Saturday, September 17, 2005

A Cinderella Story

As a child I enjoyed fairy tales and at Halloween I wanted nothing more than to dress up as a princess or Wonder Woman (of course I never got to do either but I'm not bitter about it). I loved reading Cinderella; so when the Disney version came out on video I looked forward to seeing it again. But watching it as an adult was completely different from when I was a child. Comparing it up to the animation of Beauty and the Beast, was I disappointed by the quality? the lack of extras that come with a DVD? Had my perspective changed?

In some ways no, when I was planning my wedding, I admit, I wanted the princess fantasy, the works, right down to the tiara. However, I decided against going with the whole glass slipper thing since I couldn't find real ones, they're not very practical and no one would see them anyways. Besides, did I really want to risk losing one?

I still believe in fairy tales, especially when a royal wedding occurs. Prince Frederik and Princess Mary, Prince Haakon and Princess Mette-Marit, Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia, Prince Willem-Alexander and Princess Máxima, Prince Philipe and Princess Mathilde, Prince Naruhito and Princess Masako, even Charles and Camilla, they're all part of that fantasy, capturing the imagination of hopeless romantics, newspaper editors and souvenir collectors. Women who found their prince in real life, despite obstacles of an out-of-wedlock child, a previous marriage, illicit affairs, and a father who was a government minister during an brutal Argentinian dictatorship. The road to happily ever after is no longer littered with evil step-mothers, pumpkins and glass slippers.

Many articles refer to the new Princesses as a 'Cinderella story come to life,' Princess Mary (Australian Cinderella), Mette-Marit (Cinderella of Kristiansand), Princess Letizia (Modern day Cinderella), but sometimes I wonder, how difficult is it to live up to such expectations? Relatively accomplished women, as in the case of Máxima, Letizia and Masako, subjugated to 'fairy princess' status. Cinderella didn't have an education! That isn't part of the fairy tale! If she was educated maybe it's a movie prequel? the directors cut? Cinderella couldn't payback her tuition loans so she took an entry level job as scullery maid? Obviously they kept that part out of the Disney version.

Out of all of the women, I would say that Princess Mette-Marit of Norway most closely resembles the Cinderella story, (well..the version with the convicted drug dealer and out-of-wedlock child ). Prior to her marriage, the tabloids had christened her 'repentant Cinderella'. Seemingly plucked from an obscure existence as a waitress and single mother, the maiden met her Prince Charming, moved in with him, and after the public uproar, insults and innuendo about her past, married him.

When did it become so hard to be a Princess in the 21st century? After all, princesses are flawlessly dressed, thin, smile all the time and are unfailingly gracious and polite. They don't have tempers, pms, bad hair days, or do any of the other things that make them human. The only person who ever did the role of 'fairy princess' justice was Princess Grace of Monaco; beautiful, elegant, refined, Oscar winner. She got the image right, without letting on about the reality. In her case, we could believe in happily ever after. But that was almost 50 years ago and times have changed. Today's Princesses have to work at it, and even then most of us are too cynical to believe it.

Will there be a happily ever after for these modern day Cinderella's? We'll have to wait and see. Regardless, I still believe in fairy tales.

© Marilyn Braun 2005

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