Monday, March 30, 2015

Catholic Commentary on Cinderella

Since I'm still inflicted with Cinderella fever, I wanted to share this vlog from one of my favorites: Fr. Robert Barron comments on the Christian symbolism he finds in the movie. Naturally, I loved it because finding a way to combine my love of Disney with my love of my Catholic faith pretty much makes my head explode with joy. So if you're interested, check out the 8 minute video below. Enjoy! And happy Holy Week!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

10 Things that Cinderella 2015 Teaches Us about Cinderella 1950

I just saw Cinderella in the theater this weekend and I loved it! Afterwards, my husband remarked about me to my brothers-in-law (who were invited along) "Look how happy this little girl is!" - and it's true. I was beaming. All I needed was a tiara and some glitter and I would have been in heaven!

Since the 1950 Cinderella is my favorite Disney movie, I was thrilled with the direction this 2015 version took. I saw it as more of an embellishment than a whole new story, meaning today's version fleshes out some of the plots and backstories of the original. I adored the results! So here is my list of 10 new things we learn about the original from the new film:

Warning: The following contains spoilers!

10. Parental back story: the original animated feature starts with the narration:

Once upon a time in a faraway land, there was a tiny kingdom; peaceful, prosperous, and rich in romance and tradition. Here in a stately chateau, there lived a widowed gentleman, and his little daughter, Cinderella. Although he was a kind and devoted father, and gave his beloved child every luxury and comfort, still he felt she needed a mother's care. And so he married again, choosing for his second wife, a woman of good family, with two daughters just Cinderella's age, by name, Anastasia and Drizella. It was upon the untimely death of this good man, however, that the stepmother's true nature was revealed: cold, cruel, and bitterly jealous of Cinderella's charm and beauty, she was grimly determined to forward the interests of her own two awkward daughters. Thus, as time went by, the chateau fell into disrepair, for the family fortunes were squandered upon the vain and selfish stepsisters while Cinderella was abused, humiliated, and finally forced to become a servant in her own house. And yet, through it all, Cinderella remained ever gentle and kind, for with each dawn she found new hope that someday her dreams of happiness would come true.

The live action film shows us firsthand her two loving parents and the life she lived before her stepfamily moved in. Now we know where Cinderelly gets her good nature and kindness from.

9. Why she stayed as long as she did: Meeting her parents also explains why she stayed at the chateau for so many years: keeping it and staying there was how she kept her parents with her since it was special to the three of them and where all of Cinderella's happy memories took place. Everything she loved most in the world was gone, except for the home that reminded her so much of her parents. (Other than the fact that centuries ago, a girl couldn't exactly just move out and get an apartment in the city.)

8. Her name: though the introduction of the animated movie identifies her as Cinderella, it would make sense that this is not her birth name. Ella, as she is introduced in the 2015 version, is not nobility by birth but a princess in the eyes of her parents.

7. Timing of events: everything seems to happen in the same day in the 1950 classic but the live action film makes it clear that months pass in between the events. (For example, the search for the owner of the glass slipper doesn't happen until after a mourning period takes place following the death of the King.)

6. The King's illness: though His majesty lives to see the wedding between Cindy and P.C. in the animated version (recall the scene at the very end when our girl once again loses her shoe, and the blissfully bashful monarch places it back on her foot before the married couple boards the carriage), he passes away in the new film. This helps us understand why he was so pushy about his son getting married... It was as much about securing their kingdom's future as much as it was about wanting to see him settled down and happy.

5. How long the night of the ball lasted: We know the whole stroke of midnight thing, obviously, but how long did that fateful dance last? Well, we know that Ella leaves for the ball after her stepmother and stepsisters (cue Fairy Godmother to work her magic). I estimate that Ella had a good hour alone with Charming. Although the animated film makes it seem like all they had was one lousy dance before falling in love - in actuality, in think their singing of "So This is Love" to one another in the animated version was representative of a conversation that took place between 11pm and midnight in which they got to know each other... And I guess that when you know, you know. How did I arrive at this timeline? Simple - it took a while for Lady Tremaine and Anastasia and Drizella to be introduced at court and we know they arrive at the castle at 10pm, since in the live action film, Wishes is just starting as they pull up. While this is happening, Ella is back at the chateau getting a makeover. Accounting for travel and traffic, this would put her at the castle around 11 o'clock.

4. The Prince and Cinderella met before the night of the ball: Though not shown in the animated classic, the two meet before the famous waltz takes place. This is what prompts the invitation for the ball to go out to "every eligible maiden" at the prince's insisting. Otherwise, why wouldn't the King just have arranged a marriage?  It makes more sense that all of this backstory happened - which could have easily been the case in the 1950 version because all we are told is that the invitation goes out "by royal command."

3. The Prince is actually present when the whole glass slipper moment goes down: all we see in the animated movie is the Grand Duke slipping the shoe on her foot and then wedding bells are ringing. I like to believe that "Kit" was waiting outside on his horse for her, and Cindy got her moment to walk out with her beloved hand-in-hand, leaving the cruel Tremaines all alone.

2. Lady Tremaine has her own complex story: I'd like to believe that she was once a happy person who (maybe not as much as Ella's family) was content in life. She's made the way she is after Lord Tremaine's death. We get a glimpse of this in today's version.

1. Cinderella freed herself: Since Cinderella is my favorite Disney movie, I always hate to hear so much hullabaloo over her being a bad role model because she teaches girls that you need to marry someone you just met to be happy. This isn't the message we get from Cinderella, and the Lily James version makes that so much clearer. Cinderella, in either movie, is strong and courageous and kind. It wasn't her unmarried status that was holding her back. No, by agreeing to marry Prince Charming, Cinderella was making her own decision - a choice for love and someone who cared for her tremendously - who, by the way, falls for her not for her beauty but for her kindness and courage and unique view on life. (And once again, the time period should be explained to children... It's not like Cindy could have enrolled at the local community college...) As Cinderella is walking out the door of her parents' chateau, she knows that her final act of courage toward her wicked stepmother is more for her own benefit than for Tremaine's. In the end, Ella isn't made free by Kit's proposal, she's set free by speaking three simple words to Lady Tremaine: "I forgive you." Ella knows that there are prisons far worse than a dusty attic. There's the prisons we put ourselves in, made of thick bars of greed, jealousy, meanness, and cruelty. Cinderella remained at the chateau for as long as she did because she knew that as long as she had courage and treated others with kindness, she had a freedom that money couldn't buy - freedom that people like Tremaine will never know because her's is a prison of the heart. Cinderella's act of forgiveness set her own heart free from anger and resentment. And that's the message that both Cinderellas leave us with: "a great secret that will see you through all the trials life has to offer: have courage and be kind." This is what makes Cinderella a princess worthy of the title - a princess all little girls can be proud to emulate.