Cinderella – Not A Review


Cinderella posterI don’t see the point in reviewing a movie that has been out since March, but I do think the newest iteration of the Cinderella story is worth talking about.

Thanks to a local two-dollar theater, I was able to see Cinderella the movie today. It’s interesting to watch a story that you’ve known since childhood. At first I was curious to see how this non-animated movie version would compare with the fairytale I grew up with. I soon realized I was watching the same story, revised only to add a sense of realism.

For instance, this movie gave character motivation that answered questions like why did Cinderella’s step-mother hate her so and why didn’t Cinderella simply leave? It also added more interaction between Cinderella and the prince to make their attraction to one another a little more believable.

Inevitably I compared this version of the fairytale with one of my favorite movies, Ever After, also a Cinderella re-telling. What Cinderella did that the Drew Barrymore movie didn’t attempt, was to preserve the magic. I suppose being a fantasy person, I appreciated the fact that that which we do not understand, always believe, and can’t control played a significant role in the story.

Ever After, with its “I don’t need the prince to rescue me” heroine, carried more of an “I AM WOMAN” message, flavored with a touch of “I can do for myself.” It was entertaining because it treated the story as historical and this telling, the real account which sorted fact from myth.

Cinderella, on the other hand, accepted the myth and the magic and made both come alive. In that context it developed a strong and clear theme: live life with courage and kindness. Though repeated often enough not to be forgotten, the principle arose from the events of the story—Cinderella’s dying mother instructing her pre-teen daughter to live life with those qualities. Cinderella, in turn, committed to living out her mother’s wisdom even in relationship to her step-mother and her step-sisters.

Not surprisingly she passed on the core principles to the prince in her first encounter with him, and it was this—her inner beauty—which first drew him to her.

Courage and kindness. Not principles many could call into question. They have universal appeal. But those weren’t the only things this movie encouraged. Surprisingly, given our current cultural trends, the movie is quite pro-marriage. The movie called Cinderella’s biological family perfect or ideal. The idea was, she and her parents had such a great love for each other, it couldn’t have been better.

Later, Cinderella and the prince have the same kind of connection, and the king acquiesces and gives his son his blessing, saying that he should marry for love, not political gain. In contrast, the step-mother is trying to pawn off her daughters to whatever rich lord might accept them (and of course, the prince would be the greatest catch of all if she can finagle it). The juxtaposition of the two approaches makes a very pro-relationship statement. People—spouses—shouldn’t be used to gain power or wealth. They are to be loved and cherished.

There’s a great deal of hope in this movie: hope that courage and kindness will take you through grief and mistreatment, hope that love is better than manipulation, hope that the small can survive without compromising what’s right.

Yes, there was magic, and I know this might trouble some Christians. Where magic cropped up, wouldn’t it be better, more true, if God replaced the fairy godmother?

But God doesn’t wave magic wands, and unfortunately, there are Christian stories out there that make it seem as if He does. Instead of a fairy godmother showing up to turn a pumpkin into a coach, mice into horses, and so on, a Christian story might have Cinderella pray and then miraculous things or coincidental things happen. Which isn’t far from saying, God waves His magic wand and fixes things.

Except, we all know of situations we’ve prayed for that God didn’t fix. So the stories are misleading. Yes, sometimes God does bring a miraculous end to suffering, but a lot of times, believers simply grow stronger in their faith as they endure the suffering. (Agent Karen Ball wrote an awesome blog post on this subject today).

So I’m fine with the pretend fairy godmother who could create a temporary coach, horses, coachman, and footmen, but a permanent glass slipper that only fits the foot of its rightful owner. It’s awesome to make believe. And it’s awesome to wish for what is not. It puts a longing in our hearts that C. S. Lewis identified as a longing for the world put right. We want good to win. We want the young woman who suffered greatly and responded with courage and kindness to have the happy ending, not the woman who suffered and responded with self-protection and bitterness.

In the end, Cinderella forgives her step-mother. I don’t remember that in any of my fairytale versions. But it’s another positive this movie slips in under the radar: winners don’t have to gloat or exact revenge. They can forgive.

Would that we had more fiction flooding the movie and book industries like Cinderella. These are the kinds of stories that can prepare the soil of the human heart to hear the true message of lasting Hope.

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Published in: on June 10, 2015 at 6:08 pm  Comments (3)  
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Fresh Fiction Writing Refreshed


Yesterday, the heart of my post about writing fresh fiction was this: A fresh story is a familiar one told in a new way. Or a different story told in a familiar way.

While I think those statements are true, I don’t think they are particularly helpful to a writer who is trying to figure out out to tell a familiar story so that it comes across as something new and interesting.

I think of King Arthur stories, since there are so many of them. It seems next to impossible to tell the tale in a new way, and yet Bryan Davis did in his Dragons in Our Midst series of YA fantasies (AMG Publishing).

Part of his stories, but not all, were flashback scenes of King Arthur and good prophet Merlin saving the dragons from dragon hunters by turning them into people. Reviewers often said their favorite parts of the books were these Arthurian legend scenes.

Obviously Bryan told the familiar in a new way. But how? For one, he linked Arthur with dragons, something I don’t think is part of the traditional legend. He also made dragons in need of saving and gave Arthur a pivotal role in doing so. In other words, Bryan’s fresh take enhanced the existent story and built upon the character’s strengths.

Stephen Lawhead also re-imaged a familiar story in his King Raven series (Thomas Nelson)—Robin Hood. He changed the legendary setting from England to Wales, then in the final book of the trilogy gave a credible explanation how the English adopted the story based on a “real” Welsh hero.

A third example of a fresh take on a familiar legend is the movie Ever After, the story of Cinderella, told as if by an aging relative who passed the true story along to the Brothers Grimm. In this “real” version, Cinderella is anything but a helpless woman, though she is mistreated by her step-mother and one step-sister (the other turns out to be of some help later in the story, though she doesn’t stand up to those who are abusive).

The magic elements of the story are changed into real events/people, with only a perception of the fantastic. Another twist is that the prince, when he learns who Cinderella actually is, feels betrayed by her and is unwilling to marry beneath his station. Later he comes to his senses, rushes to save her from a brute who has bargained with her step-mother to marry her, but finds she has already freed herself from the man’s evil clutches.

These three examples do not hide their source but make a concerted effort to alter the story in some significant way: Davis by incorporating dragons in the Arthurian legend, Lawhead by changing the setting of Robin Hood, and Ever After by explaining away the magic of Cinderella and adjusting the plot accordingly.

Making full use of myth and legend while altering the source in some significant way is just one method of telling the old in a new way. But I’ll save any further discussion of fresh fiction for another day.

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