

      That is what we did to Jesus. πŸ™ You are right!

      I actually went through a lot of Hosea with my 10 year old son last year because I wanted him to see how unfaithful we are as people to God and how seriously God takes idolatry. That is a much better book to study for loving the way God loves and for His view of a “covenant” relationship.

      I have a feeling none of us would want to let our young children watch a movie about Hosea – but how we need the messages and themes of Hosea in our lives!

      Thanks for the comments!

        1. Jay Dee,
          Hosea is pretty intense. I had talked with my son about God’s design for sex in marriage originally 2 years ago. We have an ongoing discussion and I bring up topics from time to time. He listened carefully. We talk a LOT about idolatry – and how easy it is for us to slip into idolatry on a daily basis. I think he understood how serious Israel’s sins were and we talked about that our country, the USA, is guilty of the same things that Israel did then. We talked about God’s wrath and how God gives us a long time to repent, but eventually, nations that reject Him receive the consequences of their choices. I have also explained that America is not exempt from God’s punishment as a nation and that the church needs to repent or we will be facing consequences just like Israel did. And we talked about marriage and how any time we don’t do things according to God’s Word and design, sin destroys people’s lives.

          It’s some heavy stuff. And Hosea got a really difficult assignment. But what amazing love God has for us!

          1. I’m always amazed how Hosea stuck with it, even when God gave him an out. To me, that’s one of the strongest arguments against divorce I see in the Bible. God said “it’s ok Hosea, I’ll let you divorce her”, And Hosea basically asked God what he was going to do (sort of like two guys lamenting about their way-ward wives). God says he’s going to stick with it, and so Hosea does too. For all the arguments about divorce in the Bible and Jesus saying it’s OK (which Jesus re-iterates that divorce was never supposed to be an option, but we’re too stubborn and so it came about), I still think God would rather have us fight to the bitter end to keep our spouses. I sure hope He fights to the bitter end to keep us.

          2. I agree – Jesus said Moses gave people the option of divorce because their hearts were hard.

            How amazing is God’s love for us!?!?!? And what an incredibly high calling for us to love like that.

            Thanks, Jay Dee!

    2. From Campus Crusade’s (Cru’s) Family Life Today and Weekend To Remember Series
      9/09/13 Not Tonight, Dear, I Have a Headache with: Ray and Robyn McKelvy from the series: SOS Sick of Sex
      β€œNot tonight, dear.” Said or heard that before? Robyn McKelvey (http://robynmckelvy.com/about/), a wife to Ray for over 20 years and a mother of nine, talks honestly to women about enjoying and thriving in a sexual relationship with their husbands.Β 
      http://www.familylife.com/audio – – – find the green rectangle, click on the white triangle

      9/10/13 Livin’ to Love with: Ray and Robyn McKelvy from the series: SOS Sick of Sex
      Robyn McKelvey (http://robynmckelvy.com/about/) discloses some of the reasons a woman might not be fully invested in the sexual relationship with her husband, and reminds women again of the privilege it is to be their husband’s sole lover and companion.Β 
      http://www.familylife.com/audio – – – find the green rectangle, click on the white triangle
      7: 1* ΒΆ But concerning the things of which you have written to me: It is good for a male not to continue -keep on – touching a woman; 2 but because of [and to avoid] sexual immorality each man should be [sexually] having his own woman, and each woman should be [sexually] having her own man.
      ***Prov. 5:18 Your fountain should be blessed; and rejoice and be glad with the wife of your youth. 19 . . . her breasts should satisfy/intoxicate/saturate you at all times; you should be intoxicated continually with her affectionate lovingΒ 
      ***1 Cor 7:3 The husband should be rendering unto the wife [the] kindness, intimate marital duty, benevolence and good will [that is] due, owed and obligated ; and likewise also the wife [should be rendering the kindness, intimate marital duty, benevolence and good will that is due, owed and obligated] unto the husband.
      ***Eccles 9:9 Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this vainly fleeting life that God has given you [in your body] under the sunβ€” all your vainly fleeting days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun.
      ***1 Cor 7:4. The woman doesn’t have [sexual] authority over her own body, but the husband [does]; in like manner also the man doesn’t have [sexual] authority over his own body, but the woman [does]. 5 Do not be denying each other [sexually], unless, it may be, by consent for a time, that you may devote yourselves to fasting and prayer, and again be conjugally cohabiting [sexually reuniting], that Satan might not tempt you because of your failure to control yourself.

  2. I must say that I have never thought in such depth of the lack of character development for the fairy tail’s prince! So very true.

    I love that Jesus is our Prince, that He is our Bridegroom. For a season, work was slow at a particular job. I spent hours listening to a series by Mike Bickle on Song of Songs (available online for free). His ministry teaches extensively out of a spiritual interpretation of that book. It really opened my heart to how much I am loved. I would spend hours listening to instrumental worship music and crying softly at my desk because God was revealing His Bridegroom love to me. Now and again, I will go through mini-seasons where I receive a fresh revelation of how He pursues me and treasures me.

    1. Nathan,

      Thanks for your comments!

