I grew up on Disney Princess movies. Sleeping Beauty and her pink (no, blue!) dress. Snow White and her terrifying journey through the woods (no, really…TERRIFYING). Belle with her precious lil’ nose stuck in a book. Ariel and her beautiful singing voice.
And then there was Cinderella.
One of my very favorites.
Even as a preschool-aged girl, I admired the rich timbre of her voice and I so desperately loved everything about her story. Her attic bedroom. Her bluebird and mouse friends. And don’t even get me started on the ballgown and glass slippers.
But, mostly, I think what I loved most about Cinderella was her dazzling rags-to-riches happy ending, and the message wound its way deep into my young heart that, no matter how my heart was grieving, if I’d simply keep on believing, the dream that I wished would come true.
Cinderella said it would.
And so did Jiminy Cricket.
And lots and lots of other animated friends.
Well, I’m 33 years old now, and I have slowly come to the realization that, in reality, most dreams DON’T come true.
And sometimes none of them do.
This news was initially quite distressing to me, but over time, I have begun to understand that, in truth, there’s something SO MUCH BETTER than getting all the things you want out of life and having every single one of your childhood dreams come true.
And the new live-action Cinderella movie told this sort of happily ever after, exactly.
It took my breath away to watch my beloved daughters, especially my 5-year old, being carried off by the INCREDIBLE message that this new Disney masterpiece brought to life in one of the most beautiful movies I have ever, ever seen.
Today’s Cinderella didn’t tell my little girls that all their dreams would come true.
She actually told them secrets FAR SUPERIOR to that, and as a huge believer in the power of story-telling, my greatest prayer is that the movie we watched together on Thursday last will inspire them in ways that I will never be able to measure.
Who am I kidding? I was inspired. And here I am, a mom in my 30’s and still wanting to be like Cinderella. But not for the reasons you’d think.
Here are just a few of those reasons, proof that really well-written fairytales are not just for children. They’re for grown-ups, too:
1. An innocent countenance.
First of all, can we just stop for a minute and talk about the breathtaking Lily James? She is a flawless flower, plucked straight from the meadow, and I am such a fan of her performance that I can’t even find room in my heart to be jealous of her. Just…bravo, you beautiful girl, and congratulations on the role of a lifetime. You lived up to Cinderella, in every possible way, and took her to a level beyond anything I ever could have imagined. You ARE Cinderella now, forever and ever. Thank you, for accepting this part, for all your hard work, and for giving the daughters of our country someone to emulate.
Obviously, I was dazzled!
But not simply by her outward beauty (of which there is a LOT).
You see, somewhere during my adolescent years, a role model emerged that took my eyes of the good and the wholesome, and I began to put more stock in that daring sort of beauty that immediately caught the eyes of men and weakened their knees. These vixens of the silver screen influenced me, and it really did seem like only these sorts were able to snag any real attention from the opposite sex. It pains my heart that I believed them and ever tried to imitate them.
In a culture full of bold women with bold eyes, it was so refreshing to see someone so gentle as Cinderella on the big-screen. Someone so good. Someone so modest and pure and, yes, KIND.
There were obviously no heaving bosoms in this movie, no damsels in distress, no challenging and lusty glances, just a sweet young woman who went about her work and who wasn’t a slave to her own interests and her own dreams.
A true heroine.
I want to raise girls like that.
Girls like Cinderella could change the world, if only they would believe they have value.
2. A simple and quiet ambition.
You guys know from past stories that I can get a little cray-cray around celebrities. Cough, cough…Pioneer Woman. But my husband, God bless him, has been a constant and needed voice of reason to remind me that celebrities are just people.
The new Cinderella movie brought this point to life, I think, when it repeatedly pointed out that the prince was “an apprentice to his father’s trade”.
I want to work very hard to see celebrities – and royalty – in this light, no more special than the lady next door, unless, of course, they are “brave and good and love their father” like the prince. That was what made him really special to Cinderella and what she valued about him. Not his crown. Not his charm. Not his looks.
