After months of fasting from watching the latest Disney live-action remake, I finally got to look over Emma Watson’s most anticipated film. And actually, after all the negative views I’ve read on it, I still walked away with some surprises. This version of the 1991 classic is slower paced, and not as compelling (some scenes actually bored me enough for me to pull out my phone and check the news, waiting for the lame parts to pass). It’s lacking musical beauty, the CGI was sub-par, and the story is too top heavy, trying desperately to out-do its origin by adding tacky changes. From the start, this remake was in trouble since it was trying to perfect an already perfect original, and you just can’t fix what ain’t broke. Instead of trying desperately to improve, they should have desperately tried to honor the original. But despite these failures, here are some things I appreciated more than I thought I would, and things I think you never noticed:
Right from the get go, I noticed the fly-by camera in the opening Disney Castle logo sequence. I wondered and replayed it, and took a screenshot. Here’s what I saw:That’s right! Atop the Disney Castle logo in this film (it’s usually a flag in other films) is a gold statue of St. Michael defeating Satan. And then at the end of the film, when the curse is broken and the Beast’s castle transformed, we see yet another gold statue of St. Michael, transformed from a gargoyle into the Archangel slaying the evil one. This leads me to wonder why Disney and the director (Bill Condon) okayed these clearly traditional Christian images, especially in a film that was supposedly designed in some scenes to push immoral same-sex relationships. Could it be that despite the attempts at evil, St. Michael was snuck in to show that Mickey and company belongs to St. Michael and company?
Continuing the peculiar positive portrayal of the Church is the reverend/priest in the movie, who Belle meets with regularly to borrow his books. Granted that not many were literate in that time, it’s still strange to change Belle’s connection to literature from being with a bookstore (in the 1991 version) to a Catholic priest in the remake. And how do we know it’s a Catholic priest? Because there’s a giant crucifix statue, and Protestants and Orthodox don’t use crucifixes or statues. Also, the setting is France: a traditional stronghold of Catholicism (think St. Joan of Arc).
Beast also has an almost throw-away line rebutting Lumiere’s claim of Belle being “the one” for Beast. Beast says: “there’s no such thing as the one.” This immediately reminded me of the correct understanding of love and marriage without the false fantasy of fate that negates freedom, without the this-was-meant-to-be lies. Blogger and author Matt Walsh explains this hilariously and clearly in this article: My Marriage Wasn’t Meant To Be. Here’s an excerpt (but seriously read it all):
We think that our task is to find this preordained partner and marry them because, after all, they’re “The One.” They were designed for us, for us and only us. It’s written in the stars, prescribed in the cosmos, commanded by God or Mother Earth. There are six or seven billion people in the world, but only one of them is the right one, we think, and we’ll stay single until we happen to stumble into them one day.
And when that day happens, when The One — our soul mate, our match, our spirit-twin — comes barreling into our lives to whisk us off our feet and take us on canoe rides and deliver impassioned romantic monologues on a beach in the rain or in a bus station or whatever, then we’ll finally be happy. Happy until the end of time. We can get married and have a perfect union; a Facebook Photo Marriage, where every day is like an Instragam of you and your spouse wearing comfortable socks and sitting next to the fireplace drinking Starbucks lattes.
Yeah. About that. It’s bull crap, sorry. Not just silly, frivolous bull crap, but bull crap that will destroy you and eat your marriage alive from the inside. It’s a lie. A vicious, cynical lie that leads only to disappointment and confusion. The Marriage of Destiny is a facade, but the good news is that Real Marriage is something so much more loving, joyful, and true.
We’ve got it all backwards, you see. I didn’t marry my wife because she’s The One, she’s The One because I married her. Until we were married, she was one, I was one, and we were both one of many. I didn’t marry The One, I married this one, and the two of us became one. I didn’t marry her because I was “meant to be with her,” I married her because that was my choice, and it was her choice, and the Sacrament of marriage is that choice. I married her because I love her — I chose to love her — and I chose to live the rest of my life in service to her. We were not following a script, we chose to write our own, and it’s a story that contains more love and happiness than any romantic fable ever conjured up by Hollywood.
Indeed, marriage is a decision, not the inevitable result of unseen forces outside of our control. When we got married, the pastor asked us if we had “come here freely.” If I had said, “well, not really, you see destiny drew us together,” that would have brought the evening to an abrupt and unpleasant end. Marriage has to be a free choice or it is not a marriage. That’s a beautiful thing, really.
