First up, the movie Ever After. Ever After was the Cinderella I needed as a child of the 90s. She was an independent-minded, Utopia-reading, free-spirited, prince-saving wild-child who could only have been done justice by Drew Barrymore. The teenage me needed Ever After. As a story, it spoke right to my angsty, class of 2001 heart, and as a princess, she retained just the right amount of goodness while adding just the right amount of grown-up verve to graduate me from the Disney Cinderella I had loved so much as a child. I loved the additions of Leonardo DaVinci and getting to see what sort of demons the prince was facing. I loved that everyone was not so perfect - I loved everything about it! But ultimately, Ever After is a teenage movie for a teenage audience, and as I grew up into an adult, I longed for a return to the purity of the original story.
That is why I was so overwhelmed by Kenneth Branagh's live-action Cinderella, which hit theaters Christmas 2014. With this movie, Branagh paid such perfect homage to the Disney classic while painting a new masterpiece all at the same time, and I couldn't believe how unabashed he was in portraying good as good and evil as evil. The movie flies directly in the face of the revisionist trend with fairy tales. And how refreshing it is to allow a heroine to find her strength in having courage and being kind, rather than in wielding a sword and saving herself. Cinderella's strength - and arguably the prince's strength, too - in the story comes from her moral character, something that all people watching her story can imitate. Cinderella captures the prince's heart with her goodness in this film, and the viewer's heart with the same, and the movie artfully moves the viewer through her stages of transformation with visuals that transfix and enamor. I have no shame in admitting I sat and wept through the movie in the theater.
Lastly, I finally began reading The Lunar Chronicles this winter, a fun, genre-bending twist on classic fairy tales where author Marissa Meyer intertwines several classic fairy tales in a pseudo-dystopian futuristic world. The first book, Cinder, follows a renowned street mechanic named Linh Cinder who is a cyborg who catches the eye of the imperial prince. I don't want to include any spoilers, so I won't summarize much beyond this, but the story clings loosely to the basic outline of Cinderella up to its culmination in a ball. I have somewhat mixed feelings about Cinder. On the one hand, I thought the book was great fun! I read it in two days. The story was engaging, the characters well drawn, and I genuinely cared about what was happening. On the other hand, because of my long-standing attachment to Cinderella, I wanted things from Cinder that she wasn't giving me as a character. You see, Marissa Meyer did what she had the full right to do: she made the story her own. Cinder is her own person. Like most YA heroines these days, she's sassy and sarcastic and headstrong, and she doesn't need to be saved! But I struggled with that, because her name was Cinder, so she was supposed to be Cinderella! So I came into the story with preconceptions about who she was and who she was supposed to act like. But Cinder doesn't have to act like Cinderella. She is her own hero. and Cinder, the novel, is not really a fairy tale at all. But it is a fun YA romp!
So... there you have it. A few of my scattered thoughts, as usual. I hope they made some sense. And no, I am NOT retelling Cinderella in my current fairy tale novelization. For one, it's been done and redone too much. For another, I don't think I could do it justice. No, I've chosen a fairy tale that hasn't been given as much attention in recent years, and when it was given big-screen attention, it was shaken quite loose from it's moorings. I was so moved by Kenneth Branagh's Cinderella, I'm trying to tell a fairy tale like that. So we'll see how it turns out!