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The Fallacy of Fairytales

By Tara Doctor

We have grown up with the same fairy tales being read to us. They have been passed down for generations. All over the world, kids go to their parents and grandparents begging them to tell them a story...I think almost everyone has heard one fairy tale or another. Although these stories hold a great significance in our childhood and have been passed down for generations, this chain needs to be broken.

Let's look at some different stories. One of the classics, Rapunzel, portrays a princess incapable of doing anything until a strong, handsome prince comes to save her from the prison she was trapped in. In almost all of these stories- Cinderella, Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty - women are portrayed to be helpless, damsels in distress waiting for the perfect man to come and save them. This wrongly and subtly ingrains in young girls’ minds that they are incapable and powerless without a man.

Boys don’t benefit from this either, as the heroic men are always glorified to be extremely handsome and very masculine, teaching boys that looks determine if one will be able to find love. Also, the girls are almost always home bound, either doing house work or just sitting around waiting to be married. In the case of Snow White, she is actually happy to do the house work for seven small men, without getting paid, and makes it seem like a win. Marriage is portrayed as the end goal and the ultimate achievement for women. In almost all fairy tales the one objective is to find “true love” and get married and have a “happy ever after life”. This suggests to little kids that the only way to be happy is to get married. It also suggests that marriages are perfect, which is not always the truth.

Another reason for avoiding these stories is that there is a lack of diversity in terms of race, physical appearance, and sexual orientation. All the princesses have the perfect body shape; see any pictorial representation of Jasmine from Aladdin, Rapunzel, Belle, and Ariel. These standards of beauty send the wrong message to children, implying that being happy and finding a partner are connected with beauty. Princes are also portrayed as strong and muscular, and much like for girls this stereotype can be damaging to young boys. The main characters are regularly white, excluding a few. This promotes a sense that white skinned people are superior, while also making children of color feel invalidated.

These are some of the reasons I think these fairy tales are harmful and to an extent, even toxic. I think Disney has realised this too and are releasing more progessive stories, like Moana which is about a Polyensian girl, who doesn't need a man to come save her. In fact she rules the town alone. Although she has a man accompany her on the mission (which in my mind is a bit unnecessary) she still fights her own battles, she doesn't rely on him, and she doesn't fall in love with him in the end. So fairy tales aren't the problem, the problem is passing down the same ones for centuries because with them we are passing down the ideologies of that time, which we shouldn't still be pushing today as we have as a society progressed into a more equal and just society.


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