      I love that Jesus is our Bridegroom, too. The more I learn about being a godly wife, the more I learn about my relationship with Christ and what He wants in our relationship. Marriage is such a beautiful picture of Jesus’ love for us. Thanks for the info on Mike Bickle’s study on Song of Songs. How wonderful!

  3. Great thoughts here!!!! My sister and I were having an in-depth fairy tale and princess story discussion after your brief mention of it in a different post so I love how you came back to that and broke it down more in this post–although I love princesses to the point of even doing my daughters nursery in them (to be clear-it was generic princess though NOT disney princess) I totally agree with your posts here! The princess mentality can be a very GOOD thing but when you go at it through the secular lens–like so many other things–it gets greatly distorted!!

    1. We have Disney princess stuff at our house. I am not totally anti-princess. πŸ™‚ My daughter LOVES anything princess. I decorated her room with princess crowns when she was a baby, and it is still like that. But as I have learned about God’s Word and design for marriage, I have begun to see some of the harmful messages in these movies. I definitely think they are messages that we need to recognize, address and counter with the truth of God’s Word!

      To me, any secular or Christian movie or song or book needs to be evaluated for its content and weighed against God’s Word.

      I don’t keep our children from watching all movies. I try to not allow them to watch things with disrespect or blatant sin. But even the more innocent seeming things, I try to talk with them and help them to dissect the messages and see what was godly and what was not.

      I can definitely understand why many people choose not to have their kids watch any tv or movies at all. It is extremely difficult to keep our children from being polluted by the world from these messages.

      We are God’s princesses – daughters of the King. There is a book series by Sheila Walsh about a little girl who dresses like a princess and about how we are God’s daughters when we love Jesus. I like that series!

      When my children are exposed to the world – I definitely talk with them about what they heard and teach them to carefully evaluate what they see and hear. And I pray for God to give their Daddy and me wisdom to raise them in ways that greatly honor Him!

      1. “I can definitely understand why many people choose not to have their kids watch any tv or movies at all. It is extremely difficult to keep our children from being polluted by the world from these messages.”

        I definitely think you have the right approach by addressing these themes directly, rather than avoiding them and pretending they don’t exist. Avoidance might be easier for parents, but no child will remain sweet and innocent (or naive) forever without showing them how to view and deal with reality. Eventually, most children will see bad movies, and parents who elect not to share God’s truth in those moments because it might be difficult or awkward for them aren’t really helping their children deal with life in a healthy way.

  4. “I have a wonderful little 6 year old girl. We have watched princess movies at various times. And then we talk about the messages the movies send. ”

    THANK YOU!

    I’m saddened when I see young Christian parents continue to raise their daughters on the same Disney Princess movies they grew-up with, as if it is a perfectly harmless and even “good” thing to do.

    You are the only parent I’ve heard of to attempt to raise their daughter(s) with the proper perspective on Disney princess movies. You deserve much honor and appreciation! God bless you!

    * Maybe you might create a downloadable “study guide” .pdf for other parents to look at to recognize the dangerous ideas that each of those movies presents, so they can teach their daughters correctly. Just a thought.

  5. I enjoyed this post thoroughly, April. You’re absolutely right about most of the princes not having a character arc (Aladdin did, to some degree as well).

    Not sure she qualifies as a princess, but I always have loved “Mulan.” Her choices were based on love for her family as well as honor–not that I’d advise having any girl masquerade as a man in the military, lol.

    As per the princess stories as a whole, most are just plain old romances. When girl gets boy and vice versa, however, happily ever after is assumed. The real story is yet to begin but rarely–if ever–addressed.

    I happen to have a pretty wonderful, godly hero of my own, but just the same, marriage is work. On both sides. At times on one side more than another. It is through God’s grace that we work things out, primarily by choosing to do so.

    Lastly, have you read Francine Rivers REDEEMING LOVE? It’s lead male, Michael Hosea, is inspired by the book of Hosea, as is the story. A bit rough at times, but originally intended for the secular market and eventually rewritten for the inspirational/Christian genre. A wonderful story, one I’ve read several times.

    Oh my, I got so carried away! Thank you for your post!

    1. Joanna,

      Thank you for your comments! I love discussions! I am certainly not an authority on these things – but want to be sure we are thinking about the messages we consume.

      Aladdin did have some character development. Of course, he was a thief! Why did the boy not have a real job? That was never addressed. Not really the kind of guy I want my daughter to marry! But he seemed to turn out to be amazingly wonderful in the end – so did Flynn Ryder in Tangled. Another thief. πŸ™

      Can we have an honest, godly hero? I would really love that! Prince Eric was better – but that was more the absence of bad things than the presence of godly character traits.

      Every princess story I have seen has some significant flaws. Not that we can never watch them – but I do want us to be aware of what we watch, and what our children watch – and have dialogue about these things.

      That is interesting about Redeeming Love! I haven’t read it. Thanks for the info!

