Friday, January 22, 2016

Why I Still Love Fairy Tales (Part 2: Cinderella!)

So, as I mentioned in my last post, I may or may not have a slight obsession with Cinderella. I also may or may not have named my new cat after her... which is beside the point.

Maybe it's because it's my mom's favorite, so I grew up watching the 1950 Disney movie. Maybe it's because I also grew up watching Hilary Duff and Chad Michael Murray in A Cinderella Story, and Anne Hathaway in Ella Enchanted. (Both of which are still good movies, in my opinion!)

 Maybe it's because I spent part of last year living in an upstairs/attic room, quite possibly with some mouse friends. However, they weren't as sociable or talkative as Jaq and Gus Gus, and I didn't see them, so I can't be sure.

Maybe it's because of the 2015 Disney live-action version of the film, which I absolutely adore. For one thing, it was just so pretty, with the house and the butterflies and the costumes and the palace, and for goodness' sake, the dress. Lily James was wonderful as Cinderella, and can still hardly believe she originally tried out for the part of one of the stepsisters.

Maybe it's just because it's so wonderfully classic.

I know some people don't like the new movie because it can't replace the original, or because Lily James wore a corset, or because her dress should be more white than blue, gosh Disney get it together. And I know some people don't like the original because she's too passive and doesn't know the prince and doesn't take any action herself (which I would argue to the contrary, if you pay attention to the movie.)

And while the most accurate film depiction of Cinderella I've found was in Into the Woods, where there were multiple balls and golden slippers and the stepsisters cut off part of their feet to try to fit into the slippers, I am one of those people who loves both (in fact, I would almost say all) versions of the classic fairy tale.

I would agree that she doesn't know much of the prince before she marries him (something I'm glad to say was remedied in the new film), and I would agree that I probably would not have put up with as much mistreatment as she did. Side note: I don't understand why people complain about her putting up with the abuse, and not her family for abusing her.

Anyway, I would argue that she was not as passive as some people say, and she was not broken. In each version, she protests to her stepmother that she should be allowed to go to the ball, because "every eligible maiden is to attend." In the new film, she even gives political advice to the prince. She never asks for a prince. She even makes her own dress, and if that's not resourceful and determined, what is?

However, the most remarkable thing about the story is not Cinderella's sewing skills. It is not the prince. It is not even her family's abuse.

What's remarkable about her is her unfailing kindness, compassion, humility, and joy. The theme found continually throughout the 2015 film, as first expressed by Hayley Atwell as Cinderella's mother, is "have courage, and be kind." And Cinderella definitely does. Far better than I think I would have done.

As explained in the newer version, she puts up with the abuse because she cares about the house and the people her parents loved, and feels that she is doing the right thing. Not to mention, after being told you're worthless and deserve to be mistreated day after day for who even knows how long, who wouldn't start to believe it, just a little bit? Let's face it, many of us internalize negativity quickly, and I would even argue that it's remarkable Cinderella held out as well as she did.

Even in her worst moments, Cinderella is able to treat people with kindness. She is able to offer a poor stranger food when her night has, quite literally, just been torn to shreds. She is able to forgive her stepmother and stepsisters for years of abuse. And even when she goes to the ball or finds her prince, she remains humble. She is continually braver and kinder than I think I could ever be.

That is why I love Cinderella. That is why fairy tales are important. They tell us how to have courage and to be kind. 

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