|Not just your mother's Cinderella|
Given the way Disney and other movie producers have been revising fairy tales in recent years, I was unenthusiastic when I heard there was a new Cinderella movie. It did have in its favor a PG rating, so excesses of passion or violence would be missing. Then a reliable media critic that I know personally, my teenage daughter, went with a group of her friends to see it and came back with a glowing report.
Clearly, I needed to do my own evaluation. So, I took our 12-year-old daughter for her date to see Cinderella. As might be expected, there were a lot of moms and little girls when we arrived for the early matinee. There may have been other dads there, but I didn’t see them. I settled into the reclining theater chair, sure I would at a minimum enjoy my daughter’s reaction to the movie and my tub of popcorn.
A simple narrative thread was woven into the tale: have courage and be kind. While some ardent feminists object that Cinderella was just a door-mat for her evil stepmother and stepsisters, Cinderella was actually embodying a counter-culture ethic in a time that idolizes power, especially "girl power" that looks like nothing so much as immature "boy power". Cinderella instead chose this path:
“Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”
That takes an entirely different kind of courage than the "kick your enemy's butt" kind.
The prince and Cinderella first meet while she is riding in the woods. At this chance encounter, he discovers a girl who is willing to confront him with her compassion for the stag the prince and his party were hunting, a girl who speaks the truth that just because something has always been done is no reason it should be done. When his father the king accuses him of having his head turned by ‘a pretty girl’, he responds:
“She isn’t a pretty girl. Well, she is pretty. But she is more than that.”
When the prince eventually discovers that the mystery girl from the ball is truly a dirt-poor commoner with no parents and no dowry, he has a decision to make. And he makes the right one.
The prince keeps his royal identity secret when he happens upon a simple country girl in the forest. He introduces himself to Cinderella as ‘Kit’, an apprentice learning a trade from his father. When she discovers his true position, he reiterates his claim that he is an apprentice. He had the humility to recognize that in spite of advantages of position and wealth, he had much to learn about life and the responsibility of being a king.
While his growing regard for Cinderella brought tension into the royal court, the prince was always respectful of his father’s wisdom. He would do what his father thought best for the kingdom, even to the point of accepting an undesired marriage if Cinderella could not be found.
The prince searched until he had found Cinderella. At the end of the movie, he takes Cinderella by the hand and asks, “Are you ready?” To which she replies, “For anything, as long as it is with you.” Then they step out onto the balcony to join the celebration. That ending captured the essence of why our culture for so long has given each princess their fairy tale day called a wedding ceremony. That day when for one shining moment, he is a prince, and she a princess and they are declaring to the world:
“We are ready for anything, as long as we are together.”
I have been with my princess for 34 years now, and cannot imagine facing the future without her.
To sum up the lessons fathers can teach their sons from Cinderella:
You start life as an apprentice. Keep learning.
Listen to Dad.
Have courage, especially when faced with overwhelming obstacles.
Be kind, especially to those who have it harder than you.
Do what is right, not just what everyone is doing.
Inner beauty is far more important than outer beauty.
When you find the one who is willing to share a lifetime of uncertainty with you, never let her go.