By Anngela Schroeder
Society has misinterpreted the intelligence of young girls. It believes that Disney Princesses and their ‘love stories’ were detrimental to our development as independent, strong women because of the focus on them being “saved” by the princes. Society is wrong! We were not focused on the Princes at all- we wanted to be Belle, not for the prince but for his library, Cinderella for her shoes and dress, and Ariel for the fact that, well…she’s a mermaid. Who doesn’t want to be a mermaid? So people professing that women were raised to fall in love with men that would save them like these animated classics, are sadly mistaken. Our first loves were Gilbert Blythe because he called Anne Shirley ‘Carrots’ and smirked when Josie Pye challenged her to walk the ridgepole; Ned Nickerson, because he didn’t try to hold Nancy Drew back from not only hanging out with her best friends, but when she solved every possible case known to teenagers from the 1920’s through present day, he said he knew she could do it; and Harry Potter, well because he’s Harry, and he’s so humble and good and defeats Valdermort and is just Harry. (Unless you’ve seen Neville Longbottom lately, because if you have, you know Harry takes a back seat!)
But these are still the boys of a young girl’s dreams. Where are the men? The real men who are willing to battle through adversity? In my senior AP British Lit class, while reading Pride and Prejudice, my female students had a moment of clarity. We were analyzing the scene where Darcy walks in after Elizabeth received Jane’s letter about Lydia, and were discussing the following passage:
“Good God! What is the matter?” cried he, with more feeling than politeness; then recollecting himself, “I will not detain you a minute; but let me go, or let the servant go…You are not well enough; you cannot go yourself.”
This seemingly innocuous passage held so much in the realm of realization for my students. We spoke of how Darcy had allowed himself to soften even more for a brief moment- he spoke ‘…with more feeling than politeness…’ and his obvious concern was governing his words and actions when all he wanted to do was throw caution aside and somehow help this woman whom he dearly loved. Taking a moment, before moving on to my next thought, Jayna, a student in the front row, shook her head and under her breath muttered, “Dang. Where’s my Mr. Darcy?” And there it is. Girls/Women don’t want Disney Princes- we want men of substance who will fight for us, but understand us enough to recognize when to back off; we want men who ardently admire and love us with such an extreme depth of feeling that it is palpable; we want men who might struggle with their feelings, but who we eventually realize ‘don’t rattle around like other young men’ and are worth being patient for.
So, we’ll continue to harbor girlhood crushes on the Gilberts, Neds and Harrys of the world, while all the while waiting for our own Mr. Darcy. Am I somehow setting future generations of women up with false expectations by glorifying Fitzwilliam Darcy? Maybe, but everyone needs someone to dream about when they stand around a wishing well and sing to their woodland friends.