I had a very rare opportunity today. I saw a production of Cinderella played straight. I mean Cinderella wasn’t some butch feminist hero who saved the prince and then decided that she’d rather be a football player. It was just Cinderella.
It occurred to me that the last time this happened in America was probably several decades ago. Modern America reserves a special kind of rancor for the classic Cinderella. If they simply didn’t find the story compelling, they could have let it fade into obscurity long ago. As it is, they are still furiously stabbing its corpse.
Japan doesn’t seem to have a problem with Cinderella. I’ve never actually asked a Japanese woman what she likes about Cinderella, but if I did, I suspect she’d say how romantic it seemed to wear a fancy ball gown and against all odds, to marry the prince. If I were to argue that that doesn’t happen in real life, I suspect she’d give that politely alarmed laugh that says, “Wow, you’re taking this really seriously.”
To the Japanese, I suspect, Cinderella is a harmless fantasy. To the Americans, it’s a broken promise.
I don’t think Cinderella was ever meant to be a how-to manual for marrying a prince, though (isn’t that kind of thinking like the stepsisters?) I think it’s a story about being good.
As I watched the play, what struck me was Cinderella’s sincerity and hope in the face of suffering. She didn’t have the power to change her situation, but she wasn’t cynical about it either. She honestly did the best she could and trusted God with the rest. That, to me, is true strength.
The fact is, every woman in town wanted to marry the prince, but only one would be able to. And the one he chose was the humblest of all.
Actually, I’m pretty sure that does happen in real life. Just ask Our Blessed Mother.