A couple of months ago I decided to go to my mother’s room and watch a movie; a form of leisure I rarely engage on. I began to watch whatever was on, and Cinderella (the 2015 version) was just starting. I was hesitant at first, to watch a movie about another “damsel in distress”, a girl that went from rags to riches by getting nice makeup to lure an attractive and rich man: the same plot we are all so accustomed to. But I watched it anyways. And as the movie progressed, my feelings changed too. I became “enchanted” by the magic of a classic fairytale and I was enjoying every moment of it. It felt strange to be so allured by Ella’s encounter with “Mr. Kit”, so strange to feel angered at the evils of the stepmother, strange to feel elated as I watched Cinderella slip into the glass shoes and marry the man of everyone’s dreams.
However, as soon as the credits began to roll down my screen and the Hollywood magic, just like the fairy godmother’s spell, came to an end, I hated my life. I know this sounds exaggerated, but its true. I hated that I was not Ella, that I didn’t have a royal husband, or pretty dresses, or a group of magical animal friends that helped me turn old dresses into new ones. I hated that my life wasn’t a fairytale and I found myself going down the stairs as if I was descending to a waiting prince at the royal ball –but there was no prince, and no dress, and no fairytale.
In a way, it angered me that girls are taught to believe in this nonsense. They’re taught that the only chance at happiness and success exists besides a wealthy and attractive man, and that your appearance and your status will define your success, unless you have a fairy godmother (although her magic would only help until midnight). But before I absolutely disregarded this movie and it was sent to my “Black List”, I remembered the last words of the movie:
“Ella saw the world, not always as it was, but as it could be: full of kindness, courage, with perhaps a little bit of magic.”
Hearing these words in the back of my mind, made me come to two important conclusions.
The first one is that girls will always be enchanted by the idea of fairy tales. Why? I’m not so sure –but we are. I know we all secretly know the songs to every Disney princess song, we still dream of living the life of a queen, and many are still waiting for Prince Charming to arrive. But within that dream lies the idea that this affection towards the magic of these stories has led us to look for our own versions of fairy tales in our every day life. We all have our fair share of evil “stepmothers”; whether they are girls at school, bosses, or even (and most of the times) ourselves. We try to battle these evils on a daily basis with the same poise and grace Ella had. We also try to feel like princesses every once in a while. We like doing our make up, and getting our hair and nails done (by the closest thing we have to fairy godmothers –beauty salons), and we buy beautiful long dresses for prom night and we dance and sing on our own (even if we don’t have animals singing and dancing with us). We fall in love and experience romantic scenes upon encounters with Mr. Kits around the world and we have our own versions of lovely nights and secret rendezvous (that may not be as magical as the Prince’s secret garden) that make us feel as beautiful, and as lucky as Ella felt the night of the royal ball. So in conclusion, we might not lead lives produced by Hollywood and sponsored by Dream Works, but many of our lives are being lived under a 21st century fairy tale spell.
The second realization I had today is that this movie was not about instilling an idea in girls’ minds. It wasn’t about the social constraints of women, or about a patriarchal pattern of life. Although these subjects are touched on throughout the movie, and they are important to discuss, they weren’t the soul of this production. Cinderella is not about telling girls a pretty face and nice shoes will get them the life they want. Like the final words of the movie said, the building blocks of the film were kindness, and courage. Ella was constantly defying the wrath of her stepmother and stepsisters, she was fighting for what she believed in despite the failures she faced; she wanted to respect those around her, to love her family, and believed in the power of generosity. She was a kind girl who learned to forgive, to let go of grudges and who never gave up trying to please those in need; Ella lived her life trying to become the best version of herself she could be. And because of all these traits, and acts of goodwill, she was rewarded with true happiness –she found love. And although the act of finding love was quite quick, what came after is what matters. Ella was a strong woman, and her actions led her to find a life long partner who valued her for who she was; who appreciated her kindness and her honesty, and who gave her what she had always dreamed of: respect, family, and unlimited love.
Believing in the dress, the shoes, and the make up is not the intention of this movie. Believing in the random and unexpected rewards if you are kind and brave is. I guess I learned that it is okay to believe, and to enjoy stories like Cinderella. We should strive to be as passionate, as brave, and as kind as Ella was; and doing so will bring good things in return. And finally, I learned that maybe we shouldn’t live our lives waiting for it to be changed and transformed by the fairy godmother’s magic; instead, we should learn how to live our lives in happiness, find, and appreciate the little bits of magic in the places we go to, the people around us, and the world we live in.