That’s a happily-ever-after I can get behind.
I don’t want my girls to long for princes or titles or fame or fortune in their love stories, just a good, godly man who loves them well.
What more could any of us ask for than that?
3. An indwelling magic.
The Disney fairytales of yesteryear were stories of triumph, of some sort of magic getting you from a bad life to a good life and of helping you escape from where you are to where you want to be.
This sort of ideology, while lovely in a movie, is rather weak, in heart, and dissolves the great pillars of faithfulness and perseverance in the reality of daily life.
The new Cinderella, however, teaches that the best magic is found within, no matter your circumstance.
Cinderella wasn’t pursuing any life other than the one she was living, and the magic of her story was not saved for her triumphant escape from suffering and her elevation to the palace, but was actually what fueled her all along.
We are all probably familiar by now with the secret her mother imparted to her early in the film:
“Where there is kindness there is goodness and where there is goodness there is magic.”
Hollywood can’t be all bad if there are people there writing lines like that, and I am thrilled to say that my daughter has memorized those words, of her own accord. If we can muster up this sort of magic in our homes and amongst our families, and even in our suffering, who knows what sort of real-life fairytales might ensue?
4. A contentment with memories.
When Cinderella’s mother died, the narrator says that her pain eventually lessened and her memories became her feast.
In fact, those memories of her “golden childhood” went on to sustain her during her darkest days as an orphan and servant, keeping bitterness, the true slayer of hearts, at bay.
I have often thought that, should something very tragic happen in my world – and, please, God, don’t let me practice this – I should never have any reason to question God’s goodness to me. There have been too many glimpses of Eden to ever be overshadowed by misery, and I would hope that my memories of God’s grace would carry me through any seasons of doubt.
This tenet was further expressed after Cinderella’s night at the ball in the fact that she wasn’t breaking her neck to make it back to the palace and see the prince again. She had her memory of that night and it was enough for her.
I found this sort of contentment very beautiful and terribly inspiring.
5. A beautiful determination: HAVE COURAGE AND BE KIND.
A week has gone by and I just can’t get over this mantra that dominated the entire film.
So simple, but those are the best lessons, aren’t they? The ones that you can easily repeat in times of need.
This message of “having courage” and “being kind” is mighty POWERFUL, and leaves the self-absorbed “every girl can be a princess” stories that I grew up with in the dust.
Let’s repeat it to our daughters, o’er and o’er again, and also to ourselves, until we are, by the grace of God, a people of kindness and courage.
6. A love for family.
As an avid fan of my parents and my family and my church, I found in Cinderella a kindred heart. When her step-sisters were asking for fripperies as souvenirs from her father’s journey and all she wanted was the branch that brushed his shoulder, I melted into a puddle of goo.
Then I looked intently at my daughter and hoped she was in some way understanding the level of beauty that was being offered to her young and absorbent heart.
Cinderella went on to endure years of hardship just to be true to her home and to her parents, and I was cheering her on every step of the way.
7. A freedom in forgiveness.
In case you haven’t seen the movie, I won’t expound on the “happy ending”, but you really HAVE to believe me that this was the best ending to any Disney Princess movie, ever. Go see it. Take a hankie. Or, if you’re like me and your tears start flowing during the “Frozen Fever” short before the movie, take two.
Three cheers to the screenwriters of this story who were brave and thoughtful enough to add dimensions to Cinderella’s tale that could be the foundation for a new generation of “princesses”, girls who have courage, who are kind, who are pure, who treasure the good guys, who love and honor their families…
girls who know what “happy endings” are all about.
If you are a Christian mama, I encourage you to talk with your littles about Cinderella’s story and take it a step further. We know from God’s Word that none of us are “good” or “kind” without the redemptive work of Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. I want my girls to understand that “being like Cinderella” is only something that will work if their “courage” and “kindness” is a direct result of the grace of God and is used as a vehicle for His glory. In our home, judging by her fruit, 2015’s Cinderella is obviously a Christ-follower. ;)