God gave us Free Will. It is His greatest gift to us because without it, nothing is possible. Love is not possible without Will. If we cannot choose to love, then we cannot love. God did not program us like robots to be compatible with only one other machine. He created us as individuals, endowed with the incredible, unprecedented power to choose. And with that choice, we are to go out and find a partner, and make that partner our soul mate.
And now the question of freedom and love: Beast finally learns this when he frees Belle from being his prisoner, even though she has become a willing prisoner. Being yet not fully free, her love is unable to be true, and his love is prevented from maturing also. But once Beast let’s Belle leave, once he allows himself to lose and become incredibly vulnerable to Belle’s rejection and abandonment, only then does Belle’s return mean anything. This insight isn’t unique to this remake, but is also in the original, and is a timeless truth about how love becomes true love. It reminds us that only a heart that can break is an honest heart, a real heart. And when Beast accepts his broken heart for love of Belle and her freedom and dignity, then does love truly bless and bloom, not wilt as the cursed rose.
That’s all I have to say about the remake. For more about the 1991 original masterpiece and all the bursting Christian and biblical symbols in it, please see Beauty and the Beast and the Bible. Finally, it should be obvious that I believe the better Beauty and the Beast is certainly not this remake. Sorry fans. Everything that was good in this version was already in the original.
For another, more thoughtful review, please see here.
This film is not one I would normally pay any attention to, yet someone I love enlightened me to it! And so, in her honor and in the honor of the hidden figures, may I share my insights:
——1) The film tells the story of three Black women working for NASA during the American Space Race with the USSR. During this heated time between the two world powers, we see the Soviets outpace the U.S. time and again: they get to space first, they send animals to space first, and they send a human to space first, and they bring him home safely, first. It’s all about first.
That leads me to my sole criticism of the film: it overemphasizes the worth of being first in something, it seems to claim that being first is the reason something should be done, but this is a dangerous idea. Sure, being the first female engineer at NASA is great! Sure, being the first person to explore a jungle is great! Sure, being the first in your family to finish college is great! But what about being the first sinner (Adam and Eve)? The first murderer (Cain)? The first to betray Jesus (Judas)?
And so, being first in something does not automatically make it meritorious or worthy. One must be first in something virtuous, just, holy and true; yet even if one cannot be first in those things, being last also works because goodness doesn’t matter if you’re at the top or bottom, but only if you are faithful.
——2) This film is also not just about women! It’s about healthy women who are in healthy marriages and good families. In sum, it is about thefeminine genius that St. John Paul II talked about a lot, about how there is a false feminism and a true feminism. Here are the differences between the two:
False feminism advocates that women must be exactly like men in order to succeed, that men and the male lifestyle are the standard, and in order to win, that women must crush men and replace them. The woman must become manly in order to beat the man.
True feminism sees that women and the female lifestyle have their own standards, that a woman never needs to compare herself to a man, because she is incomparable! Men have their own weaknesses and flaws, and so they should not be imitated, but rather challenged and inspired by the women around them to rise to greatness. The feminine genius, and the way God meant for men and women to be, is to support one another as each grows into greatness! We are not opposing teams, but we are a family!
And Fulton Sheen summarizes this well:
To a great extent the level of any civilization is the level of its womanhood. When a man loves a woman, he has to become worthy of her. The higher her virtue, the more noble her character, the more devoted she is to truth, justice, goodness, the more a man has to aspire to be worthy of her. The history of civilization could actually be written in terms of the level of its women.
——3) We also see that a nation that is divided by racism and sexism is unable to accomplish great things. A nation suffering from prejudice and unjust discrimination is wounding itself. This point is clear when we see that only when such unfairness is set aside do we see America rising and outpacing her opponents. I hope we have learned this lesson.
——4) Lastly, in President John F. Kennedy’s 1962 speech about America’s lunar mission, we hear him say that:
We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win …
From this, I saw that the hardest thing to do of all is not going to the moon, or going to Mars, or wherever/whatever. The hardest thing to do in life is to love! Real, true and selfless love for God and for others! And only through this love do we have a chance to accept God’s invitation to enter Heaven!
