What’s A Prince To Do — To Kiss or Let Die? Disney’s Classic Prince Paradox
Snow White and Aurora (Sleeping Beauty) are forced into a fate of eternal sleep. Snow White is poisoned with an apple. Aurora is lured — by dark magic — to prick her finger on a cursed spindle. This discussion is solely focusing on the Disney reimagining of the classic fairytales and not their darker origins. Both of these women were rendered helpless due to circumstances. Snow White’s naivety partially influenced her choice to bite the apple (unlike Aurora, who was essentially possessed before pricking her finger). The evil queen’s witch disguise wasn’t necessarily the most inviting nor friendly appearance to adopt. Although, another questionable lesson emerges — should we assume that anyone with a less than flattering appearance is a threat? Obviously not. Therefore, why should the arrival of a meek older woman in the woods with a basket full of apples frighten Snow White? And good on Snow White for not letting fear dictate her life either after almost having her actual heart ripped out. But I digress.
Snow White and Aurora are asleep. Essentially dead! Now what? True love’s kiss, of course. But how can this be? Did the prince create that solution? No. The Evil Queen chooses a spell without reading the fine print that true love’s kiss could break it. And one of the fairies — cough, cough — Merryweather, altered Maleficent’s spell to change death to sleep with the added caveat of true love’s kiss.
What’s a prince to do? Let these women die. As I briefly mentioned in my piece on Sleeping Beauty, “kiss without consent or bring doom/death-almost like the rapey equivalent to the trolly problem? Two equally troubling options.”
Lets expand on both these scenarios. Snow White is displayed beautifully in a gold and glass coffin in the woods surrounded by the grief-stricken dwarves. Aurora is gracefully laid to rest on a grand bed adorned with beautiful bedding surrounded by grief-stricken fairies. The triumphant prince returns only to discover these women in a death-like state.
Now, there was no meaningful interaction between these women and the prince before the kiss. That is another discussion and opens a debate about the significance or even existence of love at first sight. Love at first sight exists in the universe established where these fairytales occur, as shown by the effectiveness of the end kiss. Prince and Princess meet and share a song. Poof! Instant love and curse cure-all.
To quote the classic Whitney Houston song, “How will I know if he really loves me?” It’s obvious in these films. His kiss literally brings you back to life. That’s less grotesque to watch than, say, the dwarves attempting obscure ‘life-saving techniques,’ such as bloodletting with leeches, lobotomies, ingesting mercury and/or sulfuric acid (aren’t we glad for all the medical advancements over the past few centuries). Does it make a kiss any better? No. These women shouldn’t even be in these near-death situations in the first place. But they are, and there is a solution.
But what if the prince didn’t kiss these women? They would die. Would that make the prince complicit in their death, knowing they had the ‘cure’ to save them? This applies to the dwarves and fairies as well. The fairies especially. I’m looking at you, Merryweather. Had they not let the prince kiss Aurora, would they then be complicit in her death as well, knowing that the kiss would save them. If Prince Phillip died or decides against the kiss, Aurora would remain in eternal sleep. Some may call that death. The same applies to Snow White. What’s a prince to do?
We do have a kiss and these women did not die. The kiss proved to be a neccessary life-saving device. The dwarves and fairies are even present during the kiss. They allow it to happen. Does that make the dwarves and fairies complicit in the Prince’s nonconsensual deviousness? How aware are the dwarves of true love’s kiss life saving abilities is debatable? However, they welcome the Prince and don’t intervene when he approaches Snow White while vocalizing his love. They had sufficient time to stop it as he slowly leaned over to pay his respects and kiss her goodbye. But magic. She’s alive. And they all rejoice.
What’s worse: Ignoring the potential cure because of the consent conundrum and let these woman die or allow the kiss to save them but potentially violate them in the process. The situations in these stories are extreme. These women faced horrific situations. The opening of Snow White has the making of a Netflix true-crime documentary — A beautiful young white woman hunted in the woods for her heart. See my Sleeping Beauty article for a thorough examination of Aurora’s heartbreaking experience. Thankfully, in the end, both survived due to this questionable cure.
We do not live in a world where this magic exists. The dwarves and fairies allow the kiss to happen because they wanted to save a loved one. They believe in the power of true love. A kiss could and does resuscitate. The prince is a tool used to save a life. The princes didn’t even know what situation they were encountering. Neither prince had a lascivious look when approaching the princess before the kiss. Prince Charming was sorrowful as one would be at a funeral. Prince Phillip was on an adrenaline high from slaying a dragon and urgently following the fairies up a tall narrow staircase to break the curse.
More importantly, these stories aren’t real. Therefore, the contemporary need to kiss a sleeping woman is moot. So now, when you see the prince kiss the sleeping Snow White and Aurora, think of it a necessary CPR because the prince’s intention in these Disney classics is not to take advantage of a situation but to save a life.
Fairytales originated from oral traditions/folklore to teach lessons and morals. The original lessons and morals can also evolve with society. If a child sees either of these movies and their takeaway is that’s it’s ok to kiss sleeping women, well, that should be a red flag, and immediately address that. Kissing an non-consenting woman is never a cure. And if the child is excited that these women live happily ever after in the end, then you can still have a discussion. Yes, that is wonderful that these women survived. Although a kiss may have saved them in this movie, that’s not real life. A kiss will never be an excuse to save you, even while playing pretend. So don’t let a person try to tell you otherwise. The medical industry is remarkable nowadays at saving lives, and that doesn’t involve a kiss. We can celebrate that these two women survive without celebrating the cure. We can keep these stories and enjoy the characters and songs, even teach and learn from them as we continue to grow with them.
Addendum: The princes in Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty are a symbol. They represent access to a world beyond the protagonist’s limited scope. Unfortunately, surface-level interpretations imply that a woman needs to be rescued by a man to find happiness. Dig a little deeper, and you’ll recognize that these three women endure severe trauma, and the prince is simply a way to bring about change. Snow White, Cinderella, and Aurora kept hope alive against all odds. To say these women waited for a prince to save them discounts the abuse and the literal curses that rendered them unable.