Monday, March 16, 2015

Cinderella Complex


I bet you are a little confused. I hope you thought to yourself for a moment that you had your days mixed up. I am sorry if you thought for a moment it was Friday.
I say surprise because it's a Monday evening. Usually I write on! Who doesn't like a surprise on a Monday!?

I just got home from seeing Cinderella at the movies with my mom and aunt and cousin. You know, the brand new take on a Disney classic (with real people.) That one.

Mostly this is me blabbing about how much I adore Cinderella...but it may accidentally turn into a review of sorts. I am so giddy with excitement right now because my inner little girl who has forever wanted to be a princess is bursting! So I can't make any promises as to where this will end up. But I am just gonna let it flow and let all the girly, sappy, princess-y thoughts shoot out of my fingertips as they come.

Before Elsa and her little sister Ana. Before Rapunzel. Even long before Jasmine, Cinderella was my favorite princess. She is an original Disney princess. A classic. My original reason for wanting to become a princess and the story that put the longing for a fairy tale ending and a prince charming of my very own deep in my heart. For goodness sakes, the very icon that represents all things Disney without text even being necessary is HER castle! And for good reason.

I was just going to post my thoughts in a Facebook status...but the thoughts just kept coming. I forgot just how much I love the story and the spirit that is Cinderella. A blog was most certainly in order. An extra girly, sparkly one.

I like to roll my eyes a lot at the whole Frozen franchise. I am convinced that when I was a small child I was not nearly as obsessed with a movie or a princess as these little post-millennium girls are. But, if I am being totally honest, it's probably just because I didn't have as much merchandise at my disposal. I mean. I remember when I was a kid, going to see the newest Disney film in theaters was so bittersweet. I was beyond excited to have the special treat of seeing a magical production on a giant screen, but I was also sad because I knew when it was over I wouldn't be able to watch it again for a good, long while. I maybe more than a year.

Not so in the world today's little ones are growing up in. Within months, sometimes even weeks of seeing something on the big screen, they can own it and be watching it every single day in their own living rooms. Their parents don't have to purchase a soundtrack, they can just pull it up and play it endlessly on Spotify maybe even before the movie hits theaters. They can google photos and clips on their tablets...don't even get me started.

But, but. I must admit. When I was a little girl, I had Cinderella luggage (rolling luggage to be exact) a Cinderella backpack and lunchbox and Barbie doll. Probably a couple of sweatshirts...that I am sure would be totally back in style today and that I wish I could have worn out this evening...I believe very much in theming my outfits for movie events.

I did adore Cinderella. Though I had forgotten, I realize I still do.

And here is why.

It's not what you might think. The sparkly dress and all of the unexpected magical, wonderful things that come her way. The ordinary girl becoming a princes...actually, I LOVE the pink dress of her mother's that she is wearing before her fairy godmother takes over. It's always extra painful for me to watch it get ripped to shreds because I love it that much.

No. What I have always loved about Cinderella is her heart and her perspective on life. I always loved that she was so content exactly where she was. I remember wondering if I could have been that happy had I been stuck in such an awful situation. I love that she was kind and sweet and compassionate no matter how awful people were to her. I loved that no one was too small or insignificant for her to love or care for. I loved how her presence was so sweet and had the power to change the atmosphere of an entire room. I loved that she became the princess by being herself and believing that ANYTHING was possible even when everything seemed impossible. I loved that the prince adored her even when she had nothing to offer him; even though she was a nobody by most standards.

AHHHH. I just LOVE Cinderella. The themes and messages are lovely and timeless and I was so pleased with how this new version delved into all of the things I love most about this classic story. 

The movie opens with the narrator introducing Ella as a girl who, "sees things not how they are, but how they could be." YES. That is what I have always adored about this princess. Her perspective in every situation. Her ability to see mice as friends and her mother's old ratty dress as a ballgown. The way she sings while she slaves away in her own home with a family not her own and manages to smile and never lose hope in a rather hopeless, dismal situation. She never stops singing. She never stops hoping. She never stops showing kindness and grace. She never stops loving and she never let's anyone stop her from being herself. This girl embraces every ounce of potential the world has to offer.

In the classic animated film and in this updated version, Cinderella is flawlessly kind, patient, compassionate, and gentle. But not because she experiences any of that in return. Not because it's easy to be that way. Rather, because her lovely parents instilled these values and traits deep within her soul and even in the midst of darkness, she refuses to let go of them. I suppose in a lot of ways I relate to her childhood. (Described as golden in the movie). I was the only child. The little girl who's always been the center of my parents' world. I adored my daddy and deeply respect and love them both. They play this out beautifully in the 2015 film as she adopts this mantra from her mother as she is dying and leaving little Ella with last bits of wisdom to carry with her through life.

"Have courage and be kind."

So simple but so profound. Especially since Ella learns through the years that it takes a whole lot of courage to be kind. This is yet another reason that I adore what this princess stands for. She teaches us after all, that though unconditional kindness is not always the easy choice, it is the courageous choice and it is the choice that takes us the furthest in life. It may seem for a while that the mean spirited, hateful people are the people getting ahead, but in the end love and kindness will always overcome.

I love also that we get to know the one and only Prince Charming in this take on the classic. I love that we see his personality and watch him pursuing his "princess." I love that she is not a princess in reality, but still a princess to him. I love even more that we see him pursue Cinderella through many trials and setbacks. How refreshing! I guess this was something I loved about the movie when I was a little girl, but didn't know how to verbalize or communicate. I love that he didn't quit chasing her just because it was hard. He chose her and he searched until he found her and won her heart. Isn't that what all of us women are longing for...haven't we been longing for that since we were little girls watching VHS copies of Cinderella!? To be chased. To be sought out. To be chosen. To be won. To be fought for even through challenges and setbacks? Maybe I'm alone in this, but that's certainly what the little princess inside of me is hoping for!