Common misconceptions of love see it as a good, mushy feeling, but true love is actually a pure decision to keep caring even when everything feels terrible, even when being devoted feels tortuous. In fact, if all those NASA engineers and staff did not love the astronauts they were blasting into orbit, didn’t love the country they represented, didn’t love the mission, then nothing would have happened! John Glenn would never have reached the heavens!
And we will never reach Heaven either if we do not love truly and selflessly.
An actress who has become a fast fave of mine is Alicia Vikander. When I saw she was in “The Light Between Oceans,” I knew I should see it. Coupled with Michael Fassbender, and it became something I had been looking forward to for a few months now. And so thankful am I to have not been disappointed. Here are the shining moments of the film:
—–1) As a man, it is difficult for me to relate to the experience of miscarriage. Yet, my heart was pierced and my gut was gutted when I saw the trauma in Isabelle’s (Vikander) two losses. The helplessness of both mother and father as the child comes stillborn, the vulnerability of life, the hopes suddenly spilling, all of it was so cruel and devastating. It helped me think of times my own friends endured such loss, and while I only heard the news after the fact, seeing it portrayed as it happens is terrifying.
Yet, the scene here also shows the irony of intentionally and deliberately terminating unborn children in the womb, aka: abortion. We have couples who are desperate to save their unborn children from miscarriage but are helpless and at the mercy of their infertility, yet then we also have merciless couples desperate to destroy their unborn children. And the only difference between the two kinds of couples is that one truly loves their children, and the other is inconvenienced by them.
—–2) On the note of parenthood, Isabelle shares that (paraphrasing): “When a wife loses her husband, she becomes a widow, but when a mother loses her child, she remains a mother always, even if she has no children left. I wonder if I am still a sister, since I have lost my brothers.”
This is such a profound insight that reflects the “till death do you part” vow in true Christian marriage, when spouses vow their fidelity with such determination and faithfulness that only their death might end it. Hence, a surviving wife becomes a widow, or a surviving husband becomes a widower. However, this film demonstrates the permanence of motherhood and fatherhood on many levels.
One level is that Isabelle and Tom (Fassbender) are parents, even with their loss of two stillborn children. Parents are always parents, even if all their children have gone to judgment before them (by whatever means). Parents who loved their lost children must realize however, that the children are not lost, but are waiting for them in the hereafter. Parents should then live so as to strive to be with their children again, to pray for them and ask them for prayers.
Another level is Hannah (Weisz) remains a mother too, despite her thinking her daughter is dead. And we also see that she remains a loving and devoted wife to her lost husband, revealing that though she is a widow, she remains his.
And powerfully foiling Hannah, we see that Isabelle struggles to remain Tom’s. She disowns him for surrendering to justice, and she does not allow herself to love him again until it is almost too late. Eventually, she finds forgiveness and also surrenders to the truth. I was so grateful to see this story go this way, the way of fighting to keep a marriage, to keep a love beating at the moment it has bled out.
—–3) And we see in this story (unlike in Kubo and the Two Strings) that the truth must always and will always have its day. Nothing good, not even a seemingly happy family, can be built on a lie and deception. Tom’s character, so morally formed and conscientious, cannot live with the lie, with keeping a child hidden from her true and loving mother. Tom knows the deception and must right it. Even in the end, Isabelle realizes her love, however honest it is, is flawed when founded on a lie.
In fact, the lie ages and wears down Tom and Isabelle and leaves them childless in the end. Even Isabelle yearns and hopes Hannah could forgive her for the evil she did. This film is dripping with the characters wrestling with the truth and finding out that the truth is alive and far more subtle and cunning than their greatest deceits. Lies die, and then Truth rises up alive.
Most beautifully done, however, is that we see after the truth is respected, the relationships bloom on a sure future. When truth becomes the foundation of love and relations, then it becomes easy and beautiful. The catharsis we see when Lucy-Grace (as a grown woman and mother herself) visits an aged Tom is something that could only have happened with the support of the truth.
—–4) Finally, great acts of forgiveness abound in the story; acts so great that even the police question why anyone (in this case, Hannah) would forgive the couple who is suspected of murdering her husband and kidnapping her daughter. But we see that this is how a happy and fulfilled life should be lived. Hannah remembers wise words from her husband (paraphrasing): “It’s too hard to resent, you have to think about it and remember it all the time. It’s tiring. It’s better to forgive so you can live.”
