A Not So Happily Ever After: Hollywood Ruins Women

Author’s note: I have finally finished my rough draft for my researched argument! Hallelujah! This paper was written for my college English class. We had to write an argument about a controversial topic that we thought was interesting and worth discussing.

I hope you enjoy this paper. Feel free to leave comments/feedback/suggestions/what have you. Thanks for reading!

A Not So Happily Ever After: Hollywood Ruins Women

Sleeping Beauty sleeps peacefully, waiting for her Prince Charming to arrive. When he finally does, Charming stoops down, bends his head towards hers, and kisses her lips gently. Immediately, the princess awakes, her gorgeous face smiling, and they instantly fall in love and live happily ever after. It’s a classic tale: the hero meets the heroine, they fall in love, and live the rest of their lives in perfect harmony. With this story engrained in their minds, women are left with the notion that in order to find their personal “happily ever after,” they must first obey Hollywood’s every command. Although Hollywood has produced many romantic films, like the aforementioned tale of Sleeping Beauty, it has negatively impacted women’s views of men and relationships, creating an absolute disaster for society.
Hollywood presents a false representation of men. With one glance into the world of romantic television and movies, most viewers will instantly grasp the underlying message in every plot and love story. Hollywood has made it clear to women that in order to find their Prince Charming, they must be damsels in distress. For years, women have fallen into this false mindset and in return, have developed low self esteem and great frustration.
In Wilson Koh’s 2009 article, ““Put Not Your Trust in Princes,”” he explains why fables are unrealistic and detrimental to society. “Fables is thus a magic mirror which underscores that the everyday is an ideologically-charged construct normalised by its subjects,” Koh states. Fables, according to Wilson, are not only fictional, but they are also impractical and not at all viable. However, many women have become addicted to these stories and therefore, have allowed themselves to become vulnerable to the many underlying lessons that the stories portray.
Disney movies, for example, show that the woman must be the damsel in distress and therefore wait for her Prince Charming to arrive. Not only does this suggest that women should merely wait around in order to have true love, it also proposes that Prince Charming must do the rescuing. There are many fables that illustrate this point. In the fable, Rapunzel, the princess is trapped in a tower and waits for her prince to rescue her. Cinderella awaits her Prince to liberate her from her evil step-mother and the endless housework. Sleeping Beauty falls fast asleep until her Prince wakes her with a kiss. In every example, the princesses wait helplessly for their rescuer, who never ceases to arrive at the perfect time. Not only does the Prince always come, but the two individuals always immediately fall in love. According to Martha M. Funnell’s 2010 article, “And They Lived Happily Ever After,” “No matter how dire her [the princess’] circumstances, Prince Charming came along and gave her a kiss or put the slipper on her foot and rescued her just in the nick of time” (67).
Pocahontas is the only exception whose story clashes with the Disney mold. According to Lauren Dundes, author of the 2011 article, “Disney’s Modern Heroine Pocahontas,” “Pocahontas was applauded because of the metamorphosis of the usual docile Disney heroine into an adventurous young woman who stands up for her beliefs” (353). Pocahontas exemplifies that in today’s society, all women should not try to be damsels in distress. They simply have too much to offer. Although Hollywood begs to differ, women are too strong and too independent to be called inferior and weak. However, women have difficulty seeing their potential because of Hollywood’s inaccurate perception of love, which says that in order to fall in love, you must be rescued.
Martha M. Funnell discusses in her article why women need to stop waiting for their Prince Charming to come. Funnell states that society makes us think that “we are like those princesses. No matter what happens, someone will come along to rescue us. [But] we simply cannot afford to wait for Prince Charming to rescue us. The stakes are just too high” (67). In today’s society, women have the responsibility to work and strive for excellence. According to Funnell, if women forget about their responsibilities and instead simply wait for their true loves to rescue them, they will not only waste precious time and possibly ruin their health by constantly worrying, but they also may miss once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, such as volunteering, traveling, and enjoying life in general (2010).
Hollywood’s declaration that women must wait patiently for their rescue has also altered women’s views of men. Prince Charming has become the ultimate standard. Also known as the gentleman who saves his princess and lives happily ever after, Charming puts unnecessary pressure on real men. When females of all ages hear about this legendary and perfect man, they immediately swoon and sigh dreamily. What makes Prince Charming so appealing is his dashing looks, his courageous character, and his mission to find his soul-mate. His heroism has captivated women’s attention for decades and has tainted their expectations when trying to find their personal Prince Charmings.
