Today I took my girls to watch the Cinderella movie, and as it was about to start, I found myself wondering if I was doing the right thing introducing or worse, underpinning the story of a prince that comes to save the princess, whose contribution to king and kingdom is pretty much her beauty. (Do princesses ever get old with saggy bums and boobs?) I shrugged it off in the end because it’s a story, and one the girls have read and heard before anyway.
About half way through the movie, I began to think about the change to Disney movies over the last few years: Brave, Frozen, I’m sure there are more, where the hero is actually a heroine, and girls aren’t being told they are helpless individuals with only their looks in their favour anymore… for the most part.
I was so impressed with how they ‘did’ the new Cinderella movie. While they didn’t actually change any of the story, the bits they ‘filled in’ changed so many of the morals of the story. Cinderella, while a bit of a victim of her circumstances, and of the ‘way’ things were done in specifically Elizabethan England (think Jane Eyre, and marriages made for fortuosity) was still the master of her own mind; she still chose her responses to what was done to her; she still managed her emotions and tempered what she thought by what she believed in. Perhaps because her foundations in “a golden childhood” were so solid, and forged in love, or perhaps because of what Viktor Frankl 1 calls self-actualisation, whereby some people have the ability to see joy and beauty no matter their circumstances. Whatever the reason, the character Ella, who slept in cinders for warmth, was able to be who she knew herself to be, irrespective of the cruelty thrown her way.
Forget about princess and true love! THAT is a message for today’s young women!
No one is coming to save you. No one is perfect, any more than you yourself are perfect. Prince Charming will someday let you down. Just as you will let him down. Because we don’t die at 35 any more. Our years as adults are longer now, and someone, somewhere will disappoint you, hurt you, betray you, break your heart, or worse, your trust. And what matters is not what others do to you, but what you do with yourself after that. And how you respond when a time comes when you are the one with the power.
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
Ella’s mother, on her deathbed, tells her young daughter to face life with courage and kindness. I’ve been thinking about this all day, and I can’t think of better mottoes for life. Everything can be filtered through courage and kindness. Tough love takes courage, forgiveness takes courage. Standing up for yourself takes courage. Not hitting back takes courage and kindness. And the whole world would be a different place if in our interactions with others, we always asked ourselves first: is this kind? Is what I’m about to do or say, kind.
As we were driving home I asked my girls what they thought of the movie, and of course they loved it. They thought the dress and the shoes were beautiful. They thought the castle was magical. They thought it was terribly sad that Ella’s mother died, just like Nana (although I was informed it wasn’t exactly the same, since she died in the day and Nana died at night. How do those minds work?!)
But they didn’t see Cinderella as a helpless girl, they didn’t see the prince as her ‘saviour’. They saw a girl who kept her head while those around her were losing theirs (thank you, Rudyard Kipling 2) and was rewarded for it in the end. Our journey home was spent chatting about courage, and kindness and what they mean to us in the real world. What choosing a life of courage and kindness means between them as sisters, between them and children on the playground, when they’re faced with bullies and mean people, how those mottoes are implemented in our lives.
As far as lessons from movies go, I’ll take this one and run with it, for if I can send my girls into the world strong enough to be courageous and gentle enough to be kind, I will consider it a job well done.