One of my favorite romantic movies is “Moulin Rouge.” Satine ,a beautiful Parisian geisha of the underworld (played wonderfully by Nicole Kidman), is the object of desire of many Machiavellian club patrons. Christian (Ewan McGregor) a penniless writer falls heavily for the notorious star. She will do anything to be a “real”actress He will do anything to mount a show (Spectacular! Spectaclar!) about “truth, beauty, freedom and love.” Together they get embroiled in the complexities of fantasy, reality, doubt, secrets, sacrifice, duplicity, forgiveness and ultimately –love.
As young girls, we were introduced to the notion of true love via fairy tales starring various cartoon princesses conveniently served by Disney. Wide eyed and with bated breath we watched Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. So that’s how a girl meets a prince ! One must be a damsel in distress and with hundred percent certainty she will be rescued by dashing royalty! Choose your poison. Die and miraculously be saved by a passing prince’s kiss. Leave a glass slipper behind and make sure you are the only girl in the entire kingdom that can fit it it. Risk a hundred years’ slumber in the hopes of being rescued, yet again , by true love’s kiss. The problem with this is that the lead character lives happily ever after with a STRANGER… or does she? Well no one dares spoil a happy Disney ending.
The mold did change a bit in the coming years. Hans Christian Andersen’s scaled heroine was forever immortalized as Ariel. Defiance and curiosity led her to sell her voice in exchange for legs to the scheming sea witch Ursula. The bargain? Mute girl-fish must make Prince Eric fall in love with her in three days or else lose her melodic chops forever. The Little Mermaid’s efforts did pay off when she eventually got her voice back, married the prince and kept her legs. But should a girl (in this case a non-human at that) really go through such lengths just because of a handsome face?
Personally, I think the non-princesses/ lead commoners , save for Princess Merida of Brave fame and Pocahontas, had a better grip of the notion of love. They make good models too for our young daughters. Culled from the Brothers Grimm Beauty, and the Beast, Belle is a small town girl with big ideas. “A beauty but a funny girl that Belle!’… goes the song. She is considered strange and peculiar for having her nose always stuck in a book. Local hunk Gaston assumes she would marry him even without asking. Belle shows independence, bravery, selflessness and sees behind the looks (for who can ever love a beast?) of her captor. Finally, here’s a girl who actually develops a relationship with the protagonist-turned-love interest. Even then she shows that familial love is stronger than her budding romance. Mulan is also a Disney heroine to exhibit similar traits prompting the Emperor of China to tell General Shang “The flower that blooms in adversity is the most beautiful of all. You don’t meet a girl like that every dynasty.”
“I can’t wait to fall in love!” I was shocked to hear my 4 year old daughter R say this after watching Snow White the musical last year. I felt guilty for letting her fall prey to the spell of the Disney Princesses. There are, after all, many other love stories that could leave a better impression on her. Over a course of time, I told her about the bible story of Naomi and Ruth, let her watch “Meet the Robinsons” and allowed a daily serving of Sofia the First.
Love comes in many facets and forms. My love for my daughter prompts me to equip her for the many challenges and realities of this world. A level headed girl always trumps an over idealistic one. As parents, we should not underestimate the capacity of children to understand. Therefore , it is a must to provide filters. Let’s show them that queens no more about love than any princess can teach. I look forward to the day when I can share one Sunday evening with my future very grown up daughter as we watch “Moulin Rouge”. For now, it’s enough that I shower her with hugs and kisses for no one can ever love her the way Mommy does.
With a pocketful of glitter,