My sister recently shared a modern version of Disney’s Cinderella trailer from 1950. What I imagine was originally a corny 1950’s soundtrack for the two minute trailer was replaced by a modern remix, no doubt to reach a more contemporary audience. “They ruined it,” she said. Earlier, we had serenaded her fiancé with an a capella version of “I know you (I’ve walked with you once upon a dream)” doing our best to harmonize. “Very nice!” he said.
If you’re not familiar with it, the narrative of the song is love at first sight, with a kind of 1950’s emo set of lyrics that confirm the person of your dreams can literally appear before your eyes, and so you should trust your gut when it comes to that first hello.
After another glass of wine, I soothed my sister’s soul by finding the original version of the trailer, complete with a late 1940’s choir singing that very song and nailing the crescendos, as only those hired to sing on a Disney soundtrack can. “That’s more like it!” my sister said, then busied herself with the dishes.
I watched it again, with the volume turned down, and remembered how fantastic that film was to me when I was just a little baby gay boy. The magic of the fairy godmother, the rags-to-gorgeous-gown transformation, the sweet mice as friends, all that pink and blue, and the gleaming white castle in the distance. It’s the prince of course, who steals the movie, with his broad shoulders and thick dark hair. The prince, who really says nothing except, “May I have this dance?” and then literally sweeps old Cindy off her feet.
You know how it ends: the glass slipper, the evil stepmother and selfish stepsisters outdone by kindness and courage, and of course, happily ever after. Boy was I stuck on that one my entire life. My sister—who is planning her third wedding—doesn’t like it when I get academic and psychoanalyze fairytales. She detests the violence of the brothers Grimm, and prefers the sanitization of Disney to the real thing. Any argument I might have made in the past about the meaning of the story—that sleeping Beauty and Cinderella are allegories about young women growing into sexual beings, who can only be awakened by handsome young men—were dismissed as too serious or no fun. And she’s right, of course. I am too serious, and sometimes, at least when analyzing narratives, I am not much fun at all.
I’m still waiting for a Disney movie about a same sex crush and ends with the main characters going off to separate colleges in the end (like real life). But no matter how much Disney disagrees with Florida’s conservative governor, I don’t think that’s going to happen.
What I want to say is this: Cinderella fucked me up. It fucked me up. Because I grew up believing in love at first sight, and happily ever after, and that big one: a man will come along and sweep you off your feet and take care of you for the rest of your life. I spent my 40’s with someone completely ill-suited for me because we were both convinced that fate kept bringing us together (and maybe it did, but now I know it was trying to teach me something very different from what Cinderella taught me).
I much prefer films like Pixar’s Up . At least that one is more like real life: grief and broken dreams and the willingness to love again, to keep your heart open, to go on another adventure. To not become a bitter old man because you have loved and lost. Let’s sing the theme song to that movie, shall we? Let’s all harmonize to that one instead.
The prompt that inspired this piece was a music prompt: Orla Gartland singing, “Why am I Like This?”