Monday, April 25, 2011

Disney, Bieber and Twilight - Do Real Men Stand a Chance?

Ask a 13-year-old girl what kind of boyfriend she'd like, and I can guarantee you one thing - if the words Bieber, Twilight, or Boyband don't appear in there somewhere, I'll eat my hat. I don't actually own a hat, but I'll buy one just to eat it.

From a young age, girls are bombarded with the "ideal" in relationships. Disney. There's a facebook group called I Blame Disney For My High Expectations of Boys, and though it's fairly tongue-in-cheek, IS there more into it? Do we watch the beautiful princesses flouncing around in their fancy dresses, capturing the eye of the most handsome, strongest, most manly man in the movie?

Okay, in later Disney movies, the princesses/heroines ARE stronger, and more independent, but much like Sex and the City defeating the purpose of its existence in the first place - the girl always gets her man. And not just any man - THE man. The man everyone wants. The good-looking, courageous hero who is kind-hearted and honest, and completely smitten with the princess. Even in Beauty and the Beast, where Belle is quite happy to love the beast - what happens? He turns into a stunner. Does this teach us that we deserve the best of the best? That we shouldn't stand for anything less than perfect? More disturbingly, does it teach us that WE can't be anything less than perfect?

Justin Bieber seemed to appear from nowhere. If you google his name, there are currently over 241 MILLION results. To put that into perspective, when you google Barack Obama you get 115 million. The 17-year-old was discovered on YouTube, and thanks to the help of Usher, began a highly successful pop career in 2009. His video for the song "Baby" is the most-viewed on YouTube. Bieber seems to split opinion straight down the middle - those who dislike him, dislike him intensely. Those who like him - seem to be obsessed with him. His fans or "Beliebers" are hardcore - he lost around 80,000 of his 9,131,848 twitter followers when he recently cut his hair. 9 million, you say? Nothing when you compare it to the almost 26 million who have 'Liked' his Facebook Page.  His fans constantly send him messages, begging for his attention. So, if you're not a good-looking, talented, well-marketed kid like Bieber, are girls impressed?

For those who are too old for Disney and uninterested in Bieber, there's always the sexy vampire/werewolf. Twilight, originally a series of books by Stephenie Meyer, set a new boyfriend standard in 2005 with the release of the first book in the four-part series. The first movie, "Twilight", was released in 2008 and took the tween world by storm. Handsome, brooding, intense vampire Edward Cullen became the dream man for many "twi-hard" fans, with many of them quoting dialogue from the movie like "About three things I was absolutely positive. First, Edward was a vampire. Second, there was part of him - and I didn't know how potent that part might be - that thirsted for my blood. And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him." So, as well as being able to fight for your woman; sing, dance and act - now you have to be brooding, intense, with a slight element of danger, and have an impressive vocabulary when talking about the one you want. Sigh.

The dating show "Take Me Out", which describes itself as "The 21st Century Dating Show" involves 30 single girls, standing behind podiums, ogling one single man. They each have a light on their podium, and turn their light off if they don't like what they see. I know that this is an entertainment show, but the fussiness of the girls is extreme - when they are asked by the host why they turned their lights off, the answers can be anything from "I don't like his shoes" to "He's too short" or "His shirt is tucked in". Some perfectly decent, nice men are rejected on the basis of purely superficial reasons. Is it really true that "there are no good men left out there" or are women just too fussy? Are there perfectly nice men being pushed aside in the hope that something better will come along? Take a look at this video of the irish version of the show and then tell me that women aren't looking for their own very specific idea of Mr. Right.

I've been with my other half for almost 8 years. He has his good points, and he has his bad points. He has no sense of style, can be moody, and always leaves wet towels on the bathroom floor. Would this prompt you to "turn your light off"? What if I said he's a great Dad, very good-looking, and treats me with respect? What I'm trying to say is - if I was to list my ideal man 10 years ago, I certainly wouldn't have included the bad points. But would I change one thing about him? Not on your nelly (okay, I wouldn't be devastated if the towels managed to find their way to the washing machine). Are women in danger of missing the chance to be happy because they can't see past the things they don't like? Do we now expect perfection?

One young teenage boy being interviewed about this very subject for RTE's teen programme Rumour Room was asked if he thought that twilight was to blame for the high expectations of girls when it comes to boyfriends. He put it better than I ever could: "Of course Twilight is to blame. Girls expect so much now. I mean, we can't be expected to carry our girlfriends on our backs while climbing 30-foot trees, we really can't."


  1. Very interesting. I watched Twilight when it came out and found myself completely smitten with Edward/Robert Pattinson, leading me to watch all the other movies and buy all the books (great marketing or what??). And I'm no teenager... But the idea of a perfect, charming prince is something that is imbued in girls the moment they watch their first Disney movie. Watching them now, as a (mostly) logical-thinking and rational adult, I still find myself feeling a sense of emptiness and longing because I haven't found my "prince". Reconciling the ideal of the charming, handsome, heroic, puppy-saving, swoon-making prince, with the reality of a living, breathing, mistake-making human male - that's the real challenge.

  2. Brilliant comment - you're 100% right. In every representation of "The Hero" in media, we never get to see the real, human side. There are no scenes (as far as I'm aware) of the heroine yelling at Mr. Right because he went out on the lash with his friends after a funeral. Or in scenes with the lavish, 4-poster bed, there aren't pairs of jocks flung on the floor. I'd love to know if boys have the same kind of ideals - do boys have the idea of a perfect woman in their head? Thanks for reading xx

  3. Shanna, I thee salute!!!
    deadly post this is!!!!
    Because of my condition and until about 4 or 5 years ago having basically NO self esteam, I never really had this kind of problem, I never had ANYONE fancy me, never mind being picky...

    However I do challenge anyone to find a girl who hasn't once fantasised about a Disney-like relationship....

  4. I think we're all guilty of feeling like that for various reasons Lil - I do think that we have to become comfortable with ourselves before we can expect anyone else to love us, and that takes a LONG time. You're right - most of us at one point or another are told from an early age that we should all have a Prince - and I'm not saying anyone should lower their standards and go off with the first man who asks, but I do think that sometimes people can be really dismissive without giving someone a decent chance. Thanks for commenting! xx

  5. Oh God, I HATE R Patz/Edward. Too weak by far, give me Jacob (NOT Taylor Lautner) any day. And Beast before the transformation please.
    I think movies are partly to blame for some people to whine about never meeting anyone nice, when they just never give anyone a chance. We are of the generation that expects nothing but the best to be handed to us. It can be hard to realise that perfection isn't actually possible. But sometimes you just have to grow up, suck it up and realise that although that guy at the bar might be wearing one black sock and one blue sock under his brown shoes, he has a great smile and could be perfect. :)

  6. I want Mad Max! (NOT Mel). I read a comment in a magazine yesterday (one of those ones where someone has lost 45 stone and someone else has a strange growth on one appendage or another)and there was a picture of a little 4-year-old girl that had been sent in - her mother had sent it in along with a little story about how the little girl asked her when Prince William had rescued Kate. I thought that was scary - even at the age of 4, the little girl is already thinking that the man has to come in and rescue the woman!!!
    We should definitely give the odd-socked ones a chance :)

    Thanks for reading and commenting! :)x


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