Learning Romance from Disney

We’ve Got the Perfect Ingredients, So Why Can’t Isla Vista Bring Back Romance?

When I was a freshman, I overheard someone call Isla Vista Disneyland for adults. I always thought that term applied to Las Vegas, but who was I to argue with an adamant upperclassman?


Now that I have a few years at UCSB under my proverbial belt, I can see the truth in that statement — although I still think that Vegas is still closer to Disney with debauchery. Still, I.V. does have its Disneyland-esque qualities. We have an entire culture built to cater to our every whim — from burritos at 3 a.m. to blue books at supermarkets — and the party scene is entertaining enough to give the spinning teacups a run for their money. in%20halloween.jpg You could even go so far as to say that at times — the week-long Halloween party, the celebrations after our soccer team won the NCAA Championship, and the All Sorority Volleyball Tournament to name a few — I.V. can be downright magical.

But I.V. is no fantasyland. Instead of bouncy balls, we have beer pong tournaments. Instead of castles, we have crappy apartments. And instead of romance, we have the walk of shame. I.V. might be magical, but when it comes to romance, living here is no fairy tale.

Forget trying to find prince charming. In I.V., you’re lucky if you can find a guy willing to brave the line at the keg for you, and you’re even luckier if he actually remembers to bring you that beer while dodging all the tall, blonde Cinderellas who seem to pop up like vultures whenever a halfway decent guy shows the slightest bit of interest in you. I’m not bitter or anything, but let’s be honest here. A beer is nice and all, but it ain’t no glass slipper.

Recently, I was crashing at my friend’s house so my roommate and her boyfriend could take full advantage of the fact that they’re still in the honeymoon phase of their relationship. We had just left a little party at my house — one that, with far more girls than boys, had quickly turned into a drunken Disney sing-along. aladdin.jpg As we lay in bed, with the love themes from Aladdin and The Little Mermaid, still running through our heads, he rolled over and told me that everything he knows about love, he learned from watching Disney movies. Cute, right?

Well, not really. The other day my roommates and I, with The Little Mermaid still running through our heads — those Disney songs are nothing, if not persistent — we decided to pop in my roommate’s copy of the special edition Little Mermaid? DVD.

At first, I could feel the little girl inside me, overwhelmed with excitement and emotion as the first few bars of “Fathoms Below” began to play. Those feelings lasted for about 10 minutes, or for you connoisseurs, until about “Part of Your World.” little%20mermaid.jpg By the time Ursula had stolen Ariel’s voice, my adult self had overtaken my inner child with thoughts like “She’s only 16! What does she know about love?” and “She’s never even had a conversation with him and she’s willing to give up her family and her voice for him.”

By the end of the film, I was rooting for Ursula. Sure, she’s mean, ugly, and way too friendly with those creepy eels, but at least she’s an independent woman. After watching the movie, I couldn’t help but be appalled that a film in which, essentially, a beautiful and headstrong girl is only able to find happiness once she snags her man by being silent and using what Ursula calls her “body language,” helped to shape my childhood.

No wonder all of us I.V. residents are so devoid of romance — we grew up watching our mothers balance careers and family, seeing Hillary Clinton being just as strong and powerful as her presidential husband, and learning that girls can do anything and everything boys can. Yet, everything we know about romance, we learned from Disney movies like The Little Mermaid. Talk about a disconnect.

As a film major, it’s even worse for me. Not only have I been conditioned by Disney to believe that body language is the key to winning the heart of whatever prince I may have fallen madly in love with after two seconds of contact on an idyllic beach, but I also expect that the prince will woo me with a full orchestral score and three-point lighting system behind him. Not to mention rain — there has to be rain.

My notion of romance doesn’t stand a chance at the University of Casual Sex and Beer. romance.jpg So, what’s a girl, weaned on Disney movies and raised on classical Hollywood to do? I consider myself to be strong, independent, and capable — I work three jobs, I pay most of my own bills, and I pride myself on being able to cook a mean dinner and an even meaner dessert without making my mascara run. I would like to think that when it comes to reconciling feminism with femininity, I do a pretty good job.

But, there’s still the issue of romance. Forget bringing sexy back, it’s already here. We need to bring romance back. And fast.

We live in I.V., where there are almost 20,000 eligible people our age crammed together in one square mile. That’s an incredible opportunity. Add the many opportunities to meet people and the incredible amount of activities and entertainment available within an hour or two of I.V. into the mix and once again, it’s easy to see why one could consider I.V. to be a magical place for dating and mating.

So why can’t we have romance too? Why can’t the walk of shame be turned into the stride of pride? Why can’t sharing a beer be as sweet as sharing a plate of spaghetti? And why can’t walking someone home from a party be as romantic as helping a rain-soaked Holly Golightly find her lost cat?

I’m not saying us girls need to turn into silent seductresses, nor do I think we should rely on body language to lure our guys. And guys, please don’t revert back to swashbuckling idiots. I don’t want a prince who can’t play Scrabble with me. But, I do think we could adapt, rather than adopt.

It wouldn’t kill us to inject a little romance back into our lives, even if that just means making sure to bring your girl her beer before you surreptitiously check out all the Cinderellas in the room. And, in the interest of practicing what I preach, here’s my first contribution to bringing romance back in I.V.

To that guy, the one who let me crash at his place last weekend and then bought me breakfast in the morning: We’ve been friends for a long time, I really care about you, and I think you feel the same way. I can’t promise any happy endings, but I would love to go on a date sometime.

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