While I rejected barbie dolls early on in childhood, I embraced Disney princesses almost as soon as I could waddle. These magical women, in their beautifully colored gowns, made me believe the impossible possible. Despite the evil stepmothers, century-old family curses, and snake-headed opponents, Disney princesses persevered.
They were sassy, musically gifted, and incredibly well read (ok, Belle was anyway). And they used their life skills to find love in the most hopeless of places. Which is why, when I noticed the tagline “Glass slippers are so back” on the subway ride home, I knew my Disney fantasies were coming true. Cinderella was about to make her debut on the Great White Way, and I was about to cough up a paycheck to see her.
Now I must confess, Cinderella has always been my number two. She meets the prince and instantly falls in love, and as someone who seriously questions love at first sight, her story has always posed some challenges for me. I can accept that a pumpkin turns into a carriage, but I can’t come to terms with instant romantic attraction.
Belle, my first choice princess, has a more plausible tale, in the sense that her relationship with the Beast is far from perfect. It’s rocky and complicated and stressful. Belle and the Beast grow into their relationship over time, and not without facing their share of internal and external challenges first. As I put it in my seven year old diary, “These two characters’ relationship seem more real than most real relationships I have seen.”
Of course, there is the typical suspension of disbelief that is necessary to accept any Disney fairy tale, but in the case of the Beast, I saw his transformation as more of a metaphor than a reality. As he matured, he shed layers of himself that were stuck in an adolescent mindset and embraced a more sophisticated outlook on both life and love.
My love of Belle and company aside, I still believe Cinderella holds value. Here is a woman who is perpetually knocked down, mistreated, and verbally abused, and she still holds onto hope that someday somehow things will be slightly brighter than they currently are. She may not be sure of how to achieve that slightly brighter future, but she believes it possible and worthy of pursuit.
Which is to say that for a 20something in a perpetual identity crisis, Cinderella gives me something Belle can’t–a belief in the beauty of my dreams, even if those dreams are no longer clearly delineated in front of me. I used to think I knew my dreams– constitutional lawyer, senator, Supreme Court justice (in the order)– but my college experience forced me to question my attachment to my childhood visions of grandeur.
While an undergraduate, I interned at a broadcast news station and realized that maybe perhaps there was something beyond the political realm that could grab my attention and passion. And while I have not yet identified that specific storytelling niche that I want someone to pay me to do, I remind myself that even Cinderella didn’t have it all figured out right away.
She had to scrub a lot of dishes before she found the perfect pair of glass slippers.