Disney Lied to You

Valentine's Day: the one day in the year dedicated to making all the people with partners feel grateful, and everyone else feel isolated, unwanted and miserable

Feature by Matthew Bobbu | 04 Feb 2014

Valentine's Day; it’s the one day in the year dedicated to making all the people with partners feel grateful, and for everyone else to feel isolated, unwanted and miserable.

Our obsession with finding love – or at least, with not being single – goes back centuries. Plato, famed ancient Greek philosopher, wrote that humans once had four arms, four legs, and two heads. Also a rather weightier body, one assumes. He claimed that the gods split humans in two out of jealousy for their happiness, so that we would forever have to search the world for our other half.

Nowadays, the guardians of our romantic myths are a rather different breed of storyteller. Rather than the fable-spouting philosophers of old, today's love-centric fairy tales are propagated by the makers of movies, the authors of novels, the writers of soap operas, and the writers of TV dramas. Even greetings cards and magazines are heavily geared towards enforcing the notion that we are incomplete without someone to call our ‘other half.’

Disney has told us with every princess story that we must rely on finding a partner to fix our problems: be they ever-lasting sleep or a beastly transformation, we must find someone to love us or we shall be forever broken. Even Brave, much lauded for finally being a Disney film that passes the Bechdel test, stops short of moving far from this idea. Sure, Merida is given time to find her own choice of partner; unlike every other princess who simply falls for the first glamorous prince to creep up on her in her own garden. But she is still expected, at some point, to pick herself a husband. My, what social progress; that this princess no longer has to marry a particular prince against her will!

All this media, all these social pressures to find someone to somehow prove that you are a worthwhile person create so much fear and insecurity. How many unhealthy relationships have been born out of the desire not to become the crazy spinster, the mad cat lady, the 40-year-old virgin, or the sad old man still living with hisparent?

We are a married-or-bust culture. We only need to look at where human rights campaigns have taken us: gay marriage has been the topic of the decade so far. The right of same-sex people to marry is, without a doubt, a huge step towards acceptance for non-heterosexuals in society. But why is that? Why are we so preoccupied with making sure that everyone can get the same legal recognition that they have finally found someone to value them?

I say screw that. I say that we are all worthwhile. Not as part of a pair, not as half of an incomplete person, but as an individual in our own right. Being single is nothing to be afraid of, nor ashamed of. In fact, it is better to be single and happy than married and miserable.

So this Valentine's Day, whether you are spending the day in the arms of someone you love or curled up in front of the TV with a bucket of ice cream, remember that despite what all the movies, songs and books tell us, you can be happy being by yourself. After all, humans never actually had four arms.