A central theme of classical fairy tales is the love story between a man and woman, between the prince and the damsel... between the hero and a beautiful young lady, always present to rescue, protect and nurture.
In their appreciable purity and simplicity, these fairy tales often have stereotypical stories, characters and far-fetched endings.
Just as an example, the princess is almost always timid and helpless girl, whose naivety lands her in hot water, only to escape thanks to the heroic action of her prince charming (think of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs or Sleeping Beauty).
The prince charming in question is always a perfect man, who never gives up. He is unshakable and stubborn, devoid of weakness or fear, willing to fight anything (dragons, fire, or storms) without batting an eyelash.
These love stories between the girl and her prince are often without a solid foundation: a meeting is enough to understand that they are destined to be together (think of Cinderella) and the fateful "kiss of true love" often happens among strangers, who then, as if by magic, always end up living "happily ever after.”
Beyond stereotypes, anthropological truths
If, however, classical fairy tales are clothed with stereotypes, one has to admit that in many respects the anthropological structure of the human being is concerned: with their limited tales, they can show that man and woman can live well together, only if they accept to complete, or if each one recognizes that they need the other.
These fairy tales have the merit of highlighting just as a man matures in his woman's care and the woman acquires confidence in relying on a "true man" on whom to really count (if you want to deepen these issues, you may read Man And Woman. Considerations of Dual Anthropology, by Marta Brancatisano, Edusc, 2015).
These are stories that do not particularly affect the psychology of characters and do not deepen relational dynamics in their complexity, but they can still show how the relationship between man and woman can only work if the two respect their own diversity and welcome each other, they merge, instead of overwhelming the other or separating.
Man and woman in modern scenery: two worlds in their own right
The panorama of modern stories, on the other hand, is a bit different. Many of today's fairy tales - and not just fairy tales, but also advertisements, movies ... - often show man and woman as two parallel universes, struggling to understand and meet.
Indeed, the overwhelming message in many stories is that man and woman can (if not, even) do without each other if they want to be authentically himself or herself
There seems to be disagreement between the male and female world: women in particular claim full autonomy with respect to man and perhaps it is no coincidence that cartoon characters are more and more often women (mothers and daughters, sisters...), who solved their problems alone.
Often these are stories that contain strong values, such as the importance of forgiveness, dialogue and mutual aid (think of Maleficent, Ribelle-the Brave or Frozen), but it should be noted as more and more often males feature on the margins, since women do well even without a knight in shining armour.
Individualism endangering the relationship of couples
Once upon a time, women may have felt a bit silly about films, sagas, stories where female protagonists were presented as silly, naive and unable to look after themselves, but today there is another danger: that is, the diminishing of the male figure- whether or not emptied of his virility - or the relationship between man and woman.
The advance of individualism, in fact, endangers the couple’s relationship.
There are stories whose main message is that in order to realize their own personal dreams (which should be placed above the couple's mentality), man and woman must accept everything, even foregoing their own union.
An high-spirited example of this is the "modern fairy tale" La-la Land, a 2017 music film directed by Damien Chazelle and six-Oscar winner.
For the duration of the film, the protagonists (an aspiring actress and a aspiring musician) show that they love each other: they support everything and want to spend the rest of their lives together. However at the end, they separate to pursue each one's own individual success.
It's just an example of how often, in "modern fables", love between man and woman is no longer in the centre: in the centre there is the "I" with its dreams and ambitions ... while the couple relationship is just one of the many side effects of life.