Once upon a time, there was a little boy wholly contented with himself.
His adoring parents raised him to be who and whatever he wanted, and they loved him just as he was. He and his older brother understood that to treat others the way they wanted to be treated was the golden rule, and to never get angry at those who tried to strike them down with their own insecurities behind the wheel. Instead, they had to simply be kind in return, and know that some people were not as strong as he and his brother were—and thusly hurt others to make themselves feel better. The little boy knew that he was different, but did not budge; the femininity in his heart did not stay boiling inside, and instead flourished with him as he grew in blissful self-acceptance alongside the unwavering support of his entire family.
However, things of course aren’t always so blissful — we each know this to be true.
When the little boy would go away to learn, he was continuously assaulted both verbally and physically by those who saw his differences from them as ugliness, as something to be ashamed of—something for him to be ashamed of. And so, the little boy would retreat back to his fantasies—of charming princes and castles far away, where a maiden made to feel ashamed of herself could turn into a lovely princess by staying true; always, unfailingly knowing that her dreams of happiness would come to fruition one day.
And so, the little boy grew into a young man who kept this story dearly close to his heart, never letting the words of others embitter him or turn him into something he wasn’t. His dreams of happiness were coming true each and every day, just as he had wished. Naturally, every day wasn’t perfect, nor was he himself, but the young man knew that kindness was indeed the key to his said dreams, and that accepting others for precisely who they were was the only way to live. Who knows what happily ever after truly means? Not he, certainly. But it felt like he was on his way there, wherever it may be.
To say that the story of Cinderella means a lot to me would, as you can imagine, be a vast understatement. Growing up gay and proud of it wasn’t an “easy” task, so to speak, but I had my family, always. When my grandmother and I watched the original 1950 Disney adaptation for the first time, I wept openly at the stepsisters’ ravaging of Cinderella’s mother’s dress. I would come home terrified to tell anyone of how despicably my classmates treated me, never explaining that my pants were ripped not because I fell accidentally on the playground, but because a group of other boys threw me to it, and only stopped kicking when the monitor outside noticed me in the corner of the crowded scene of children running about, having very much the opposite what they thought was youthful fun.
Cinderella’s story, of being constantly abused but never wavering in spirit — and ultimately rewarded with her prince and her kingdom and her happiness — gave me hope for the same things one day, that I too would be able to make it through the sadness I felt if I believed in myself and fought with warmheartedness instead of anger. And so I did! And here I am today, still so wholly contented with myself, though certainly never perfect. Whatever that is.
Kenneth Branagh & co. moved the spirit of that little boy so, so deeply tonight. This is the definitive live action Cinderella: sumptuous in design, gorgeously acted by all (I non-surprisingly bow to the continued godliness of Dame Cate), and approached with such a deft, vibrant hand that I truly can’t say enough good things about it.
As I sit here on my bed, a smile dashes across my face, memory stirring. My head titled toward the ceiling as I twirled around the room. Light from the window. My eyelids glowing affectionately with the sunshine. Music. That music. That sweet, gentle melody singing to me as I lifted my hands with graceful aplomb, swinging around and around. The voice of Ilene Woods gliding through the air, humming on about wishes made and rainbows smiling. Smiling. That contented little boy, smiling the very same smile as I do now.