Once upon a time can happen anytime. This is the by-line of an advertisement for a new film called A Cinderella Story which I saw today when I was in town. It made me think about the whole romanticism deal; the idea of “Once upon a time” ; of the possibility that there might be a fairy tale out there waiting for each of us. Now this is mostly a female obsession: the idea that Prince Charming is out there somewhere waiting to sweep us off our feet. So many of us, particularly those who are single, (though perhaps the experience of people in a relationship is similar though not the same) spend our lives waiting for the fairy tale to begin and feeling depressed when it doesn’t happen when in fact the story of our life began at our birth and arguably before even then. Indeed, surely the story of our lives is better than a fairy tale? We dream of the Prince Charming deal but in fact would we want the rest of the fairy-tale?
I know that for me the Shrek films have helped debunk a lot of my childhood whimsy (though unicorns, flying horses and dragons are still cool!) and given me a heavy does of reality about what a real fairytale might be like. Cinderella ends up married to a guy she danced with three times? Likewise Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and most of the rest. Wouldn’t I far rather fall in love with a wonderful person whom I’ve grown to love for their foibles as well as their talents? Fantasising about the perfect man is foolishness surely? Much better to be down to earth, grounded and realistic?
In contrast with the fairy-tale I saw advertised, this evening I’ve been watching Equilibrium; a film which depicts a world where human emotion has been controlled like a disease because of all its negative effects such as anger, murder and war. It features a man, a cleric in fact whose job is too seek out and destroy those who give in to emotion. We first meet him burning the Mona Lisa and other priceless works of art as well as killing all those who indulge in “sensing”. As the story progresses he misses his daily dose of emotion suppressant and explores the simple pleasures of a snow globe, the rain falling, hearing music and holding a puppy. So although I might not want to live in a fairy-tale world, I certainly wouldn’t want a grey world entirely lacking in wonder.
Of course the ideal must be a balance somewhere in between, much as we have in our modern western world, in fact. Yet which is heaven going to be more like? The safe harmless grey world? Or the fairytale world of cats in elegant footwear with the voice of Antonio Banderas? I think heaven must be something entirely different from both but I’m not certain what.