But even more than that...I love that we get to see Cinderella's strong, courageous spirit in this new take on the classic. I think sometimes in the animated film, it's easy to think that Cinderella is just a spineless teenage girl who gets a lucky break and ends up with a prince and a rich and famous lifestyle. But I love how this film explores the events in her life shaping Cinderella into a very strong very brave very independent young lady. One of my favorite moments is when she is riding her horse through the forest. She is wearing her simple blue, wort out dress, her curls are waving in the wind behind her, and she's doing her very best to embrace the life she has been given. The prince literally chases her down on his own horse and slows her down in order to even get her attention! HA! Perhaps this moment really spoke to me personally. I am almost certain it will take a handsome prince chasing me down while I am going about my life, and slowing me down for me to even take notice. I love that this strong, adventurous, independent girl needed a prince who could catch up to her and keep up with her. What a refreshing take on this princess! She is a lady. She makes the prince chase her. She waits for him to chase her. She remains content with her life exactly where she is (even though she certainly does not like it very much) and patiently waits for him to come. She doesn't chase him. She doesn't stomp her feet in anger because he hasn't come yet. No. She sits in the window of her cold, attic bedroom where she is trapped and sings the song that is in her heart.

Now if that didn't inspire me in my wait for prince charming, I don't know what could!

And when she walked into that palace ballroom...all eyes were on her. But the best part about Cinderella is that she could have been dressed in rags and it still would have been so. Because her sweet, genuine, kind, courageous spirit captures the attention of all (especially her prince) and changes the atmosphere wherever she is. And let's not forget, she stands out to her prince in the midst of every other maiden in the land! Oh to be like Cinderella in this way!

*And a quick side note..."this guy has got a great personality. Want to know how I am sure of this...The first date involved swings and flowers. That's my kind of fairy tale!

I digress.

When I was a senior in high school, my teacher gave us this assignment: Choose a modern day sonnet that represents what love is to you. We had to bring in the song and play it in class and then explain why we chose it.

I chose "So this is Love" from Disney's original Cinderella.

So this is love, Mmmmmm
So this is love
So this is what makes life divine
I'm all aglow, Mmmmmm
And now I know
The key to all heaven is mine
My heart has wings, Mmmmmm
And I can fly
I'll touch ev'ry star in the sky
So this is the miracle that I've been dreaming of
So this is love

I explained that I loved the simplicity of the song and I hoped for a love that was pure and innocent and uncomplicated. That I was still hoping and dreaming for my own fairy tale.

My (male) teacher then proceeded to give me and the class a very long lecture/interrogation on what he called a "Cinderella Complex." Why in the world would I be waiting for a man to come along and change my whole world and why did I think that my fairy tale couldn't begin before he came along?

Point taken. And sadly somewhere along the line, after years of society telling me the same things,  I bought into his cynical lecture. I started losing hope and believing that my standards are too high...that I am hoping and waiting for something unrealistic and archaic. That I can't be strong and brave and independent and also magically in love. Sadly, I may have started losing hope. But the little girl inside of me hasn't settled quite yet.

And watching this lovely film tonight was a lovely sprinkle of inspiration to keep dreaming and hoping and waiting patiently for that fairy tale I can call my own love story. The beautiful thing about it is that tonight I watched the Cinderella I have always known and loved through the eyes of a 26-year old girl. Through the eyes and heart of a girl who has grown and matured and become.  I still loved so many of the same things, but now I understood why.

At the end of the movie is this profound, lovely quote. As Cinderella walks downstairs from the attic she has been trapped in to meet her prince and try on the slipper, filthy from soot and wearing her old raggedy dress, these words resound in the background behind her...

"But would who she really was be enough? She didn't have any magic to help her this time. That is perhaps the greatest risk any of us ever take. To let ourselves be seen for who we really are."

I honestly could not think of a better way to end that film. It is the essence of the story. It is the message that we can only hope will resound deep within every little girl...and grown up girl alike. With every person. This take on a classic is every bit as charming and magical as it's animated original, but it also dared to explore the deeper, underlying themes, character motives, and even a little bit of reality. It is Cinderella grown up. It is a healthy dose of fairy tale perspective in the midst of the real world that is so often dark and cynical and void of hope. It is a lesson in how we can find magic in the ups and downs of life whether we are little girls or grown women. It is classic and timeless. It is worth seeing.

I will most certainly own this movie.

I am sure this post may generate some negative responses...all that jazz about fairy tales and princesses presenting weak and helpless views of women who need men to survive and how I should instead be inspired by stories of strong, independent women who can be successful on their own.

Save it.

I am of the firm belief that I can have both. I can be strong and brave and independent and bold and I can also be kind, and sweet, and compassionate, and very much in love. I can be 100% myself (which believe me I am one of the most independent, strong-willed people I know) and I am also okay with being pursued and adored by a handsome prince. Waiting patiently for a prince to sweep me off my feet does not have to mean that I am weak or helpless or not living out a fairy tale until he comes. I love my life. I love the fairy tale I have been given, and I cannot wait to share it with someone else.
I, like Cinderella, will be content where I am, embrace the life I have been given, find the song that is deep within my soul, and be singing it with a smile when my Prince Charming walks onto the scene. 
I am  Rachel and I am never giving up my Cinderella complex. 

No comments:

Post a Comment