The prompt this time was simply this: I played the video below. It’s Snow White singing, “I’m Wishing.” Watch it and see what you write afterward. I don’t think it needs any explanation.
What I wrote is below.
The story goes like this: I was five years old and knew the words to every song on the Disney Snow White album. My sister, merely eleven years old, pubescent and self-conscious, was given the task of accompanying me to the film in the theater at Crossroads Mall. We sat in the sixth row, and when the wishing well song came on, I began to sing along with the refrain; I was the voice, the echo, of the well.
“Stop singing!” my sister hissed. She was making an attempt to whisper; I was singing at full volume, ignoring her. “If you don’t stop singing, I’m moving!” she threatened. I kept singing. When Snow White got to the vocal exercise section of the song—”ah-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha”—I joined right in, my tiny pipes belting it out into the theater. “That’s it!” she exclaimed, and moved four rows behind me. I looked back once, just to make sure she was still there; otherwise, I enjoyed my solitude, and continued to sing along with the soundtrack.
Watching that scene again recently on YouTube brought it all back: all those years I sat in front of the stereo console in our living room, taking in all those songs. Sleeping Beauty. Cinderella. Snow White. I could barely walk, yet I was already being infiltrated by the messages that Disney was spinning: sanitized Grimm’s fairy tales that depicted chaste love, and princes who save beautiful, lonely, abused orphans who wear rags and fraternize with animals.
What surprised me this time was the presence of the prince (literally on a white horse), singing his own melody and interrupting my lovely memory with a realization: I got this message before I could talk. Before I had words, I learned that a strong, handsome, young man in tights was the answer to loneliness, suffering, sadness, hopelessness. You name the emotion; the prince is the answer.
Four-and-a-half decades later I’m still unraveling that belief system, still struggling not to see myself as helpless and in need of a savior. Being raised Catholic didn’t help either. Hadn’t Christ himself—also handsome, young and brave—also promised to return and save us all? As long as I stayed young and pretty, as long as I was good, then I would be saved.
What a fucked-up message. What a long history.