Saturday, September 26, 2015

Have Courage and Be Kind

I watched Cinderella (the 2015 live-action movie) for the second time tonight, now that it's out on blu-ray.

It's so good.

Something that's been lost from pop culture in recent years (or perhaps just ignored) is the unrelenting goodness and joy of modern fairy tales. Watch classic Disney movies and you get a neverending message of optimism: no matter how dark life becomes, there will always be a door to the light.

Most fairy tales made today are fraught with the grime of "realism;" the insistence that fiction, fairy tale or not, must reflect real life, not aspire to be better than it. Realistically, this has always been the case. Cynicism is not a new invention. But Disney films in the past always carried a more optimistic outlook. Snow White is revived by a magic kiss; Pinocchio is made into a real boy by the Blue Fairy; Cinderella's fairy godmother turns a pumpkin into a stagecoach. Today, even Disney films have somewhat changed sides. In Frozen, Princess Anna is repeatedly told that she shouldn't decide to marry Prince Hans after only having just met him. This is, of course, perfectly valid and wise advice. Frozen puts familial love on a pedestal above romantic love-at-first-sight. Its messaging is a bit too precisely worded, however, to be anything other than a direct (if gentle) response of disagreement to Disney films past.

The 2015 live-action Cinderella, however, has a response of its own. In the new film, Cinderella is said to see the world "not always as it [is], but perhaps as it could be—with just a little bit of magic." One of the songs from the animated Cinderella (which also appears during the end credits of the new film) says, "no matter how your heart is grieving / if you keep on believing / the dream that you wish will come true." The new Cinderella continues a now-ongoing dialogue:

Cinderella (1950): If you keep on believing, the dream that you wish will come true.
Frozen: You can't marry a man you just met. (because he's probably evil)
Cinderella (2015): See the world not as it is, but as it could be—with just a little bit of magic.

That "little bit of magic" referenced is probably the deciding factor: to believe that the world is exactly as we see it with our eyes, or whether we choose to believe that there's something more at work.

Just to cover my argument bases, I'm not saying Anna should have married Prince Hans in Frozen. But Frozen also exists in a world completely unlike that of Cinderella. Anna is a princess who Hans only wants for her royal status; the prince in Cinderella wants to be with Cinderella even if it means giving up the advantages of marrying royalty. The situation is almost completely reversed. But the point stands that miracles don't happen on a daily basis, and good things rarely fall into place quickly and easily. Even Cinderella has to endure years of mistreatment by her stepmother and stepsisters before things turn around. So what does one do in a world that often seems to contradict hope in the unseen? Once again, Cinderella has an answer: "have courage and be kind."

(If you caught my there-will-always-be-a-door-to-light reference, you are wonderful)

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