Could fairy tales build unrealistic expectations?


We have all heard fairytales during our childhood, be it about Snow White and the seven dwarfs or the Little Mermaid. We all have also enjoyed these stories and have enacted it in our childhood. Once in a while everyone wants to have their fairytale romance but is it healthy to set such kind of expectations?

 These stories have some aspects in common:

  • A strong prince
  • A princess in distress
  • An evil entity
  • Happily ever after

These stories make children believe in magic, lucky coincidences, and that someone else will come to save them and they’ll be happy forever after. But does that happen in real life?

The female protagonist is shown as a damsel in distress who is rescued by a strong and capable prince, the male protagonist. This specifically endorses the belief that women are weak and helpless and men are powerful. 

Since they also teach us to wait for someone else to come and save us, our problem-solving skills are never fully developed. And since no knight in shining armor would come to rescue us, we set ourselves up for disappointment by developing unrealistic expectations. 

Such fairytales can also contribute to the ever-changing and unrealistic beauty standards and can contribute to the disturbance of body image perception in children. The fairy or princess is more often than not, a slim white female. Additionally in the story of Snow White, fairness and beauty were given the utmost importance- “Mirror mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?” Not everyone has fair skin and a tiny waist, and that has nothing to do with how beautiful they look. 

Another problematic aspect is that there is always romance between a princess and a princess, there is no representation of queer love and romance or anyone from the LGBTQIAP+ community. 

All this would make it difficult for everyone else to be able to relate to what they are seeing and hearing and might even feel odd or alien, due to this lack of representation. 

There is another important issue that must be discussed and that is- consent. You must’ve noticed how in the tales of Snow White and the Sleeping Beauty, they were kissed by their respective princes while they were asleep and so of course it happened without their consent. This is problematic as it can teach and normalize non-consensual sexual experiences. 

Many romantic comedies make us want to invest in relationships that are unhealthy for us. They end up romanticizing toxic relationships by normalizing red flags. A very simple and common example is when it’s portrayed that a person who annoys and irritates you the most, really likes or even loves you. And that’s what people internalize and then chase people who may be emotionally unavailable or even abusive because they think that that’s what love is supposed to look like.

They also encourage the notion that one person has to be the savior in the relationship. It’s when one partner tries to fix/ save/ complete the other. This again promotes people to get into unhealthy relationships. 

Lastly, they also postulate that love is all we need to be happy in life. Unfortunately, love can’t pay for meals, tuition fees, loans, or mortgages! Love can’t solve all your problems. Problems would always be there but a healthy kind of love can support us through them. 

Story telling do help in development of imagination and also act as comfort for kids but we also have to see the other side to it. Just like a coin, even stories have negative and positive impact on our personalities.