4 Reasons Why Ever After is More than Just “A Cinderella Story”

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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)

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On Death and Healing

As I wake up each morning, I don’t check my phone or reach for the TV remote. The first thing I do is notice how bright the rays of sunshine are as they creep in through the slats of the blinds. I notice the small piece of blue tape on one wall that indicates how far the bathroom door will slide. I notice how large the suite is, the brightness of the white walls, and the clarity of the mirrored closet doors. I notice all of this first because, you see, this room was not designed for me. I did not pick out the carpet color, the tiles in the shower, or the light fixtures, nor were these decisions made on my behalf when the designs were finalized. This suite was mapped out, constructed, and designed from bottom to top for my grandmother, my Nana. Continue reading “On Death and Healing”

10 Things I’ve Learned in the Past 10 Years

 

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I created this list a few years ago to present on the final day of a senior retreat. Now, on the eve of my last day as a high school campus minister and teacher, I’ve decided that I want this presentation in writing. Here are 10 things that I have learned in the past 10 years, since I graduated from high school:

10. Travel

See the world. Do it often and at different times of your life. Because you change from your experiences, how you view the world around you will change with each passing day. Visit old places with new eyes. Try foods that, at one point, you thought were disgusting. Be adventurous. Be daring. Climb the 400+ stairs to the top of a Duomo in Italy. Stay the night in a sleeper train while traveling between different countries. Do not close yourself off to how the rest of the world lives. Make some time in your schedule (and budget) to travel. Continue reading “10 Things I’ve Learned in the Past 10 Years”

An Open Letter to the Class of 2016: Pick Up Your Trash

 

graduationUsually advice given to a graduating class is full of inspiration and motivation so that you don’t give up once you are launched into “the real world.” This letter could be both or neither. And truth be told, you most likely won’t read this anyway. But just as I believe that some of you stop listening to me when I speak in front of your class, I will still say what I planned on saying. Not because I love listening to the sound of my voice, as soothing as it is, but because one day down the road you will be jolted back in time, and perhaps, this is the moment that you will remember. I then imagine that you will smile and shake your head, simultaneously, and say something like, “That Ms. Swisher was brilliant and knew exactly what she was saying every single time she said something.” Or, out of frustration that I am still in your head after all these years: “Damnit!” But I digress.

Pick up your trash.

I know what you’re thinking: This is impossible! How could I ever do such a thing?! And my initial response to you will be, “Of course you can! You can do anything that you set your mind to!” While my response sounds silly, your thinking is even sillier. Picking up your trash says a lot about your character, and not picking up your trash says even more. But instead of focusing on the negativity – selfishness and elitism – of the latter part, let’s focus on the positivity of the former. You see, picking up your trash shows more about you than you could ever describe in words. Continue reading “An Open Letter to the Class of 2016: Pick Up Your Trash”

How To: Communicate with Someone Who Speaks a Different Language

I could list a number of possible ways to communicate with someone who speaks a different language: learn their language, ask someone who knows both languages to translate, use hand gestures or point, play charades, etc. I attempted each of these, and sometimes I was successful. (I should win an award for my performance of rake, just sayin’.)

Although, my favorite way to communicate is a simple, effortless gesture: smile. Continue reading “How To: Communicate with Someone Who Speaks a Different Language”

A Foreign Concept in a Foreign Land

I’ve been camping a handful of times with a friend’s family, but I never lasted longer than 3 days. Not because I couldn’t hack it, but I’m sure self-doubt was hidden in there somewhere. During those times I learned how to put up a tent, and take it down. I learned to live without technology (although the dependency was not quite as crippling 10 years ago). I learned how to fall asleep to the whistling of the wind, and awake with the sunrise. I learned these things as a teenager, but just like my high school trigonometry, I quickly forgot. Continue reading “A Foreign Concept in a Foreign Land”

3 Days in the Making

I’ve sat through many Palm Sunday masses, most of the time not getting much of out it, but every once in a while finding a spark of inspiration. I was reading along with the second Gospel until I read/heard: “sleeping from grief.” [Full verse: “When he rose from prayer and returned to his disciples, he found them sleeping from grief.” Luke 22:45 NAB] I was both shocked and confused by this. I am currently grieving by association. There are a few people in my life who are in the process of moving through the five stages of grief.

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And throughout the first 4 stages, sleep is not one of the action verbs that is typically associated with “grief.” Sure, someone might be able to cry herself to sleep, but it’s usually difficult to fall asleep, and stay asleep. So it makes me wonder: how did Jesus’ disciples – every single one of them – fall asleep from grief?? Continue reading “3 Days in the Making”