Walt Disney has taken over my daughter's brain. She's not even two, but she's already obsessed with the Disney cartoon versions of "Snow White," "Cinderella" and "Sleeping Beauty," all of which have the same plot: The heroine is beautiful, but sad. Or in a coma. But wait! Here comes a handsome prince! He kisses her! She's happy! Everybody's happy! Even the woodland creatures are dancing!
I have big problems with this. For one thing, if you see a squirrel dancing, you are looking at the final stages of rabies. For another thing, I don't want my daughter growing up believing that Handsome Prince Equals Lifetime Happiness, which is the basic Disney message. The alleged exception is "Beauty and the Beast," wherein the beautiful heroine falls in love with a creature who makes the Wolf Man look like Hugh Grant. The enlightened message of this story, we are led to believe, is: Appearance doesn't matter! Inner beauty is what counts! But this message goes down the toilet at the end when the spell on the beast is finally broken and he is revealed to be you guessed it Gary Condit.
No, of course the beast is a handsome prince. The heroine has no trouble with the fact that she is suddenly hooked up with a guy who looks absolutely nothing like the one she fell in love with. Clearly she's thinking, "Whew! Now I won't have to shave our babies!"
Oh, I try to give her some perspective. I try to distract her from these shallow, gender-stereotyping, ludicrously romanticized girlish fantasies by interesting her in realistic, intellectually challenging, character-building activities.
"Sophie!" I'll say. "Let's watch football on TV!"
Sometimes she actually will spend a few minutes watching football with me. She clearly understands the game. When the teams go to the line of scrimmage, she says: "Ready." When they run a play, she says: "Fall down." When a player is lying on the field, writhing in agony, she says: "Boo-boo." Sophie's commentary is much easier to follow than all that technical stuff about slot formations and zone blitzes. I'd like to see the TV broadcasters take the same approach:
PAT SUMMERALL: Rams ready. Bears ready. Fall down! John?
JOHN MADDEN: Yes, Pat. Fall down.
PAT SUMMERALL: OK. Rams ready again. Bears ready again. Fall down! Uh-oh ...
JOHN MADDEN: Boo-boo, Pat.
The problem is that after only a few minutes, Sophie gets bored with football if you can imagine and wants to go back to playing Snow White. This is a game she plays 814,000 times per day, using little figurines to act out the parts. Snow White is played by Snow White. The seven dwarfs are played by six dwarfs (Sleepy is currently missing). The wicked witch is played by a Fisher-Price Little People construction worker, who wears a hard hat, as if to say: "I may be evil incarnate, but, dang it, I am not exempt from OSHA regulations!" The poison apple is played by a plastic apple from Sophie's play kitchen. It's roughly 10 times the size of Snow White's head; even if she didn't eat it, this thing could SCARE her into a coma. The handsome prince is usually played by a handsome prince, although recently he was misplaced, so Snow White was awakened from her coma by a romantic kiss from: a sheep. It's from the Fisher-Price farm set, and as sheep go, it's reasonably handsome.
Over and over, in Sophie's little hands, these figurines act out the story: Snow White is put to sleep by the giant mutant apple; she is awakened by the handsome prince/sheep; everybody dances around happily, including the hard-hat witch.
But I am not happy. I am eager for Sophie to reach a more-mature age say, three so that I can explain to her, as a concerned father, that men, especially handsome men, are vermin scum. I will inform her that she will not be allowed to date until she is a minimum of 47 years old, and even then her dates will have to be unattractive. I will keep horses in the garage, and if a man wishing to date my daughter fails to spook them, I will politely ask him to leave, from behind the machine gun that I will keep mounted on a tripod in the foyer, next to a sign that says: "Kiss THIS, Prince Charming."
I'm just kidding, of course. I may be a protective dad, but I'm also a realistic and reasonable person. She can date at 46.
Dave Barry is a humor columnist for the Miami Herald.