In Julia T. Wood’s 1994 article, “Gendered Media: The Influence of Media on Views of Gender,” she states that “[the] media representations of relationships is that men are the competent authorities who save women from their incompetence” (235). In their 2011 article, “How do Media Images of Men Affect Our Lives?,” Sam Femiano and Mark Nickerson agree that the media negatively portrays men. Some stereotypical attributes include men being handsome, courageous, and brave. Femiano and Nickerson discuss how the media “discourages” men “from pursuing many positive traits that are perceived as unmanly,” like expressing and showing emotions (2011).
Because of the impossible standard set by Prince Charming, if women continue to expect men to perfectly portray Charming, they are destined for failed relationships and crushed dreams. An anonymous SearchQuotes author frustratingly declares, “Someone should sue Disney for making every little girl believe that they have a Prince Charming” (2011). Many women do not want to admit that Prince Charming is simply a fictional character. He is unrealistic because he is without flaws and imperfections. If women stubbornly turn down every man they meet because he does not hold to the standards set by Prince Charming, they will be forever searching for their perfect mate.
Martine Hennard Dutheil De La Rochere explains a debate in her article, ““But Marriage Itself Is No Party”.” This debate shows the various differences between the original Sleeping Beauty tale, written by Charles Perrault, and the one rewritten by Angela Carter. In the original story, Sleeping Beauty slept and was awakened by the Prince, but without a kiss (2010). However, in Carter’s version, and later in the Grimm brother’s version, as well, the kiss was added for romantic effect. The changes to the story have become the center of many arguments and complaints and although nothing was necessarily wrong with the original outcome, it lacked romance. Many fairytale readers want to see outward affection. Therefore, Carter and the Grimm brothers added what they thought readers would want, and they were right (2010).
Additionally, in Danuta Kean’s 2010 article, “Heroes? The New Men of Modern Romantic Fiction are About as Sexy as Socks,” the writer claims that women want to read books and watch movies where the male lead is not only “heart-thumpingly sexy,” but also a hero who saves the damsel in distress (2010). She argues that male characters portrayed in the media today are not what they used to be. According to her article, women are desperate to be taken into ‘fantasy world,’ and unfortunately, the books and movies of today’s culture don’t quite compare to those of the past (2010). Danuta quotes therapist Lucy Beresford, who states, “These fantasies are based on modern archetypes that women have dreamed up, and if you think you’re going to find that in real life, then you are not just going to be very disappointed, but damaged by it” (2010).
By altering women’s views of men, the media has also changed women’s views on personal image. Many young girls grow up watching Disney movies. Their heroes are Cinderella, Ariel, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty. Most girls yearn to become just like their heroines when they grow up. They dress up as Disney-princesses for Halloween, pretend they’re awaiting their Prince Charming, and wish they could magically transform into a beautiful princess. Even though it’s clear that Disney has a huge impact on young girls, Disney has abused its power and, unfortunately, has stressed the importance of being beautiful in order to gain true love.
Because the princess is always a gorgeous maiden with perfect physical features, this portrayed image has created the underlying message that in order to have your own Prince Charming, not only must you be a damsel in distress, but you also must be stunning, as well. Although princesses have huge impacts on girls’ self-esteem and view of their personal image, some girl toys, like Barbies and Bratz dolls, also help create this negative portrayal. In the anonymous author’s article, “Mass Media Has a Negative Impact on Women,” the author talks about how the media (specifically Barbies, Bratz dolls, and magazines) have negatively affected what beauty is (2009). This unfair representation of what beauty is damaging to females, because it suggests that in order to receive attention from men, females must look a certain way (2009).
Girls of various ages are constantly bombarded with the idea that they always have to look perfect. Shockingly, the author states that, “It is around three years of age that a girl receives her first Barbie doll. Barbie is thought of as perfection” (2009). This unnecessary standard for perfection in order to receive attention has become detrimental in society.
However, it doesn’t stop there. Magazines continue to promote the value of outward beauty. Look at any woman’s magazine, like Seventeen or CosmoGirl, and you’ll read numerous articles about how to attract your dream guy. The magazines share make up, exercise, and fashion tips that will supposedly “help” you in your romantic life. Although the tips can be useful for everyday life, the underlying message appears once again: in order to find your dream man, you must reach society’s standard of beauty.
