False expectations of love: can we blame it on Disney?

Disney fans that grew up watching the classic princess love stories expect to find their own happily ever after. These movies might negatively affect our real life expectations of love.


        In the month of February, love is on everyone’s minds. Even if you do not want it to be, it is all around you. Stores start selling teddy bears, plush hearts, and chocolates as soon as they can. Schools start selling Valentine’s grams, and the pressure of receiving one from your secret admirer begins. Restaurants advertise Valentine’s specials and date night ideas. For those who are in love, the gestures of this fabricated holiday are sweet—but for those who are not celebrating, it can be overwhelming.     

          Even if you do your best to avoid all the signs of love by staying inside and turning on a show, streaming services place love related recommendations on the home page. Specifically, we see this with Disney channel, which is known for its constant themes of romantic love and picture perfect happily ever afters.      

    Our society loves love, and the popularity of Disney channel is a prime example. As many of us now know, not everything ends in a happily-ever-after. As much as we want to believe it through what we see on Disney, the unfortunate truth is that love is often not that easy. Has Walt Disney led us to believe unrealistic expectations of love?

     The most popular Disney movies have to do with love. Think Disney princesses, like Cinderella and Snow White. Both of which have a vastly similar plot and love story. The helpless princess meets her prince, who sweeps her off her feet, brings salvation, and eventually they end up living happily ever after.     

      Even though the characters would slightly change as new movies came out–whether it would now be a Black, Asian, mermaid or even Ogre princess–the love story remained the same. As children watching these movies, these plots of what love is supposed to look like, I believe, were subconsciously ingrained in our minds.

    “It did make me believe in true love’s kiss and happily-ever-after” says Courtnee, a self-proclaimed, above average Disney fan who grew up watching Disney princess movies.

     A man will come into your life, love will come easy and fast, and you will experience true love’s kiss and live happily-ever-after. In the world of Disney, true love triumphs over everything. Is this really the case?

     “[These movies] did make me love love, and I would say I am a hopeless romantic because I enjoy watching these stories,” said an anonymous Disney fan.

     In my experience and what I have also seen from those around me, this love story has almost never come true. Love is hard and confusing, and when it does not meet the expectations of the perfect love story we have come to know, it becomes disappointing. I am not saying that I do not believe in this easy and fast love, as I am sort of a hopeless romantic myself. But life tends to quickly put my feet back on the ground.    

      If love was easy, divorce rates in the United States, as of 2016, would not be as high as approximately 43 percent of men and women. That is almost half of all men and women who participated in the census that had been divorced before. I hate to say it, but those odds are not great.

    A study the Today Show found by neurologist Dr. Fred Nour exposes the fact that the passionate love many couples feel when they first catch feelings only lasts for two to three years after marriage. Unfortunately, this shows how true love sometimes does not triumph. Divorce and falling out of love is not portrayed in the world of Disney.

   “I really haven’t seen a fairytale love in my own life, and not from those in my circle either,” said Courtnee. “But I did want it to be true, especially as I got to an age where love was becoming something I was thinking about more and more.”

     After the princess finally gets to be with her prince, we see them kiss, get married, celebrate, and then credits roll. So those who grow up with Disney do not come to expect the troubles that come with love.

      Being in my 20s, an age that many would consider to be a prime age to find love, I can attest to my lack of Disney-like love. This comes through the amount of failed talking stages that my love life has consisted of. It is also worth mentioning that many of the princesses we see in these Disney movies are around my age or younger. Which, again, creates unrealistic expectations. Much like Disney does not show the faults of love, it also cannot accurately compare to how love functions in our society today.

     With new methods of finding love including dating apps and social media, the thought of a Disney-like love and a knight in shining armor seems far off. A study done in 2019 by Pew Research Center on the upsides and downsides of dating apps shares how of the 30 percent of people who use dating apps, only 12 percent have ended in marriage or a committed relationship. On top of this, 45 percent of Americans who have used a dating app reported that they left the experience feeling more frustrated than hopeful. Dare I say again, the odds are not great.

      I am not saying that a true love like what we see in Disney is not possible. I truly hope that our society has not given up on the search for this kind of love. In fact, a more recent study on divorce shows rates declining, which indeed brings hope. No matter how hard love can be in real life, I think that our society will always turn to these fairytale romances that we have loved for many years. Although Walt Disney has created unrealistic expectations for those of us in search of love, that is not to say that we should stop looking for our prince to sweep us off our feet. Maybe this type of love can be true, and our knight in shining armor is just yet to be found.