We also see, as mentioned earlier, how Isabelle forgives Tom, and thereby allows them to live a better marriage into old age. However, we must also note that Tom has forgiven Isabelle: for originally insisting they keep the baby and hide the body of Hannah’s husband, for refusing to admit the truth, and for finally revealing the truth even when it meant her conviction and imprisonment. We see here how Tom’s love led him to forgive her all these times, every time.
—–BONUS) Two mothers fighting to keep/regain a child… sure reminds me of the case King Solomon once heard (1 Kings 3:16-28). Yet, in “The Light Between Oceans,” we see both women willing to part with the girl when they realized she was better off with the other. How beautiful a twist to put on the renowned Biblical story.
—–Note: I also appreciated the sound baptism and Christian marriage being celebrated, and the chastity portrayed in the couple’s relationship. But religiously, what caught me most was the solemn chanting of prayer in the score when Tom first encountered his daughter’s true mother, and the truth staring him down and demanding him make things right. In the background, a minister’s words about sin, and our mission to oppose it and refuse it, also adds to the theme of the story: A lasting love and family must be built on truth.
Biblical films that surprise me and move me are the only ones I recommend, and that’s not an easy thing to do since I am a very critical viewer with a high aversion to cheesiness. But I am glad to say “The Young Messiah” was worth the admission cost and worth my two hours and months of waiting. Here’s why:
—–1. Imagination: films like this are a great example of what St. Ignatius of Loyola calls “contemplation”, which is none other than using our God-given imagination to picture the Scriptures and put ourselves in the Biblical scenes. Doing such dedicates our mind to God, allows the Holy Spirit to help us see something we hadn’t seen before, notice a detail we didn’t know, discover God in a deeper and more profound way. Also, contemplation helps us not waste our mental power on lowly things, or in other words: dedicating our imagination and wits to contemplation keeps us from doing stupid things with it, wasting our imagination on perversions and derogatory daydreams. Your mind was made to think about beauty, glory, endless awe and wonder, lost in the infinity of God. And movies/stories like this show us how to do it: it all starts with a question, and it can be as simple as wondering how Jesus was like when He was still growing up.
—–2. Joseph: the man we see here guarding the Holy Family is no wimp, but he lives up to one of his many nicknames: The Terror of Demons. Joseph is depicted as courageous, loving, strong, gentle, and ready to die to protect Jesus and Mary. I got to see this movie with a group of friends, and it was overwhelming for us all how inspiring Joseph was in the film, especially when he tells Mary that she should not fear anything, but that the world’s most powerful and fearsome armies should fear her instead! Think about it! She is the mother of God, and God the Father custom made her to be the mother of His Son. God even honored and respected Mary enough to let her choose! So if anything were to happen to her, all Heaven’s legions would probably swarm down on her attackers.
Joseph knows how special Mary is, and he is prepared to do anything for her and Jesus. For more about this great saint, please see my post on Not the Average Joe.
—–3. Mary: If there’s one near impossible role to play on film, it’s the role of Mary. No film has depicted her up to my standards, not even the epic “Passion of the Christ” does the Queen enough justice! But this movie actually gets pretty close, and in fact is my favorite depiction of our Lady. We see her ponder in her heart about her Son, we see how humble she is: humble enough to wonder if she can bear the suffering that is destined for her little boy. Just as we see Jesus growing and increasing in wisdom and stature, we see also His mother doing the same: growing in strength needed to surrender her child to the sacrifice He was sent to accomplish.
But perhaps what made my eyes water the most was watching Mother tell Son His story. And how she described the Annunciation, the simple beauty of the moment history changed course forever, and it changed because she said “Yes” to God’s proposal. This scene is hard to discuss anymore than that, so you’ll have to just see for yourself what I mean.
—–4. And the best for last: the boy Jesus. We see Him bursting with healing, and there was such power and desire to do good, so much but I’d like to point out two events in the film. The first is when Jesus raises a boy from the dead, and not just any boy. But a boy who bullied Jesus and wanted to hurt Him. So we see here Jesus not only forgiving His enemy, but healing him also. And when the bully rises, he continues striking Jesus, beating him from where he left off. This reminds me of us: how many times the Lord has brought us back from certain spiritual death, yet we deny Him and betray Him, abandon Him and even curse Him so we can return to our miserable sins. Truly we are a tragedy when we do so, when we reject Love Himself.
