Saturday, April 18, 2015

Of Mice and Mercy

The view must be spectacular from a castle.  It really must. Isn’t that one of the requirements of a castle, to have a spectacular view?

I think it must.

Or so it goes in fairytales at least. Castles must come with a great view. Grand landscapes. Tall towers. Water surrounding or nearby. The stunning focal point. The grand ballroom. The ornate furniture. The luscious garden. The handsome prince.

Such is the case in the new Disney film Cinderella directed by Kenneth Branagh that I, a thirty something, went to see in a movie theater unaccompanied by any children.

I was a bit cynical and snickered a little as I paid for my ticket. Turns out I was pleasantly surprised. I entered the theater a cynic and left smiling. I was inspired. Enchanted even. I loved it.

Now you may say I have a soft spot. Whenever I did the “What Disney character are you?” quiz I always got Cinderella. But there is something else here I want to take in.

We all know the story of Cinderella. Sweet family, pretty girl, parents die, stepmother and daughters make her a slave. Throw in mice, a fairy godmother, a prince, a ball, some amazing shoes and on to happily ever after. This is Disney 101.

But this time Disney did something I did not expect. Yes Cinderella is beautiful and the prince is handsome but this isn't a story about good-looking people. It is a story about GOOD people.

Cinderella is good. She has a life mantra that guides every decision she makes. It was
given to her by her mother. Have courage. Be kind. 

This mantra is woven into her character throughout the whole story. It shows in the way she loves her father; her respectful treatment of her stepmother after his absence; her resolve to stay at the house she was raised in out of her mother’s memory; how she treats the poor; how she lets mice ride in her shoe; how she shows both grace and strength upon meeting the prince.

It’s not in the ballroom by the way. In this version she meets the prince riding furiously in the forest as she tries to let off steam. (An all kind no strength person would not do that.) She defends an animal the prince is hunting and doesn’t catch on he is a prince. She is herself. He instantly recognizes a kindred spirit and is smitten.

Ahh the prince. It's true he has a chiseled jaw and ocean blue eyes but there is much more to him than that. We see this man loving his ailing father and standing up for his principals. The PRINCE is strong and kind too! Cardboard cut out he is not.

How often is that story told? When do we get to see two people fall in love that both possess inner strength, boldness, compassion and love? It is beautiful to see.

But the greatest sign of strength and kindness is at the end. Mercy shows her lovely face again.

Cinderella is locked in the attic, her stepmother deliberately keeping her from happiness. She escapes and the shoe fits. Upon leaving her childhood home, she turns to the same stepmother who treated her appalling bad during the whole of their relationship and says, “I forgive you.”

Now granted Cinderella is hand in hand with the prince at the time she is saying it. So it may be a little easier for her to do then it may be for us. But we saw her practicing mercy so much by then you knew her forgiveness is sincere. And here when she has the perfect opportunity to get even she declined. She passed on cruelty and walked out the door free to live her new life.

There is more to this story that I won’t tell here. The stepmother’s cruelty is explained and a little heartbreaking. Cinderella is able to have her happy ending because of the mice, reiterating that you never know how being kind to others will create opportunities undreamt of.  These stories can be told another time.

The point of this story is simple. Have courage. Be kind.

I want to be Cinderella. And not for what she looks like or what she gets, but for who she is.

 Right now I am wearing a dress with a scoop neck like her. I am in my room in my condo that sits on a hill. I imagine it as a castle. (Did I mention the main paint color I used is called Princess Ivory?) But it is not the glass slippers I am after. Or the dress. (And it was a DRESS.)

I want to have courage and be kind.

Okay, maybe I want the dress a little too.

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