I was raised on The Wonderful World of Disney and my parents took us to see all the animated Disney films in the theatres. Disney wasn’t yet the corporate giant it is today, but the stories and characters fascinated me. Yes, as a little girl, I wanted to be a Princess. Part of me still does …
Back then, there were only three princesses to choose from: Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella. Since my childhood, the Disney Princess Roster has expanded greatly, and I find something admirable in all of them. But those I personally relate to best are Belle and Cinderella.
Recently, Disney released live action versions of both tales. They were truly magical and showcased the reason I admire these two strong women. Belle reminds me of the importance of books, imagination and looking beyond an outer image to find and appreciate the beauty within. To not judge others or make casual assessments that destroy or define something because it is different. But I will address that in another blog.
It’s the live action Cinderella, starring Lily James and James Madden, that I focus on today. There have of course been many Cinderella productions, plays, musicals, ballets, and modern variations on the rags-to-riches tale. But the 2015 film touches my spirit and reflects the reason Cinderella has always been my favorite heroine.
In the film, Ella (the Cinder part comes later) comes from a loving home, but her mother dies early. Yet her mother’s love and wisdom gives Ella the strength to maintain Hope and eventually save herself. Oh sure, she gets a prince in the end and has a little help from a magical fairy godmother. But she chose how to deal with the life thrust upon her and find her own way out of the miserable circumstances brought on by her father’s unfortunate selection of Wife #2.
The message her mother gives? Have Courage and Be Kind.
When her stepmother oppresses and undermines her, turning her into a servant in her own home, Ella shows grace instead of defiance and makes the most of her situation, befriending both the servants and animals around her. Her life is full of cruelty and she could easily lose her spirit and despair. But in the end with the prince by her side, instead of repaying the aduse she took in kind, she maintains grace. She utters the stronger message, telling her Stepmother: “I forgive you.”
I’ve been cast as Cinderella in three stage productions and I treasure each experience. I love the dress of course. The transformation scene is one of the most magical moments in the story. But it’s this woman’s ability to find Joy and Calm in the midst of adversity that inspires me. She recalls and finds happy moments when all around her is selfishness. She has courage and is kind while the interlopers reject her. That is what I admire in Ella, the girl who deserves so much love yet sleeps alone by the cinders. She finds in herself a way to rise above it all.
Though I’ve played the role, I’m not sure I’ve always had courage or been as kind as I should have been. I have not always considered the feelings of others. I’ve not always been brave enough to hold my tongue, take the higher ground or walk away from a difficult situation. And, as a result, I’ve hurt people — sometimes even knowing the damage I might do I must admit. I’ve been selfish at times and thoughtless.
As I watched the film this morning, I felt inspired once again by the story to follow Ella’s mother’s sage advice. To be kinder and slower to take offense or rise to anger. To show courage in the midst of darkness and rejection or when I’m uncertain and alone. And, perhaps just as importantly, to forgive those who may have hurt me … no matter the cause or reason.
Disney’s Princesses offer valuable lessons that resonate with more than just young girls. A kinder more courageous world where we are gentle and gracious to each other despite our differences is something to Hope for. To forgive when we’ve been carelessly, thoughtlessly or even intentionally hurt … I’m a work in progress here. But, one situation comes to mind today. And my response is to echo Ella’s … “I forgive you.”
No fairy godmother or magic wand needed. Just Have Courage, my readers. And Be Kind.