Another event is when the Roman Centurion, Severus, has caught the boy Jesus at last. There really is no escape for the Holy Family, except that Severus has seen the incredible might and goodness of Jesus. He has seen the healings, he has heard the witness accounts, and he knows that the world needs this — he himself needs this, this Jesus. You see it in Severus’ eyes that violence and death has defeated him (Severus was the one who executed Herod’s command to massacre the children of Bethlehem), and that he now wants more to life. He wants life rather than death, healing instead of killing, and goodness instead of malice. And all that life, healing and goodness was standing right in front of him.
We should also know that by defecting on his mission to assassinate Jesus, Severus risks being reported to his superiors and then executed for treason. Severus is willing to risk his own life to let Jesus live on, and so we can see him here as a sort of first martyr for the faith!
So when we next see Severus, we see him carrying the toy camel that belonged to Jesus. It’s a relic. And it reminds Severus of the hope that this boy Jesus has brought into the world, and changed everything. Think about it: if He can bring people back from the dead, wouldn’t that change all we know about the world? If He can reverse absolute and certain death, what else can He do?! And of course we find out what more He can do at His Resurrection.
So knowing this, we also must decide if we let Jesus live, or do we kill Him? Will I let the Lord live in my life and heal me of my wounds and evils? Or will I kill Him by rejecting Him, and thereby kill myself also? Will I listen to my conscience which wants goodness and life to win, or will I listen to the Evil One and choose death and defeat?
—–BONUS: Jesus Wept. There is a scene where the boy Jesus asks an old rabbi about what happened in Bethlehem seven years ago. And when He learns of Herod’s slaughter of babies, we see tears in Jesus’ young eyes. He knows now that all those children were martyrs for Him. They were massacred to shield Him, they died so that He could bring all back to new life, and a glorious life at that. And He will make it up to them by dying for them in return, in love.
Today is Veterans Day (Remembrance Day in Canada). On this day, we remember the veterans who served us by risking their lives to ensure our freedom is protected.
We all know how important freedom is. People die to have it, and heroes die to give it to others (be grateful for them!). But freedom is not actually the highest value, is not the most important thing we can have. Freedom is not even actually free… freedom is a servant. Freedom is merely a slave.
Freedom is only a tool.
And like all tools, we need to use it correctly. In fact, bad things begin to happen when we incorrectly treat something: we do not use bleach to flush our eyes, we do not use sugar to brush our teeth, we do not use a hammer to trim toenails, etc. Instead, we use bleach to do what bleach does best: disinfecting things; we use sugar for what sugar does best: sweeten edibles; we use hammers for what hammers do best: fastening nails.
This logic goes for everything in life, including how we treat ourselves and other people. When we treat others with respect and dignity, we are being moral and good. When we treat others with disrespect and malice, we are being immoral and evil. We do not use people since people are not tools, but there is a way to treat them correctly.*
But as for freedom, many people treat it as the highest value, the end of all goals, when freedom is only a tool that exists for only one thing. Freedom is even useless if this higher goal did not exist. Take a moment and try to figure out what this “higher goal” is.
Answer: freedom exists only so that love can be real.
Example: if someone threatened that you must be their friend, then their friendship is not real, because they are not allowing you to freely decide to be their friend. In fact, stay away from people who do this to you!
Another example: if a man and woman were forced to marry each other, there is no freedom in their choice, and so there is no love (and for Catholics, in this case there is no true marriage).
Final example: if God made you without freewill and forced you to love Him, then that love is actually false, because in order for love to be real, you also must have the freedom to not love. (See my Lego Movie review for more about this! Worth it… trust me.)
Soundbyte: If you cannot say “no”, then your “yes” means nothing.
*So then how does someone use freedom correctly?
By freely choosing to love others, not treating others as objects, as tools, as disposable. Freely deciding to treat everyone with respect and dignity, despite how your emotions may sway or force you (because we cannot decide how to feel, and sometimes our emotions are just plain selfish).
But why should people be treated with love?
Simple: because as Christians, we believe God created all persons in His image and likeness, and we also believe that God is love. And so, all persons are made of His love. Logically then, the only way for us to live is lovingly, and the only way others should live is lovingly, and the only way we should live together is… lovingly.
As soon as the trailer for the Age of Adaline hit me (during my date with Cinderella), I knew I had to see it: a story about a person made immortal has been gestating in my mind since 2009. I needed to see if Hollywood stole my idea, and if it did, to see if it was good enough.
Fortunately, the Age of Adaline takes a different route, so I guess I’ll continue nurturing my baby. Phew!