      1. You’re very welcome, April. Haven’t seen Aladdin in many, many years–uh, my copy is still on VHS, lol.

        If I remember correctly, many Bible ‘heroes’ didn’t always behave in godly or heroic ways. (I’m thinking of Abraham, Jacob, David, Peter, Saul…). God however, gave them (and each of us) free will coupled with multiple opportunities to adopt a new life fraught with choices that show God working in us. He used those heroes to show His power, judgment and compassion too. And through that, we see that God’s grace can help us make the changes necessary and put on a path toward redemption.

        Thief or not, Aladdin had some character. Unfortunately, he was simply named and judged a thief w/o any addressing how he got there. He would still be responsible for the change from poor choices to good, and I agree it would have been nice to see HOW he morphed into that ‘princely’ guy worthy of Jasmine. (I can’t speak to Tangled. Never saw it.)

        Okay, I am so done chatting here ;). I’m supposed to be doing my stats!

        1. Yes, that is true about Bible characters being sinners!

          And Aladdin did have some character development. Thankfully! And the guy had a name and a personality – so that is a big improvement!

          1. Funny. Never occurred to me that the early princes had no real identity, lol. Have a great day πŸ™‚

  6. Wow April, that’s amazing, never even thought of it from what it portrays to my little girl , she adores disney.
    Personally She loves watching little house on the prairie and my littles all love the waltons, yesterday with this change in our household with me surrendering she asked ‘ mummy can you teach me to be a proper girl” . I want to be, a real lady !
    We love you April all the way from the UK

    1. My little girl loves Disney, too. πŸ™‚ It’s amazing how quickly they imitate their mama. I started learning about respect when my son was 7 and my daughter was 2. Within a few HOURS, they were talking about Daddy being the head of the home and how we needed to be respectful in their own little discussions with each other. They imitate what they see in us! I’m so glad to hear about the changes at your house! That is very exciting! Praising God for all He is about to do!

  7. This is a great post April!

    I think sleeping beauty has always been my favorite princess movie, and through the years I have gone from loving disney to completely resenting those messages, and now I’m back to enjoying them with my own daughter. I think those stories are recreated from tales that were celebrated in a time when respect and submission by women in marriage were commonplace. The values of honor, justice, valor, truth, etc. were much more applauded (if not always practiced) when the original Cinderella, Rapunzel and Snow White were written. In today’s society, where those values are all but extinct, it’s no wonder the framework of the stories raises an eyebrow.

    I think the concept of “true love” is one of the biggest issues with disney pricess stories. Isn’t all love “true”? And if it’s not “true” was it ever love? When divorce is so common a lot of kids are going to look at love as something make believe… a scary thought! It’s probably irresponsible to attach the concept of “true love” to these instant romances in Disney movies. I don’t think it’s the stories as much as the world we live in now.

    This discussion has brought up a lot of interesting points, and while the inner child in me is sad to see the end of the princess era, I’m much more excited to share movies like The Lorax or Veggietales that are fun and innocent, yet meaningful at the same time. Those are our favorites right now.

    1. I actually LOVED seeing the femininity in these movies when my daughter was 2 and I was studying godly femininity. The beautiful, feminine, clothing, the trusting, adoring, admiring, respectful attitudes. There are some things that are good in these movies!

      I agree about true love. What a powerful statement you made!

      Thank you for sharing! I appreciate your insights and ideas. πŸ™‚

  8. There is a really good movie where a man shares the story of Hosea with a group of troubled teens. It is called Amazing Love. Came out in 2012 and stars Sean Astin. Even if your just looking for a way to share the story with your children it may give you some ideas.
    I’ve wondered about the princess stories for a while. I find them to be exciting and fascinating stories but often find that I prefer the rewrites of these stories as they tend to be more realistic.
    Talking with your kids about what they watch and/or read is so much better than just trying it ignore it. Kids want to know and find it a lot easier to learn things this way. I know I did.
    Pollyanna was a positive example for me. She claimed every girl was a princess and always had something positive to say despite her circumstances.

  9. Why is it that in contrast to women, men are never or very rarely (at best) told “You are princes – sons of the King”?

    And when we tell women that they are “daughters of the King”, how often do we also remind them that their male fellow heirs are sons of the King?

  10. I really enjoy Disney but I also see there are bad messages in the films too. We are preparing for a Disney vacation. My son and I are watching Disney movies each week and doing crafts in the countdown. They’ve actually brought about a lot of discussion about spirituality and modesty etc. When the princes’ have an identity it’s usually a thief. Have you noticed that? Like Aladdin and whats his face from Tangled. So weird. Anywho, it’s good that you discuss the movies with your daughter. I believe media can be a tool. I know this is probably way too idealistic too but I’ve always liked the way The Lord of the Rings portrays the sexes. There are strong men and women in those movies.

    1. Amberdover,

      I like a lot about Disney. My little girl used to watch a lot of the princess movies and we went to Disney world a few times.

      But, there are always things in any movies that don’t honor God. I agree, these are great times to start discussions. I didn’t keep my children from watching some of these movies. But I do talk with them about the messages – I think that is wise! πŸ™‚

My grandmother is on hospice and won't be with us much longer (11-30-16). I will get to comments when I am able to but I need to be with family right now. Thanks for understanding.

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