Monday, March 23, 2015

Wait and Be Rescued? : Thoughts on Heroic Boys and Damsels in Distress

Once when I was a little girl I got separated from my parents while on vacation.  I was rather soft-spoken and in the hustle and bustle of leaving a restaurant no one heard me say I was going to the restroom.  Each parent left thinking the other had me.  I came out of the bathroom and didn't know where anyone was.  After searching the restaurant high and low I did what my parents had always told me to do in this situation.  I found the front of the restaurant, where an adult in charge could see me (in this case the hostess) and I sat and waited for someone to get me.

It didn't take long for my parents to meet back up and realize I wasn't with the other and I was "rescued".

When I took my son to see the new "Cinderella" this week I couldn't help but think of this little bit of my life.  It struck me as odd that this memory would come back while watching this movie and it took awhile to see the correlation.  But I need to back up a bit.

After hearing many rave reviews I took my son on a special trip to see "Cinderella", if nothing else I knew I'd enjoy see the spectacle of the show from a design standpoint if nothing else.  My son, in his four year old innocence, declared that in order to see a princess movie we need crowns.  So the night before I crafted pipe cleaner crowns that we wore, proudly, through the whole movie.  He, Henry declared, was my prince and princes wore crowns.

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the movie, the story was simple in many ways.  No complex back story or clever "true story of ..." (Ever After I'll always love you though I swear).  It was just "Cinderella" much as I had enjoyed it as a child.  Ella was rewarded for her goodness, her thoughtfulness, her fortitude and, most importantly, her ability to forgive.  The Prince was charming because he too was good, kind, loyal, and intelligent.  Relationships with parents were good, with even the Prince, though disagreeing with his Father obeying (that is until he could prove his point and change his mind in a non badgering way that is refreshing).  It was simply a good fairy-tale.  Good is good, bad is bad and one is rewarded and the other is not.

Though the story-line can easily be called classic, there were subtle, modern hints that answered some good questions.  The Prince would marry the girl who fit the slipper... if she wanted to wed him that is.  The stepsisters ugliness had nothing to do with outward appearances, but inward character and why Ella didn't make a ruckus in the attic when the shoe made its way to her house.

But it struck me as odd how much I enjoyed this simple story-line where the girl is rescued from her lonely tower.  After all, haven't I been raised to rescue myself?  Strong women don't need handsome princes to rescue them.

And that's when the time in the restaurant sprang into my head.  Sometimes it's okay to be rescued.  Not because I'm a girl and girls can't rescue themselves, but sometimes people aren't equipped to do so.  If we tear down a story like Rapunzel or Cinderella, are the titular characters really capable of rescuing themselves?  Poor, abused women with no resources or skills.  Sometimes, maybe, it's okay to wait for the person to arrive who can rescue you; perhaps it's not wrong - as my parents did - to teach our girls that, as strong and capable as they may be, that sometimes it's okay to sit and wait to be rescued.

The movie also got me thinking about my son and fairy tales.  While classic fairy-tales don't really flesh out the character of the heroic prince charging the thicket of brambles or facing off with evil stepmother, I do think they have something to offer young boys.  I really don't think there's anything wrong with giving my son a role model such as the Prince in the movie.  "Kit" is humble, loyal, clever and respectful to his father.  When he and his father disagree on the topic of his bride, instead of storming out of the room announcing that he will do as he pleases, the Prince respectfully agrees to his fathers' wishes, while offering a clever compromise.  He stays committed to his ideas, proving his point through diligence rather than annoyance.  While the character doesn't have the screen time to develop true depth as a character, what we see is still admirable and I'm glad to have that particularly in the age where the braggadocio is the go to male movie trope.

The thing is... I want my son to grow up wanting to be the hero.  I want him to grow up with fairy-tales and stories that encourage him to be loyal, brave and true - not after he's had his wild life and developed his wry sense of humor and penchant for vests and tight pants - but from the beginning.  I would love to see more characters like Kit in children's movie for my son to see; not because women are weak, but because some are in situations that make them weak.  That some people, men and women, find themselves in situations where it's best to sit and wait for someone to help, to be rescued and that it's okay to be the hero, it's okay to be brave, true and good and to aspire to be the hero when someone needs you to be.

This is not to say I would teach my daughters to always sit and wait to be rescued, as a real life parent there are many things I can do to give them the skills not to be helpless - how much rescuing would Cinderella have needed with a separate bank account or legal protection? Or if Rapunzel had learned some survival skills before being walled up?  It's just that this movie has me thinking about heroic boys and good role models and young girls who might also need to know that sometimes it's okay to sit and wait to be rescued, as long as we're training other girls and boys to be heroes.


***This post isn't perfect and it can be a sensitive subject.  If I've riled you up, let's have a good conversation about it.  This is just my spot to spill my thoughts when it's hard to get my friends in one place.***

8 comments:

  1. One thing that I think may be worth considering is the fact that every person needs to be saved; no one can save themselves ultimately. When I have discussed fairy tales with my friends, we are often struck by the similarities between the princes and Christ. I have not seen this movie, and therefore can't say whether this prince is an image of Christ, but perhaps that is what you are noticing. Of course the saints didn't just sit around waiting to be saved, but they did know that they needed saving, just as you did at the restaurant as a child. Thank you for an interesting post.

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    1. That is a really interesting correlation Autumn - looking at fairy tales as allegorical stories is a bit new to my mind!

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    2. Wit's interesting you should say that, Autumn, because Tanith Lee wrote a version of Snow White in which Snow is a born vampire and the stepmother's Apple has a piece of the host in it. The Prince has holes in his hands.

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  2. From a design standpoint Cinderella did not disappoint. This is my current favorite reflection of Cinderella I've read.
    "Whether I should turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show." David Copperfield. Let us equip our children to be their own hero and good!

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  3. Ooo Molly, yes! There's not weakness in waiting when it is called for.

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  4. What a wonderful, post, Molly! I'm excited for my boys to see it today and I hope they see the same things you and Henry did.

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  5. Really enjoyable post Molly, thank you for sharing your thoughts! I agree - not all characters (or people!) have the ability to save themselves, and it's too simple to label them as being passive because of this. People should help one another, and in turn take strength from one another when required.

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