Anyway, I thought the Age of Adaline was decent enough. Definitely did not feel my time and money went to waste. Here’s what I thought was most thoughtful of the film:
—–1) The opening scenes of Adaline’s (Blake Lively) life feature one thing in common: the Catholic Church. We see her daughter’s baptism, we see her father’s funeral, and we even see her wedding in St. Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco (before the cathedral was “remodeled”). I’ve been trying to figure out why the Church is so prominent in the film’s beginning, but not so throughout the rest of the film. At no point is the Church mocked or even ignored in the film, but actually churches keep reappearing in later scenes. Not sure why the director included all these churches, but not much seems to come of them plot-wise.
—–2) The emphasis on faithfulness in marriage as union of husband and wife. We see this clearly when William (Harrison Ford) strongly reaffirms his love for his wife after she becomes upset with his reminiscing of Adaline (you are not second pick!). We see this even more when William gives a toast to his wife on their 40-year anniversary: “to the love of my life, the mate of my soul…” Heck, in this culture of divorce and promiscuity, any focus on the beauty and fidelity that marriage demands is a win for me!
—–3) Unfortunately however, the emphasis on marriage’s demands for fidelity is conflicted with Adaline and Ellis sleeping together. What is really jarring though is when Ellis tells Adaline that he is falling in love with her… but only after they had been sleeping together for a few weeks. Now doesn’t this seem strange? That they had been sharing their nights together before there was love in the relationship? Did Ellis not love Adaline all that time prior? It sure seems that way in the film’s dialogue. So then what… love comes after sex? Doesn’t that seem backward? Shouldn’t love come first? Before anything? Before everything? Sex is meaningless without love, and for Ellis to bring up love this late in the timeline is lame to me. First, you meet her, get to know her, then love her, commit to her, vow to her before witnesses that you’ll be hers, be married to her, and only then give your body and soul to her, all the while choosing to love again and again. That’s the order. Going backward, or hopping around is just weird when the rest of the film encourages faithfulness and seriousness in marriage. This was one messed up moment in an otherwise decent film.
—–4) Lastly, the recurring theme of resurrection. I did not notice this until I came home and looked up the movie’s score. Two tracks: First Resurrection and Second Resurrection. Furthermore, other Church-sounding tracks are: The Scar, Hospital Confessions, Coming Back to Life, and Start Again. First, in the film we see Adaline come back from the dead in a semi-glorified state each time. The first time she cannot age past 29 years old. The second time, she resumes aging and finds it to be an even greater blessing.* In fact, her first time rising from death is obviously like a baptism! As for The Scar, recognizing someone by their scar reminds me of how we recognize Jesus from any wannabes: only the true Lord has the scars of His Crucifixion, which reveal His true love for us. Relating to Hospital Confessions, the Sacrament of Reconciliation always gives us great healing and forgiveness, which allows us to Come Back to Life and Start Again. Anyway, funny how much meaning is in the titles of a score’s tracks!
*—–BONUS) Getting back to aging actually being a blessing, it’s much like the happy fault: that if Adam and Eve did not sin, then Jesus would not have been our Savior. God makes goodness and beauty out of ugly things, and aging can be beautiful! In the case of marriage, aging allows us to grow closer, it allows our souls to grow closer. Because our bodies weaken and deaden, we rely more on our souls to shine and show love. Because an elderly body is not attractive, we see more easily where the beauty of the person truly is (kind of like Beauty and the Beast!).
All in all, not a bad film, could have should have been better, but enjoyable nonetheless.
Full disclosure: I snuck out of seminary early today and went to see Cinderella alone. Being that I didn’t know what to expect, I was unsure of dragging any of my brothers along. And solo I went.
And I was glad to have gone alone, because then they didn’t see me cry with Cinderella.
This is the kind of film Disney will have to keep striving to match in the future (and I hope their upcoming Beauty and the Beast remake is up to the task). It isn’t a perfect film, but it’s an extremely great one! Here’s a list things that floored me:
—–1) I was amazed at the emphasis, over and over again, on some solid traditional virtues: courage and kindness. We see Cinderella live these twin virtues throughout her life, for love of her mother and father. We see time and time again how these virtues beautified her, because holiness is attractive!
