Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Real Prince Charming

Tomorrow marks the day that is adored and hated by millions around the world.  Some men will groan thinking of all the expectations to get their girlfriend or wife something to commemorate the occasion.  Singles will have to endure the bombarding of public proclamations of love while trying to ignore the fact that there isn't a special person in their life.  For everyone else, there is sweet candy, joyous affection, and thoughtful greetings.

I'm not the biggest fan of Valentine's day.  I don't have anything against romantic love.  I think romance is wonderful and sweet.  What I do have a problem with is the fan base of romantic love.  If romance were a superhero it would be Wolverine.  Wolverine has a huge fan base and has been the lead character for all of the X-Men movies with the exception of First Class.  Even then, we can't have an X-Men movie without Wolverine and so we get a short funny cameo of the character.  The X-Men universe is rich with interesting characters that would make great lead characters.  Cyclops is the leader of the X-Men but doesn't get the screen time he really deserves in any of the movies.  (And he's played wonderfully by James Marsden!)

See, I don't hate Wolverine like Joe.  There's actually a lot about the character that I really like.  He's so over the top it's just awesomely silly.  But because Wolverine is so popular, he sells.  Since he sells, the studio execs over at Fox make sure that he's the main character for every X-Men movie created.  Forget Cyclops, Cable, Magneto, Shadow Cat, and Psylocke, there's only one character Fox cares about and it's Wolverine.

This is my problem with Valentine's Day and a lot (but not all) of Disney movies.  They support the idea that romantic love is the best kind of love and the most important.  Chick flicks, some Disney princess movies, and Valentine's day support unhealthy expectations and beliefs about relationships and what true love is.  Some writers have defined this as emotional pornography.  They're pretty much spot on too.  Think about all of the unrealistic expectations actual pornography creates in sexuality, relationships, and love.  Do certain chick flicks and the ideas fueling the sales of Valentine's day do any better?

This is also why I love movies like Brave, Scott Pilgrim versus the World, [500] Days of Summer, and Frozen.  Princess Merida doesn't wait for a prince in shining armor to come and rescue her.  She isn't looking to do sign language with the hero and say, "You complete me."  She wants a life that is her own.  The movie isn't about romantic love but the love shared between a mother and daughter.

In Frozen, Ana is accidentally cursed by her sister Elsa.  As the clock ticks she inches closer and closer to becoming a frozen statue.  The curse can only be broken by an expression of true love.  She is rushed back to the castle only to find that her "love"-at-first-sight boyfriend is a jerk and locks her away so that the curse kills her.  Ana breaks out with the help of Olaf realizing that her love for Kristoff is far more real.  Ana then faces a choice.

On one part of the frozen fjord is Elsa kneeling and sobbing while the "love"-at-first-sight ex-boyfriend gets ready to strike her down.  On the other part, is Kristoff.  Ana immediately goes to Elsa completely forgetting about her curse and leaps between the sword and her sister.  Ana turns to ice as the sword breaks.  Elsa embraces the frozen statue of her sister and sobs.  At this point, it would have been really cool for Elsa to sing a reprise of Do You Want to Build a Snowman but the movie is still great without it.  Ah, but what's this?  One of Elsa's tears drops onto Ana and she starts to thaw.  Ana is restored because of an expression of true love!

That's right.  The true love wasn't romance.  It was the true love shared between siblings.

I'm not saying chick flicks and romance are bad things.  I used to be a bit of a romantic.  I have even enjoyed a chick flick or two.  It's just important to not get wrapped up in thinking that romance is the only form of true love or to buy into the codependent ideas seen in the media.

I've bought into these ideas before.  I grew up watching the same Disney movies as everyone else.  I've heard gal friends lament of the loss of Prince Charming and Chivalry.  I used to think to myself, "I can be Prince Charming.  Chivalry isn't dead." The unrealistic expectations they found for a spouse I found for myself.  I believed I could be the knight in shining armor and live in some idealized world where I would be completely selfless and live to serve my princess.

The real Prince Charming is not like that.  The real Prince Charming may certainly have a princess in his life but he isn't controlled by her.  He certainly does many selfless things for his sweet bride but he doesn't neglect his own needs by doing so.  (Neither does the real princess.)  The real Prince Charming is assertive and has a lot of responsibilities and interests beyond his wife and family.  He doesn't feel completed by them but feels completed by his Heavenly Father.  He appreciates the opportunities his family gives him to be Christlike.  The real Prince Charming isn't shamed for not living up to what he's supposed to be.  He's loved, accepted, and supported to be the best he can be.

This Valentine's Day, let's celebrate more than just romance.  (Doesn't Wolverine have enough movies about him already?)  Let's celebrate fraternal love, maternal love, paternal love, the love of neighbors, the love of friends, the love of strangers, and the love of God.  There is so much to real and true love.  Romance is great but it doesn't replace the love you may have for your siblings, parents, and close friends.  Isn't that love just as meaningful and Christlike?



  1. While I do agree that other variations of love don't get enough of a moment in the spotlight, I vehemently disagree with this statement:

    "This is my problem with Valentine's Day and a lot (but not all) of Disney movies. They support the idea that romantic love is the best kind of love and the most important. Chick flicks, some Disney princess movies, and Valentine's day support unhealthy expectations and beliefs about relationships and what true love is."

    I believe that romantic love is the best and most important kind of love. Not because some movie tells me so, but because of experience. Romantic love is the most patient, the most worrisome, and in the end, the strongest.

    1. I can understand that. I guess I can see how it can be the most important because of how important eternal marriage is.

      That said, I've also seen a lot of possessive behaviors and actions, shaming, and unhealthy emotional hang ups that seem to perpetrated by the movies and Valentine's Day commercialization. That, of course, is not real love though it may coexist with it. Really, those tendencies can be seen in any kind of relationship.

      If romantic love is the most important, then would we want to tarnish it with these negative tendencies, behaviors, and expectations? That's the thing I'm really against. I definitely see why romantic love is the most important. It makes me sad to know that but it doesn't take away from the joy I find in the love I share with my family and friends.