Although I loved Beauty and the Beast growing up and enjoy watching Once Upon a Time every now and then, I find myself identifying with the character of Cinderella lately. And it’s not because I want a Prince Charming. It’s more that I think a lot of people (including myself) can identify with this idea of eventually being rewarded for all the hard work we do. In spite of what some Protestant denominations say, salvation isn’t gained by Faith Alone nor can someone do a million good deeds to earn their way into Heaven. And if you don’t believe me, please refer to these 2 Scripture passages:
“See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.And in the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by a different route? For just as a body without a spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.” James 2:24-26
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’In spite of what some Protestant denominations say, salvation isn’t gained by Faith Alone nor can someone do a million good deeds to earn their way into Heaven. And if you don’t believe me,” Matthew 25: 31-40
So how does the idea of faith and good works apply to the story of Cinderella? Let’s start at the beginning. For the sake of simplicity, I’m only going to refer to the live-action Cinderella directed by Kenneth Branagh. Spoilers ensue. You were warned.
The basic story of Cinderella is that the titular character believes in being good in spite of how her stepmother and stepsisters treat her. She makes the best out of a bad situation. And before a million angry detractors ask me “Why doesn’t she just leave?” there is a scene where someone asks her that exact question. The house is all that Cinderella has left of her family and doesn’t want to see it fall to ruin. There are a lot of small instances of Vinderella being active in her kindness, mostly in the form of her kindness towards her animal friends.
Another indication of Cinderella being active is that she creates a dress on her own, inspired by the faith that she will be able to go to the ball. Her faith gets shaken when Lady Tremaine rips up a sleeve, but in spite of her sadness, Cinderella goes out of her way to give a bowl of milk to an old lady sitting out in the garden. Hebrews 13:2 comes to mind: “Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels.” The old lady turns out to be Cinderella’s fairy godmother. Once at the ball, Cinderella spends times with the prince and runs off as midnight draws near. As the carriage and servants slowly turn back into lizards and pumpkins, Cinderella still has the glass slipper, a sign of her faith, and walks the rest of the way home.
The last instance of faith and good works is seen in the end, when Cinderella chooses to have faith that things will work out in spite of her being locked in the attic. The mice open a window as she sings. It’s through Cinderella’s singing (her good works) that the men down below realize there’s another lady upstairs.
Cinderella gets rewarded for her faith and good works by gaining a kingdom. As the Beatitudes remind us, those of us who are poor in spirit, merciful, pure of heart, hungry for righteousness, and suffer persecution for the sake of Christ will gain the kingdom, the kingdom of Heaven.
Yesterday, I went with my family to see Into the Woods. I’m a big fan of musicals in general and I was really looking forward to it.
What makes Into the Woods unique is that it starts out with the fairy tales that everyone knows and then turns them all on their heads. The film follows the spirit of the original musical, if not the letter of it. Spoilers will probably ensue, so proceed with caution.
With that, I’ll talk about the characters. The one who stood out most to me was Anna Kendrick as Cinderella. I found myself relating to her character most of all. Her storyline follows the original Cinderella tale instead of the more well-known Disney version, which includes her stepsisters cutting off their toes and heels to try and fit into the slipper and getting blinded. However, the first half of the movie shows a major flaw with Cinderella: she’s indecisive about what she wants. When she finally gets her dream of dancing with the prince, she runs off three times. I understand why she ran the first time. She was overwhelmed by the new experience. But when she was contemplating what to do when she ran away the third time, I wondered what the heck she was thinking even as she was singing it. Sorry to say, girlie, but choosing not to decide is still a decision, and not a very wise one at that. There was no indication of any sort of “turn into a pumpkin by midnight” clause, since she’s seen putting away the dress she wore.
Later on, though, Cinderella finally learns what she wants…or at least finds a happy medium between the two extremes she experienced. Yes, she was trapped as a servant to her stepmother and stepsisters, but she became a princess, she was still trapped. She couldn’t go anywhere without a royal escort. She learned how to hold her own and take care of those in need and learned that not everything was completely black and white.