—–2) Ella’s mother and father were exemplary. In a culture that deemphasizes the importance of family, of motherhood, and of fatherhood, I was so grateful to see encouragement here for others to work to have a family like theirs. In fact, notice that both Ella and the prince have solid childhoods in solid families that prepare them for a great future!
—–3) Kit, the prince, was actually more than just a stereotypical Disney knight in shining armor. He repeatedly reminded me of St. Joseph: chaste, humble, decisive, loyal, filial (a good son who loves his dad), gentle and inspired by Ella’s virtue and character. We see in him how every man should treat every lady, and most importantly we see him receptive to Ella’s virtue. In one scene, we hear Kit openly admit to his friend that Ella’s goodness of character greatly draws him and urges him on. I’ll say it again: holiness is attractive! And the woman’s goodness and beauty inspire the man’s love to rise and meet her standards (click here for more of what I mean).
—–4) As Kit is to St. Joseph, Ella is to Mary. Yes, Cinderella is very Marian. Not only do we see this in both her servant’s robes and transfigured ball gown (Marian blue!), but we see it in her humility, docility, and how she served even her enemies as a handmaid (and even accepted the name they snickered at her). We see the analogy also in how she bore her suffering, her losses and sorrow, and finally: in her ravishing beauty. Her humility is most manifest when she accepts even the lost chance of being found by Kit! I was astonished to see her content with merely keeping the mere memory of Kit in her heart, pondering and cherishing it there for the rest of her life!
—–5) Which brings me to the reason why Ella’s stepmother hates her so much, and in the stepmother’s very own words: “Because you are young, and innocent… and good!” Wow, if that doesn’t say a lot about Ella’s holiness! In this fallen world of sin, we frequently are either inspired by the good and beautiful to be like them… or are tempted to destroy them! The wicked cannot stand the sight of true beauty and goodness and will try to eliminate what makes themselves look bad, and we see this clearly in the stepmother. But then you have those of us who are inspired by true beauty and goodness and try to emulate them! So that we’re all beautiful and good! [hint: don’t be like Ella’s stepmomma]
—–6) And that brings us to see the stunning beauty of forgiveness. Ella, when she sees her stepmother for the last time, offers her forgiveness… with all sincerity. Heck, we even see the stepsisters apologize to Ella! And what a virtuous way to love thy enemy. Sure, it would have been satisfying to see Ella smack them and lock them up for treason, but it was so much more inspiring to have seen her forgive them. And I argue that she could only do such a thing because she truly lived a life of love.
—–7) Also wanted to point out the indissolublity of marriage: we see the Prince deliberate intensely about it, and everyone takes it as a given that divorce is impossible. Because if divorce was possible, then marriage wouldn’t be such a big deal — just marry a substitute princess for now, and then divorce her when you find the mysterious princess! Make the King happy, the kingdom happy, and avoid all this drama. But nope. That’s not even a possibility. And our culture needs to see more examples of the seriousness, beauty and dignity of marriage (and that it must not be done for selfish gain or for others’ wants!).
—–8) Bonus: the changing of the lizards, mice, pumpkin, goose and of Ella’s ballgown all reminded me of Christ’s Transfiguration on the Mount, which in itself is a preview of what we are all meant for in the resurrection. While in this earthly life, our sins and the sin of the world still scars us and mars our beauty. We find it difficult to see who each other is: miracles of God’s creation. In Christ’s transfiguration, the three apostles with Him saw God’s true beauty. In the fairy godmother’s transfiguration of Ella’s friends and dress, we see the scars melt away to reveal a miracle. And just like in the Gospel, the transfiguration doesn’t last, because it’s only meant to show a glimpse of beauty to come.
So yes, I loved Cinderella. And I think you would too.
Today, March 19th, is the Super Solemnity of Saint Joseph, the Most Chaste Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary (phew, long title!), aka: a well-deserved break from Lent! That’s right boys and girls, today is a solemnity, which means it’s a little oasis from your Lenten penances. It’s also my patronal feast day, so I thought I’d write a post for this occasion and share some art from Daniel Mitsui:
[Feel free to click the artwork to see more about it at the artist’s site.]
The artwork above depicts St. Joseph’s second dream from the Archangel Gabriel, telling him to take Mary and Baby Jesus into exile… into Egypt to escape the murderous Herod (Matthew 2: 13-23). St. Joseph had three such dreams in all, and I’d invite you to check your copy of the Gospel of Matthew to see what I mean.
