ByKassidy Lowe, writer at Creators.co

They say that happily ever after is only true in fairy tales, but A Cinderella Story proves that fairy tales apply to real life. Through each story, fairy tales teach us morals that can then be applied to our own endeavors. These stories tend to be aimed toward children, but I believe that the lessons within them are just as important, if not more important to remember as adults.

The movie A Cinderella Story is a modern-day take on the story of Cinderella. Cinderella’s role is taken over by a teenage girl named Sam Montgomery. Sam and her father were best friends with a close relationship built on fairy tales and following your dreams.

Everything changed when an earthquake hit their town and killed her father, leaving her with her wretched stepmother, Fiona, and her two evil stepsisters. Sam now must juggle the responsibilities at home and work in order to earn college money while tangled in an email relationship with Austin Ames, the quarterback of the football team. She struggles to reveal her true self to him because she is ashamed of her "diner girl" image.

'A Cinderella Story' [Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures]
'A Cinderella Story' [Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures]

The movie suggests through several characters that if you don’t try, you’ll never know. This message is true in life as well — if we don’t take risks, nothing will ever happen, nothing will change, we will never move forward, and we will always wonder “what if?”.

Taking Risks And Standing Up

Standing up to authority is often something that we fear. Each of us is afraid to go against social norms and stereotypes, leaving us trapped in our comfort zone, unable to pilot our own lives. Sam is afraid to stand up to her manipulative stepmother because she needs the money for college and she wants to make her father proud.

Austin is afraid to tell his father that he wants to go to Princeton and become a writer rather than follow his father’s dream for him to play football at USC. These fears hold them both back from reaching their full potential. These social norms keep them from taking risks and potentially discovering something they never thought was possible.

Once these norms are broken, Austin turns out to be much more than your typical quarterback. He was misunderstood and hiding his true identity from the world. He was always playing a role rather than letting his true self shine through. Sam took a risk and ended up finding her prince charming.

'A Cinderella Story' [Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures]
'A Cinderella Story' [Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures]

We learn from our mistakes and they usually set us onto a new and greater path. Babe Ruth struck out a few times — about 1,330 times to be exact — making him the world record holder for the most strikeouts in major league baseball when he retired. Despite this, he didn’t let those failures stop him from becoming successful. He tried, tried and tried, and eventually succeeded. He took those failures, learned from them and became a legendary baseball player. Babe Ruth once said:

"Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game."

This quote was an important message strung throughout the entire film.

It doesn’t matter what circumstances you come from, if you work through hardships you can achieve anything. Perseverance is a key element to success. Following our dreams might be hard, but it’s not impossible. There comes a time when enough is enough and we have to let go of the thing that is holding us back even when it is difficult. Sam came from a tough background, but she worked through the pain with a positive attitude and eventually pursued her dreams, proving that anything is possible — even for a diner girl.

Happily Ever After: Fact Or Fiction?

Hans Christian Andersen began the trend of writing magical stories that seem too good to be true, but these stories were actually written to provide us with life lessons. The movie A Cinderella Story directed by Mark Rosman takes an alternative approach to convince us of the realism of fairy tales.

This movie argues that fairy tales do, in fact, apply to reality. The movie makes this argument by identifying with the audience, telling the story through first-person point of view, making generalizations, and appealing to our emotions. By using these well thought-out strategies, the argument becomes more believable.

'A Cinderella Story' [Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures]
'A Cinderella Story' [Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures]

The movie identifies with the audience by building off of common values. At the beginning of the movie there is a scene where Sam’s father, Hal, is reading her a bedtime story from their beloved fairy tale book, which later becomes a significant symbol that holds all of these answers. They then have a conversation that is essential to the rest of the movie's lessons.

Hal teaches Sam a few lessons in this scene. One of them is that dreams come true and he dreams Sam will grow up and go to college. Another lesson is to always stand up for what she believes in and to follow her dreams. He also emphasizes how important it is to simply be yourself and not to worry what other people think of you. These are all morals that are widely accepted throughout our culture and taught to us at a young age. Parents teach their children to be ambitious and to dream the impossible, but as we get older the idea becomes less prominent and we lose the will to live by our own advice.

'A Cinderella Story' [Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures]
'A Cinderella Story' [Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures]

Telling the story through first person point of view builds the movie’s credibility and sets up the plot in a way that characters are seen as good or bad in the same perspective as the main character. The beginning and ending scenes are both narrated by Sam. She sets up the story and concludes it, establishing her as the main character. Because of this, we are tied to Sam from the start, and therefore see things from her point of view.

'A Cinderella Story' [Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures]
'A Cinderella Story' [Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures]

Generalizations are made throughout the film to separate the good from the evil and the cool kids from the losers. Because of these generalizations, Sam has doubts about Austin at first. Because Austin associates with the popular crowd, it gives him a bad guy image from the start that isn’t easily changed. The popular crowd is seen as being very monotonous. The girls are all on strict diets and the boys only care about girls and what they look like. They are all very exclusive and concerned with their place is on the social ladder. Towards the end, Shelby exposes Sam’s secret to the whole school. There is a bandwagon here as everyone unanimously laughs and cheers her on as she carries out this cruel act.

