One of the most well-known tales of our time, Cinderella, is back on the big screen this weekend, and Walt Disney Studios expects huge audiences. In true Disney fashion, its stunning costumes, its larger-than-life sets and well-crafted effects, and its current themes are certain to attract many moviegoers.
As an adult, I wanted to see the film because of its classic appeal. Don’t we all have some connection to this story? We know it well. I remember performing in an elementary school musical production of the story. (I played a mouse.)
… but it was more than that.
I first learned of this adaptation through social media, and I followed the link provided on my timeline to see a movie trailer that captivated me. I was interested to see how the animated version I knew translated to the live-action format. The costumes — Oh, that DRESS! – and the hint at the conflict suggested that THIS Cinderella is a girl for the modern female consumer. And then, after researching the film a bit more, I discovered the pleasant blend of veteran and fresh talent. Experienced actors such Cate Blanchett and Helena Bonham Carter work will with new names, and, as a Downton Abbey fan, I was very pleased to see Lily James portray the title character. (Downton fans, watch for another familiar face in this film.)
There was no doubt; I would see Cinderella on opening day. And I did.
I went in excited, but cautious – would this version deliver a healthy message? Would it seduce me to buy in to the impossible idea of a fairy tale? Within moments, I knew that all the parts of me – the parent, the teacher, the woman — approved of one of its themes: “Have courage and be kind.”
I first thought of the young women in the audience. Yes! This film was made with you in mind. It doesn’t desire to sell you an unattainable romantic notion; it intends to inspire you to hold on to the goodness that IS you. Whether you identify with the aggressors, the victim, or something in the middle, Cinderella highlights the violence of mean girls and shows an average young woman’s resilience in the face of brutal bullies. The story also illustrates the transformative power of words, name-calling, and labeling. THIS is NOT fiction. Tell a person she is ash, and she’ll become ash, low and filthy. Tell her she is a princess and she will rise up, confident and powerful. “Preach, Disney, Preach,” I wanted to cheer. THIS is a message to sell to the masses. It’s not just the Fairy Godmother’s magic that can transform a “wretch” into a beautiful belle; we each possess that very real power.
Additionally, the horrid stepsisters demonstrate a great lesson on perspective. I won’t spoil it for you, but watch for it. As true “haters,” they find a way to taint a special memory Cinderella treasures. I hope viewers notice this scene and think about how to protect their hearts from bitterness like this.
Ultimately, this film is beauty, sparkle, and special effects that mirror the beauty and sparkle we can magically offer when we are kind to others.
If this isn’t reason enough to view the film, observe it for the gorgeous gowns and fantastic sets, the terrific soundtrack, the incredible horse-drawn carriage, and for goodness sake, the shoes. Go see it for the shoes!
… or if you choose not to see the film, I forgive you, because that is another lesson I learned from this fierce-feministic Cinderella. Have courage, be kind, and forgive.