For those who are exposed to life, culture, and history through film, these visual depictions can make quite the impression on young people, such as 11-year old me. Back in 1998, a new version of Cinderella, portrayed by Drew Barrymore, swept the nation. I remember this version being so real for me. I was mesmerized by the story, watching it over and over again (after it was released on DVD). Over time, I memorized each line (and I can still repeat them along with their characters today). It was a love story that I dreamed of recreating when I got older. It was difficult for me to vocalize why I’ve loved this movie all these years. But as I watch it (for the 5th time this week) I can now explain four reasons why Ever After is more than just “A Cinderella Story:”
1. She stands up for those who are voiceless.
When she came across extra money, she did not even entertain the idea of spending it on herself. She knew exactly how she wanted to spend the money: to release a servant from prison. She risked her own life to fight for Maurice’s life. She dressed above her class, pretended to be a courtier, and demanded that Maurice be released from prison. When she had a chance to speak with the Prince of France (Prince Henry), she also fought for the lives of the other prisoners, asking him to release them all. Spoiler alert: He does.
2. She overcomes her own anxiety.
When faced with an opportunity to tell the truth, a truth that could have herself imprisoned or killed, she reminds herself to “just breathe.” This dialogue that she has with herself is the most famous scene and most often quoted line from the film. It shows both her inner struggle and her strength to move forward with her plan. Her honesty resulted in running away, and the iconic lost slipper. But in this version, the prince did not immediately run after her.
3. Distress did not break her, nor did she wait for a man to save her.
She was traded by her stepmother to a wealthy (and not-so-fantastic) man. She was treated as a servant and prisoner, and knew that no one would save her. Once she was presented with an opportunity to fight for her life, she took it. She was released from her chains, and freed from her servitude. And she did it all by herself.
4. She realizes the value in her own name.
She was dishonest about her name and her class simply to save the life of an old man. She did not expect to keep the lie going, but she felt she had no choice as she continued to run into Prince Henry. As they fell in love with each other, she feared telling him the truth and tearing them apart. It wasn’t until after she admitted the truth about her name that she realized the true value in it. So when it was Prince Henry’s turn to apologize, she could freely feel his love.
Of course, one could tear apart this film criticizing the historical inaccuracies. But, this film’s greatness does not lie within its accuracy. Its greatness lies within the values it portrays to its audience: advocacy for the poor and powerless, female empowerment, the value of honesty and forgiveness, and the freedom of love. Here I am, eighteen years later, forever shaped by a Hollywood film. Remember to keep this in mind, filmmakers. There’s a lot of young, impressionable fans being shaped by what you put out there. Make the right voice heard.
Sláinte! (with water, of course)