'A Cinderella Story' [Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures]
'A Cinderella Story' [Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures]

The movie appeals to our emotions by using cliches that capture an essence of happily ever after. It starts out with a wide shot tour through a kingdom and a castle fit for a princess. Sam begins her narration with the classic phrase, “Once upon a time, in a faraway kingdom, there lived a beautiful princess…” She also ends the movie with:

“...and they lived happily ever after.”

The movie starts and ends with the same happy song “This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)” by Natalie Cole. This models the hero cycle. Another cliche example is the kiss in the rain towards the end of the movie — an iconic romantic scene. The most prominent cliche however, is the Cinderella theme that carries throughout the entire movie.

Rhonda acts as the Godmother and gives her a dress for the dance. She has to rush out at midnight in order to make it home before her stepmother. In the process, she drops her cell phone, which acts as a modern-day glass slipper. These elements help establish a fairy tale feel that is happy and comfortable to us as a culture.

'A Cinderella Story' [Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures]
'A Cinderella Story' [Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures]

Fairy Tales Affect Real life

This movie isn’t necessarily arguing that fairy tales are real in the sense that we fight evil stepmothers, ogres or dragons, or that we have magical fairy godmothers and get the prince, but rather they are real in the sense that we all have our own happily ever afters to find and difficult paths to get there.

In a blog post entitled “The True Stories Behind Classic Fairy Tales," Valerie Ogden argues that children tend to recall messages from classic fairy tales as they get older and have to deal with real-world problems. The psychological sensitivity in children during this crucial stage shapes their sense of right and wrong and their values for the rest of their lives. Children are not naive, because of their untouched hearts and the fact that these lessons are fresh in their minds: They are experts on life. Adults are the students, and children are the teachers. It’s one thing to learn these lessons, but retaining those lessons is another. It is not enough to learn it once, we must retain it and build off of those skills as life goes on.

'A Cinderella Story' [Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures]
'A Cinderella Story' [Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures]

Ogden also points out that many fairy tales are based off of real-life historical events, but they are told in a much more lighthearted way. This supports the argument of realism by showing us that fairy tales are often real-life stories that were glamorized to become more appealing. This makes the story a fantasy, but retains the realistic lessons within them, making the lessons more valuable. Rather than taking reality and making it a fairy tale, A Cinderella Story works conversely by taking a fairy tale and making it more realistic.

In Christina Lupo’s article "Expectations vs. Reality: Fairy Tales and Real Life Romances," it is argued that the media ingrains unrealistic expectations for romance into girls’ minds from a young age. It sets our sights high, making us think that we will find a prince charming and create a spectacular love story worthy of a movie itself. We have a distinct expectation of what prince charming is supposed to be — handsome, brave, successful, charming, romantic, ambitious and everything we’ve ever dreamed of. She argues that these expectations lead us to disappointment.

'The Notebook' [Credit: New Line Cinema]
'The Notebook' [Credit: New Line Cinema]

I believe that although our prince charming may not be as perfect as the boys in the movies, there is someone out there for everyone. These high expectations tell us that we shouldn’t settle, but should find someone who exemplifies some of the positive traits in these fictional romances.

Lupo’s article challenges the realistic elements of fairy tales by focusing on the idea of prince charming. However, Stephen B. Karpman’s article argues that these elements are over-dramatized and never meant to be taken literally, but rather as a representation of numerous possibilities. The idea of prince charming or happily ever after could mean almost anything.

Karpman’s article “Fairy Tales and Script Drama Analysis” discusses how fairy tales shape stereotypes and social roles in children. They begin to model certain roles — such as princesses and knights — as they grow up and play make-believe inspired by these characters before adopting certain traits into their own personalities. This doesn’t mean that they will become those roles, but rather form their lives around the morals taught through the characters. Knights teach us to fight through life’s difficulties. Princesses teach us to be kind and loving.

Conclusion

A Cinderella Story is a perfect example of how fairy tale-like things can be applied to reality. It takes the magic of fairy tales and puts them into real life, much like we do in our lives. Rather than the main character falling in love with a prince, she falls in love with the captain of the football team. Instead of fighting dragons, the characters fight society’s stereotypes and normal hardships that are more typical in the real world.

This version of Cinderella follows suit with the quote from classic film

“No matter how your heart is grieving, if you keep on believing, the dream that you wish will come true.”

Cinderella’s dream was obviously different than any of our dreams, but this advice still applies to our own dreams.

'Cinderella' [Credit: Disney]
'Cinderella' [Credit: Disney]

Every fairy tale and Disney movie intends to teach a lesson. The Lion King teaches us to let go of the past, Peter Pan teaches us to embrace our inner childhood, and Beauty and the Beast teaches us that beauty lies within. All of these things are true in real life and set good morals to live by.

Fairy tales are aimed first at children so that they grow up with positive messages, but it is still important to remember these things as adults. Fairy tale books contain more than just stories, they contain lessons that become instructions for everyday life. These lessons help guide us down our own paths to happily ever after. Fairy tales are not an escape from reality, but rather a gateway to a better reality.


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