The Disney Movie Club shipped me the wrong movie. I’d ordered “Monsters, Inc”, but I received “Enchanted.” My upper lip curled in disdain at the sight of the cover, but my four year-old son was unfazed by the error.
“Let’s watch this movie, Mommy,” he said, finding (as children often do) the simplest solution to the problem.
Now, I’m a huge fan of Pixar, the quality of their storylines and the detail in the animation makes their movies easy to sit through over and over again. And over and over and over…well, you know how kids can wear out a DVD. “Enchanted,” on the other hand, seemed to me a saccharine piece of shlock I didn’t want to watch even once, much less dozens of times in a row should the little one develop a liking for it. But, thanks to McDreamy’s starring role in the movie, I decided to give it a go. If nothing else, I could stand watching Patrick Dempsey as the charming leading man for a couple hours.
By the second musical number in which rats, pigeons, and cockroaches helped our heroine scrub down the hero’s filthy New York apartment, I was laughing aloud at the funny and astute satire of archetypical Disney princess movies. And though I don’t want to spoil the ending for those of you who want to see the movie, but haven’t gotten around to it, I will say this—by the end of the movie I cheered right along with my son when Princess Giselle wound up with her true love. Okay, I’ll admit it, I even got a little misty. My heart rejoiced though my brain huffed, “What a load of crap.”
Given the predilection in romance and sensual erotica genres for a neat, fulfilling happily-ever-after ending, the movie made me wonder—Why do we love HEA so? In reality almost as many marriages fail as succeed and that doesn’t take into account the myriad of people we burned through just trying to find the person we’d be willing to take a chance on. With a real world full of broken hearts, dysfunctional couples, and blasé pairings, how can we willingly suspend our disbelief and seek out fiction that propagates what some would call the myth of true love?
I finished my long list of reasons why we shouldn’t buy into HEA and then the realization struck me—It is for all these reasons and more that we do crave the fantasy in our fiction. HEA endings allow us to experience vicariously the satisfaction that so often eludes us in our day-to-day lives.
What woman doesn’t want a break from work, motherhood, chores, and the tedious (and often messy) reality of an adult relationship? Somewhere inside of us is a little girl who wants to flounce around the house in a tiara and a tutu. We love to conjure up mental images of a prince who knows how to anticipate our every need, who will catch us each time we fall, and who doesn’t fart, burp, pee on the toilet seat, get cranky or forget to take out the trash.
That we have different tastes as to the form of our princes has given rise to the different icons of masculinity we romance writers use to delight our readers—the dark and brooding vamp who longs for a mate to bring meaning to his soulless existence, the uber-macho warrior who needs the softness of a feminine touch, the rebel without a pause who runs into the one woman that can ease his restlessness, and of course the regal and gentlemanly prince who finds his true, but forbidden love through a chance meeting. Just to name a few.
With our appetite for love and romance sated for a little while by the many incarnations of our princes, we are all the more ready to take on the challenges each day brings. But when the real world gets to be a little more than we can take, we’ll be back at the cinema, the video store, and of course Once Upon a Bookstore hungry for more flights of fancy.