During one of my many ongoing arguments with the ladies at work about the never ending battle between the sexes, I was surprised to hear one very astonishing assertion put forth, at least to me, that Prince Charming is a hero that every boy fantasizes about becoming. Peggy and Heather were ganging up on me to defend their belief that people are not animals and biology is not the overwhelming motivating force I claim it to be. I keep trying to convince Peggy that many of her basic beliefs are due to biology and not as she adamantly insists, due to what we choose to believe through free will.
I argued that popular myths often reflect underlying sexual motivations, and that our private fantasies reflect biological impulses to reproduce, whether sexual or romantic. They countered back that Cinderella is a universal fantasy that doesn’t deal with sexuality, but is about pure romance, and it certainly doesn’t grow out of biochemistry. I shot back that it was only universal to girls. Both of them, talking at the same time, essentially said my philosophy was warped by crude sexual impulses and that Prince Charming was indeed a universal fantasy hero for boys.
“You’ve gotta be kidding!” I said, amazed that both of them could think that. “Boys don’t fantasize about being Prince Charming.” Okay, that was over-generalizing, but no friend of mine ever revealed such a desire.
“Of course they do,” the ladies insisted loudly. “Prince Charming is a hero! All boys dream of saving women is distress.” They went on to imply that Prince Charming fell into the categories of heroes like those Joseph Campbell described in his famous books.
“First off, Prince Charming is not a hero. He doesn’t fight anyone. He faces no dangers. He’s just a fancy royal dude that all the courtly ladies twitter over. Heroes are guys who face great perils and beat unbeatable odds – not guys using glass shoes to interview potential wives.”
My lady friends did not like this at all. They argued that Prince Charming saves Cinderella, and that little boys everywhere loved to fantasize about rescuing girls. “You two obviously haven’t spent any time inside the brain of the average male adolescent.” I didn’t say this, but I also thought of suggesting they rent some porn to see how boys cast Cinderella in their dreams.
Just to get a reality check, I asked my friend Mike about this, and he was also amused by the idea of boys idolized Prince Charming. Then I decided I should ask another woman, and picked Susan, my wife. She suggested that Prince Charming was the metrosexual of his day, and wasn’t a hero. Now that a creative response!
This got me to thinking and it occurred to me that if we used the same motifs as Cinderella, boys fantasies, especially if they hadn’t reached puberty and XXX brain theater time, might consider The Princess Bride a more realistic fairy tale for their mental television inspiration. Westley is a hero because he fights the evil Prince Humperdinck. The key element here is not Buttercup – the hot chick to be saved, but swords. Boys love swords and sword fights, and the real issue will be whether they want to emulated Wesley or Inigo Montoya. Before puberty, the majority of fantasies will be about using metal swords and afterwards their dominant thoughts will focus on their fleshy swords.
Look at the whole light saber thing for a modern variation. I assume young boys have spent far more time pretending to fight with light sabers than thinking about rescuing Princess Leia. It not that Princess Leia didn’t inspire fantasies in boys, but out of the trillions of cerebral performances that Carrie Fisher’s image has given, damn few involved rescue. At most, the rescue is setup for the real action, either before or after.
I can see how women get confused. They think saving the hot chick is the whole point of the story. But it’s not – it’s the violence. Boys love violence, and its the dominant fantasy element before sex drives them crazy. Heroes are the last man standing, the alpha male, the winner of the game, the king of the hill, the slayer of dragons, the dude you don’t want to mess with. Women are the prizes, and what they plan for their prizes are not elegant banquet dining and courtly romance, but the same plans Prince Humperdinck had.
I think Prince Charming is the fantasy that women have for how they want us men to act. And there are lots of savvy men out there who know this and are willing to play the game to get what they want, but that doesn’t mean they fantasize about being Prince Charming. Acting like George Clooney is only the romantic costume we all wished we had to hide our wolfish selves.
Our fantasies aren’t about rescuing women, they are fantasies about competing for women. The Iliad wasn’t about rescuing Helen, it was a major war fantasy. How many lines does Helen get as oppose to the number of lines glorifying battle?
If you want to know about the inner life of young dudes, look at the LCD screen in front of their faces – first person shooters, sports and porn. As males mature, they add in dreams of ambition. Men and women just aren’t on the same wavelength when it comes to personally created fantasies, or the mass consumption fantasies they buy.
I know Peggy and Heather will think my opinions are the representation of some male deviant minority but I don’t think so. To make my case, how many males like to go to chick flicks? When I go it’s because I get to earn points with a female, I get to see lots of beautiful female images on the screen, and its hilarious how they portray men.
Of course the reality is real women are not like Keira Knightley characters, and us guys don’t get to act like Daniel Craig. Prince Charming is not going to rescue you gals from humdrum life, and we guys don’t get to whip out .45s to solve minor disagreements. We all have to be who we are.
And by the way Peggy, the dream of finding Prince Charming is based in biology. Females are programmed to search out the best male provider they can find, and I can easily believe Prince Charming is a universal male archetype that females want in their dreams, and those dreams have their seeds deep in your cells. And male fantasies of violence and sex also come from biology. Just watch nature shows to see how males fight for the right to mate.
It would be very interesting if we didn’t have these biological impulses. If males and females were totally intellectual creatures who dated because of shared interests how would society be different? Can you imagine what life and fiction would be like? Without the biological impulse would we ever sacrifice our time, energy and money to raise the next generation? Without the biological drive would we even think kids as cute and lovable to have around? Without the biological imperative would women want to be seeded no matter how charming the prince?
Would women be more independent without the Prince Charming programming planted into their brains? Would men consider women as equal souls if they didn’t have the XXX Cinderella programming in their brains?
Of course, I think male humans would have remained uncivilized chimps if it hadn’t been for the Prince Charming myth. Lady frogs only expect Prince Charming frogs to croak the loudest. Lady humans expect men to act nice, give up their weapons, stay home, guard the kids, and bring home the antelope – with Prince Charming the tune we all try to harmonize with our croaking behaviors. Instead of bashing heads like mountain goats we’re expected to earn lots money and buy sparkling diamonds to prove our worth. It’s weird, but it’s still biology.
I think in the end, the higher brain functions that Peggy wants to defend has to deal with sex on a different level. Most of our lives aren’t about reproduction. As adults we spend most of our time not thinking about sex, but it still taints our actions. Women want men to give up their XXX fantasies about women – well ladies, men hate to be typecast as Prince Charming. These are both very hard roles to play. Peggy, for you to be right about people not being animals, both genders have to give up their fantasies. I don’t think that will happen, but it’s what’s needed.