Not only has Hollywood compromised women’s views of men and self image, but it has also altered their view of relationships, by putting a huge emphasis on the “happily ever after.” By the end of every romantic plot, the hero and the heroine declare their love for each other and live happily ever. The assumption is that they will be united in marriage and live the rest of their lives in joyous bliss. However, this is not always an accurate portrayal of real life. Because many women grow up watching movies, whether created by Disney or not, their views of marriage are misconstrued and their expectations of what love really is becomes unrealistic. Since life after marriage is never mentioned or shown in the popular fairytales and love stories, many girls grow up dreaming about their wedding, but hardly ever think of life after that. For many, the “happily ever after” is the wedding.
In her book, White Weddings, Chrys Ingraham discusses in detail the wonders of the wedding industry. The first chapter of her 2008 book, entitled The Wedding-Industry Complex, Ingraham describes the wedding planning process. There’s excitement, anxiety, and thousands of dollars spent to create a magical and fairytale-inspired day for the bride and groom. According to Chrys, many women will spend thousands of dollars on the perfect wedding dress, dozens of flowers, and the tiny details that help create their special day.
Although a wedding is a joyous occasion, unfortunately too much attention is on the day rather than the marriage. Chrys Ingraham states, “with 43 percent of all marriages ending in divorce,…the wedding market ‘needs’ the fantasy of the once-in-a-lifetime spectacle or it would cease to exist” (113). Why are so many marriages failing? Could it possibly be that too much focus goes into the wedding, instead of the marriage? Could it be that the center of the relationship is the superficial love, instead of true love not necessarily shown in Hollywood? Yes. With the focus of “happily-ever-afters” and perfect companions, it is extremely possible that for some failed marriages, the focus was not on the compatibility of both individuals, but rather the idea that the relationship seemed to fit what Hollywood insists is ideal.
In contrast, various articles have been written that focus on how the media has the opposite impact on women’s views of men and relationships. For example, in Ann Burnett and Rhea Reinhardt Beto’s article, “Reading Romance Novels: An Application of Parasocial Relationship Theory,” they claim that reading romantic novels is not only mesmerizing and addicting, but also healthy for a committed relationship (2000). Both writers analyze the psychological thought process as to what makes the fictional characters and storyline so appealing; the most common factor being that the lead male character is romantic and perfect. In the article, many women were interviewed for personal anecdotes. One says, “Our [her and her husband’s]…love relationship is better now than it was when we first got married. And a lot of it was through the books” (2000). Burnett and Beto write, “The women [interviewed for the study] explained how they were more affectionate, loving, giving, considerate, and romantic after they had read a book” (2000). According to the article, there is nothing wrong with reading romantic novels and watching romantic movies, because it helps develop the imagination, makes the reader a better girlfriend or wife, and offers a possible guy perspective on life.
With that said, romantic novels should not be the sole reason a relationship is successful. According to these women, reading novels about fictional characters gave them the inspiration to be better versions of themselves for their significant other. It motivated them to pay more attention to their boyfriends or husbands; not because they wanted to enjoy his company, but because they wanted to test the ideas described in the books. Therefore, although the women mentioned in Burnett and Beto’s study testified to having great relationships, the media has ultimately negatively impacted their views, although they don’t necessarily view it as such. The media, romantic books in this particular study, has given women a standard for a relationship that they consequently seek to find in their personal lives. Although they may be content in the short-term, women will naturally divert back to the books in order to once again receive inspiration and thus this addicting pattern will forever regenerate.
Women’s views of men and relationships are distorted by Hollywood’s misinterpretations of love. Even though most women are strong and independent, Hollywood says they must alter themselves to fit the mold of true love. Because of this, women struggle with their self-esteem, beauty, and romantic fantasies. They wait to be rescued by their dashing Prince Charmings and expect to fall helplessly in love and live in harmonious bliss. Based on the movies Hollywood continues to produce, it is evident that this reality won’t change anytime soon.

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