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In the “Blue Butterfly” (4×14), chanteuse Betsy Sinclair calls Castle’s and Beckett’s alter egos, Joe Flynn and Vera Mulqueen, a “walking fairytale” referring to their immediate, intense, and true love for one another. Of course, all fairytales are not necessarily romantic. For instance, the only time hearts beat faster in “Jack and the Beanstalk” and “Red Riding Hood” is when a giant and a wolf respectively chase the titular characters in the hopes of eating them, perhaps with some fava beans and nice Chianti. However, most Disney fairytales are love stories whether they feature mythical creatures, historical figures, animals, or humans. Although Castle and Beckett are flesh and bone instead of pixels and paint, and they have yet to break out into song to declare their love, they are leads in a Disney fairytale in the ways that count.
Take the Disney princesses franchise. To date there are ten of them (Merida from “Brave” has not been inducted yet). Many of them are girly girls and offend many feminists because the princesses promote gender stereotypes when they tend to their physical appearance, do domestic work without question, and collapse crying. However, in the seventy years since Cinderella debuted in 1922, the princesses have taken on more balanced ying yang characteristics and modern ones are shown as more assertive, independent, and physically strong. Beckett shares these qualities with them as well as her ass-kicking abilities with Mulan (“Mulan”), her weapon wielding skills with Rapunzel (“Tangled”), and her flowing waves with Ariel (“The Little Mermaid”) though she looks into the mirror way less than Ariel does.
The Disney princes have also changed over the years. Dawn England of Arizona State University, who has studied gender stereotypes in Disney movies, says that Disney princes and heroes are also progressively displaying more traditionally feminine qualities such as showing emotion and affection. Castle is the New Millennium Disney prince who is less leader and more laidback, relying on his wit and charm like the playboy Prince Naveen (“The Princess and the Frog”) and the cocky and a little self-centered Flynn Rider (“Tangled”). Although England’s research found that the Disney males rescued their loves more often, we know that Castle and Beckett are in a dead heat in that contest.
Castle’s and Beckett’s romance is also a more modern retelling of the Disney fairytale. In the earlier movies such as “Cinderella” and “Snow White,” the prince is taken with the princess’s beauty and she obligingly falls in love with him after just a dance or a kiss. It is in more recent films that love builds based on getting to know one another. The relationship between Castle and Beckett most closely resembles the most contemporary of the Disney fairytale romances, that of the “Tangled” two, Flynn Rider and Rapunzel, in that it starts with mistrust and proximity initiated through a little well-aimed blackmail and grows into admiration, respect and love.
All popular Disney fairytales have a wicked character as a powerful antagonist. Like Simba (“The Lion King”) and Snow White (“Snow White and the Seven Dwarves”), Castle and Beckett have also had to fight off a feline hell bent on killing them (“Cuffed” 4×10) and a beautiful woman with an evil heart (“Pandora” 4×15/ “Linchpin” 4×16). And, I have no problem with putting Dr. Josh “I save lives while my hair waves perfectly” Davidson into the villain category with Gaston (“Beauty and the Beast”) the chiseled-chinned villain who thought Belle was his to take. And now we have the hidden dragon as a major antagonist in the path of Castle’s and Beckett’s true love. Even animated Disney hasn’t come up with that one as yet.
Disney heroes and heroines also have friends with whom they exchange confidences and engage in witty repartee. Their primary role is to be there for the princess or the prince through thick and thin, cheering them up and cheering them on. Of course, unlike Lanie, Esposito and Ryan, most of the animated ones are sans opposable thumbs, ranging from crockery to assorted fauna, but they are all as loyal as our trio. They may not have taught Beckett to ice skate after she lost her mother like Thumper taught Bambi (“Bambi”) but they had her back when she went after her mother’s killers and suffered a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder meltdown. Once in a while these plucky sidekicks even save the lead’s life. Timon and Pumbaa saved Simba from a wake of circling vultures (“The Lion King”). In Beckett’s case, Ryan pulled her from the brink of death after Cole Maddox left her hanging over the side of a building in “Always” (4×23).
And who can forget the bedrock of animated Disney love stories? Magic. The Castle Beckett romance may lack pumpkins that turn into carriages or carpets that fly, but they have had their moments. There was a Cinderella moment in “Home is Where the Heart Stops” (1×07) when Martha, as the fairy godmother, gave Beckett the necklace when they were going to the ball. There was a Sleeping Beauty moment in “Cuffed” (4×10) when a poisoned needle sent Beckett off to sleep (fortunately for only a few hours – I imagine the morning breath after sleeping for a hundred years might be a bit of a mood killer).
The word “fairytale” is often used as an adjective to describe happily ever after scenarios, as in “fairy tale ending”. In this Castle’s and Beckett’s story veers slightly off course from Disney movies. In an interview with Michael Ausiello at Comic-Con 2012, Nathan Fillion said, ”I think they’ve been very clever in not treating this [Castle and Beckett getting together in the closing minutes of “Always” 4x23] as an ending to everything that has been going on, but rather this has been a protracted beginning. Now it can finally start.” As Season 5’s first episode “After the Storm” airs in a few days, here’s a video that celebrates a fairy tale beginning for our warrior princess and writer prince.