James Corden was the perfect choice to be the baker. I kept calling him Craig in my head because I knew him from Doctor Who. He had such great chemistry with Emily Blunt that it was hard for me to believe that the Baker’s Wife would cheat on her husband the way she did, let alone try to justify it to herself. However, I put the blame squarely on the prince’s shoulders. After all, he was raised to be charming. And the Baker’s Wife showed hints of wanting to know what being with royalty was like. But to me, it seemed more like she was in love with an idea rather than the reality.
Meryl Streep obviously had a lot of fun being the Witch. I loved her more when she was the scraggly old witch, though, than her more beautiful form. The witch’s motivations are understandable, but unlike what she claimed, saving Jack wouldn’t be the “good” thing to do. Her treatment of Rapunzel was deplorable, wanting her daughter to stay young forever, but the reality of the situation was that Rapunzel was all grown up and needed her questions answered. She was right in the fact that everyone had to stop blaming each other in order, though.
Jack and Red Riding Hood were also great, but Red’s storyline was kind of short compared to everyone else. After the wolf was slain, most of Red Riding Hood’s story arc involved her either motivating other characters or being supported by other characters. Johnny Depp as the wolf was as creepy as was expected. And hey, at least he wasn’t a pirate this time!
My least favorite characters were the princes, although that’s also to be expected. While “Agony” was hilarious, Chris Pine’s Prince Charming was a real sleazeball. Of course, given that Chris Pine’s other most famous character is known for spending time with female characters of every species, the casting was perfect on that end. I also didn’t like Billy Magnussen’s costume. It didn’t look like a prince’s outfit so much as an 80s glam rock outfit. But at least he and Rapunzel got their happily ever after.
The only thing I’d really change about the musical was the way it ended. It doesn’t have to be a total “happily ever after,” but I do want to see the Baker, Cinderella, Jack, and Red Riding Hood living new lives out of the woods. But then again, Sondheim tends to go against expectations.
I definitely recommend this movie to fans of musicals, but I will warn parents that this is not a kid-friendly movie in spite of what the PG rating may say. I would say it’s more for ages 10 and up because of the language, Johnny Depp’s very villainous song, and the implications shown in the second half of the musical.
Isn’t it nice to know a lot? And a little bit…not.
Although Fr. Robert’s meditation for today has nothing to do with my post, I’m gonna share it anyway.
While surfing the internet, I found a series of videos from the Preaching Friars YouTube that looks at Harry Potter through a Catholic perspective. You have no idea how awesome it is when things in culture can be seen through the eyes of faith.
In my college days, I had 2 sets of friends: one group of friends were Catholic, strong in their faith. The only problem was that excluding a handful of people, it was hard to talk about stuff other than religion, literature, and current events. It was good that I was growing in my faith, but back then I loved watching Glee and listened to Top 40 music. (Mea culpa.) The other set of friends shared my interests in TV and movies, but weren’t as religious as I was.
But why the desire to integrate faith and culture?
Fiction as a whole was born from mythology and fairy tales. Myths were stories told to explain why things happened or to inspire the people through the examples of characters like Odysseus. Fairy tales were told for similar reasons. Tolkein wrote this awesome essay about fairy tales that I highly recommend you guys read. GK Chesterton said: “Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon.”
In a similar way, Harry Potter and all the other fandoms in mainstream culture have become our fairy tales. They all teach us to have courage or something else about life that we have to overcome.
But we can’t let our fandoms blind us or consume us because in the end, they are fiction. They can’t become an escape from reality. Doug Walker of Channel Awesome goes into this in his video “When is a Movie Just a Movie?” Only apply what he said about film to anything that has a following, like a TV show or books. When it comes to anything we love, we have to practice the idea of detachment and indifference, which I will go into further detail sometime this week.
Today, I want you to think about how the things you love could be seen in the eyes of faith. If it doesn’t seem to be such, why is that thing in your life?