Which then brings me to why St. Joseph is not your average Joe. Instead, St. Joseph was an intense man of love, made even more intense because his beloved was the stunning and gorgeous Virgin Mary. In fact, as Archbishop Fulton Sheen once said:
“When a man loves a woman, he has to become worthy of her. The higher her virtue, the more noble her character, the more devoted she is to truth, justice, goodness, the more a man has to aspire to be worthy of her. The history of civilization could actually be written in terms of the level of its women.”
In other words, the woman inspires the man on how to love her and others. In many ways, the woman’s beauty shows her man a glimpse of how ravishing her Creator is. The woman’s wisdom, intuition, faith, dignity, reverence and steadfastness hints at the level of wisdom, intuition, faith, dignity and steadfastness that the man needs to have in order to impress her. She sets the standards, and if he loves her, then he will rise.
And Mary’s standards were sky high. She was good enough for God to want her to be His mother, and her goodness inspired Joseph’s goodness. So here we see a chain: God inspired Mary, and Mary inspired Joseph. And if this logic led to the holiest of families, then we can conclude:
–Ladies, get close to Jesus! Be inspired by God, be filled with the Holy Spirit, inspire the gentlemen in your lives to rise to higher standards. Don’t settle for wimps or pimps, don’t settle for idiots or cowards. Don’t settle for an average Joe. Be truly beloved.
–Gentlemen, get out there and meet women who have high standards! Ask the Lord to give you the strength to rise to those heights… to the heights of being lifted on a cross and willing to die for your bride. Don’t live a wimpy or pimpy lifestyle, don’t be an idiot or a coward. Don’t be an average Joe. Be a true lover.
Now, since Mary was unaffected by Original Sin [by the Lord’s gift of immaculate conception], and since sin causes all ugliness, then we can say that Mary was truly and totally beautiful, through and through. In our fallen world, we’re always tempted to lust after the beautiful, to take it and possess it. This is a selfish thing to do, because beauty is meant to inspire us to be beautiful, and to praise the Creator of that beauty!
So for St. Joseph, I imagine devils constantly tried to tempt him to lust after his super beautiful bride, tried to make him use Mary, abuse her beauty and take advantage of her. But it never happened. He was her most chaste spouse, and for that he is known as the Terror of Demons. Joseph terrified and terrorizes demons because he never fell for their greatest temptations to lust, and so he was above their power. And whoever is above their power is close to Christ.
That brings me to my last point: what do I do with beautiful women? Do I fall for temptation and lust? Well, I used to. For a long time, and for most of my life, that’s all I did. But five years ago I started seeing beautiful women differently. Now, a woman’s beauty prompts me to pray for her. The beauty of women who demons wanted me to lust after now actually inspires me to pray — beauty turned my weakness into strength: beauty saved the beast. In fact, the more captivating a woman is, the more I thank and praise God for her beauty! I ask God to protect her from lust, especially from mine, and I beg God to crown her a saint in Heaven! I ask Mary to keep her safe and beautiful, I ask any saint I can think of to watch over her, and on and on and on I pray and praise.
And in this small way I try to imitate St. Joseph. I want to be a terror of demons, a most chaste spouse.
Because I don’t ever want to be an average Joe.
BONUS: There’s been a bit of debate about whether St. Joseph was a young man or old and grandpa-like. Well, here’s the theory I stand by (best expressed by Fulton Sheen on page 96 of his “The World’s First Love“):
But when one searches for the reasons why Christian art should have pictured Joseph as aged, we discover that it was in order to better safeguard the virginity of Mary. Somehow, the assumption had crept in that senility was a better protector of virginity than adolescence. Art thus unconsciously made Joseph a spouse chaste and pure by age rather than virtue…To make Joseph appear pure only because his flesh had aged is like glorifying a mountain stream that has dried. The Church will not a ordain a man to the priesthood who has not his vital powers. She wants men who have something to tame, rather than those who are tame because they have no energy to be wild. It should be no different with God…Joseph was probably a young man, strong, virile, athletic, handsome, chaste, and disciplined; the kind of man one sees sometimes shepherding sheep, or piloting a plane, or working at a carpenter’s bench. Instead of being a man incapable of love, he must have been on fire with love….Instead, then, of being dried fruit to be served on the table of the king, he was rather a blossom filled with promise and power. He was not in the evening of life, but in its morning, bubbling over with energy, strength, and controlled passion.