I will be the first to admit that Cinderella isn’t my favorite fairy tale, nor is it my favorite Disney adaptation of a fairy tale. There is no specific reason why, it just isn’t.
However, when I saw the trailers for Disney’s live action Cinderella movie, AND I found out it was opening the weekend of my birthday, well, guess who dragged her husband to see it with her?
Now, I’m not here to write a movie review of the newest Cinderella. If you’ve read other reviews, most of them tell it like it is: it’s a fairly faithful retelling of Disney’s 1950 animated version. Orphaned Ella is cruelly treated by her stepmother and stepsisters, but her kind heart keeps her from becoming hard and bitter. Fairy godmother gives her a fabulous dress and impractical shoes, our heroine goes to the ball, falls in love with a prince (this is slightly changed, as Ella met had “Kit” previously), but leaves behind her glass slipper in her hurry to get home before the clock strikes twelve. Prince leads hunt to find his lady love and all is well when it turns out no one else can fit into those remarkable shoes.
Yes, the costumes are spectacular, and Cate (“the great”) Blanchett is delectably evil as the stepmother. Richard Madden as the prince is pretty hot.
Some reviewers complained about the lack of “feminism” in the film, that Ella is your typical damsel in distress who needs her prince to rescue her. However, I think they missed the overarching message, repeated over and over again throughout the film: have courage and be kind.
Ella’s mother tells her this before she dies, and our plucky heroine calls upon this knowledge whenever faced with hardships. When her father dies, she gathers her courage to face the road ahead. When her stepmother and stepsisters make her serve them breakfast and sleep in the attic, she swallows her anger and kindly takes it without repaying their cruelty. When her fairy godmother, disguised as an old woman, asks for water when Ella is weeping away her disappointment at not going to the ball, Ella wipes away her tears and compassionately pours her a cup. When Ella is finally reunited with Kit, she doesn’t punish her stepmother for her treatment of her. Rather, she simply tells her she forgives her.
This is exactly the kind of kindness Jesus demonstrated for us. He fed those who were hungry and helped those in need. He treated sinners with respect and dignity and without judgement. He forgave those who beat him and crucified him.
It takes a lot of courage to be kind to those who abuse us. To return insults with a smile. To say a nice thing to someone we know has gossiped about us. To forgive someone who has betrayed us or hurt us. Heck, even just to resist saying a snide comment about someone who annoys us, or cuts us off in traffic.
You don’t have to be a Disney princess to act with courage and be kind to one another.
*Just a fun little story to end this: I ended up sitting next to a little girl who was at the movie with her grandma. The girl looked to be about seven or eight, and was absolutely enraptured with the movie. I distinctly became aware of her when the fairy godmother was transforming Ella’s rags into her spectacular blue ball gown, when I heard a breathy sigh, followed by an “oh, it’s so beautiful!” I snuck a few glances at her throughout the film, and probably enjoyed the movie a little extra seeing it through the eyes of a child. When the prince finally fit the glass slipper to Ella’s delicate foot, I heard little squeals of delight, and a “this is my favorite part!” When the movie was over, I saw her grandmother taking pictures of this little girl in front of the big cardboard display of Cinderella. I hope that little girl, whoever she is, can treasure the thought of a prince sweeping her off her feet someday, and follow Ella’s example to just have courage and be kind.