Where did you learn about love? Who taught you about dating? If you had to answer this question, could you? Maybe you don’t even realize where your concept of dating came from. Perhaps you learned from your parents, family or friends. Maybe you learned from watching Twilight or listening to Pink on the radio? Commonsensemedia.org reports that for teens the main source of information about sex, dating and sexual health comes from what they see and hear in the media. Quite possibly, your concept of love started at even a much earlier age. For so many young girls, the first idea of a romantic relationship comes from fairy tales.
“Once upon a time” is a wistful, nostalgic phrase repeated countless times in the bedrooms of little girls around the world. It sweeps children away into a fantasy land of imagination that helps foster creativity. Fairy tales impart important morals and valuable life lessons. They teach right from wrong and the consequences of making bad choices. They demonstrate that bad things happen to good people, but through hope and perseverance, good will triumph over evil. Albert Einstein once said, “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” But what do they teach children about love and relationships?
In Disney’s version of Cinderella, the heroine is possibly the sweetest creature that ever lived. She works as a house servant for her mean stepmother and her nasty step sisters, Anastasia and Drizella. Cinderella sings and dances her way through her daily chores, despite the constant demands of the household. Yet, she dreams for her wish of the heart to come true. Cinderella’s wishes are of course answered in the form of her fairy godmother. With the wave of a magic wand, Cinderella is transformed. She is no longer the servant in rags; she is now the belle of the ball. Cue the prince to enter stage left. He lifts his eyes to see Cinderella and falls in love at the sight of her beauty. A little dancing, a lost glass slipper and a little drama later, they go on to live happily ever after.
So what does this version of Cinderella potentially teach young girls about falling in love?
- You are not worthy of love. But if you can magically transform; if you wear the right dress, the right shoes, you too can be loved.
- You are not complete without your prince. The longing of your heart can only be filled if he loves you.
- Without love, you are nothing. You are only a servant in rags. But with his love you can become a princess. All your troubles will be gone, and you will live happily ever after.
Here’s the truth about love.
- You are already loved. You are rooted and established in the love of Christ. (Ephesians 3:17) The only transformation you need to make is to accept Christ as your Lord and Savior.
- The true longing of your heart can only be filled by the love of Christ. If only you could grasp how wide and long and high and deep is His love, and know that it is this love that completes you. Then you will be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:18-19)
- You are already a princess, a child able to do immeasurably more than you can ever imagine through your father, the one true King. (Ephesians 3:20) This birthright, that you have only to accept, promises life ever after.
The parallels are so similar; one can’t help but wonder if Christ’s love was Disney’s intended message. Yet, without the Christian context, it’s easy to be misled by the themes expressed in the story. There is danger in continuing to seek fulfillment from another human being, instead of from the one who can truly provide it. The danger is a life filled with disappointment and loneliness. Constantly trying to transform into someone worthy of love in the eyes of world, leaves you incapable of loving yourself. There is no true fulfillment apart from Christ’s love.
Originally posted in the FOCUS Ministries, Inc. Newsletter, Fall 2014.