Movie Mandalas – Cinderella
Setting The Mood
I sat down to watch the animated film for this Movie Mandala post while I was in a downer mood. The changing season always triggers allergy symptoms that turn out to be very uncomfortable, so I was dealing with that while being achy all over from the fibro. I can say, gladly, that my depression symptoms seem to be mostly in check; at least, they are as they relate to mood and negative emotions. However, other symptoms, such as lack of focus or inability to sleep at a consistent schedule, have been problematic still. So I was approaching the viewing of the 1950 Disney animated movie Cinderella with a grumpy-clouded perception.
Seems quite a bad way to start, right? Well, on one hand, I agree. Approaching something new (or in this case new after so long) with a bad mood will inevitably start the shaping of your perception of this stimulus at a much lower level, making it work that much harder to win your esteem. On the other hand, it might have been the right mood for me to start with to understand some of the underlying themes the Cinderella story, whether the Disney version, the Grimm Brothers version, the Arabian Nights version, or any other version, have to offer its audience.
But First: Mean People, Mean Depression
As the movie moved along, I went found myself pushing the stitch-count more to the back of my conscious thought and instead focusing more on the story as it unfolded. This movie is one of my mom’s favorites, and she sat down with me to watch; it had thoroughly caught her attention too. She made a face as Lady Tremaine fools Cinderella into thinking that she was being kind to her in giving her a way to attend the ball as well only to bombard her with so many chores she could never finish in time to get ready for the ball. “¡Ay, que feo!” (Oh, how ugly!) Mom said in her Panamanian accented Spanish. This is a term she uses –sometimes to great comedic effect— when she is expressing distaste for something she finds gross, ugly, or mean, as in this case.
Stepmother: Well, I see no reason why you can’t go… if you get all your work done.
Cinderella: Oh, I will. I promise.
Stepmother: And, if you can find something suitable to wear.
Cinderella: I’m sure I can. Oh, thank you, Stepmother.
Drizella: Mother! Do you realize what you just said?
Stepmother: Of course. I said, “If.”
Drizella: [realizing] Oh! “If.”
[they all laugh]
I snickered at mom’s reaction. But I had to be honest, I agreed with her assessment. And I couldn’t help but wonder at the parallels between the malevolent stepmother in this story and the coldness with which she executes her abuse and the way depression can sometimes calmly seem so rational and merciful when it is actually tricking my own mind into a worse situation. Depression…you’re a jerk.
But What Are These Themes?
As I watched the film and crocheted the stitches of each round in my mandalas, I began to connect the elements of other versions of the story to the underlying tone behind Disney’s Cinderella’s personality. Although I don’t always like some of her actions (or inactions), I also can’t fully discredit her personality in its entirety; she is kind and courageous in the face of such abuse (and I’m not talking about simply cleaning and chores). And this really gives a foundation for processing the actions done to her, by her, or for her to learn from the themes of the tale.
The first theme I pulled from the story, that of the Disney versions (this includes the 2015 film) and others, is that kindness and patience are desirable traits to enact into behaviors. Why is that important? Well, consider this… As an audience to this story, don’t you want Cinderella to deserve better, not just have it handed to her despite her misbehavior? I mean, one version of the story shows that Tam (this version’s Cinderella) goes from the protagonist to being the antagonist and kills her stepsister and tricks her stepmother into eating her own daughter. Makes for a good story to get revenge, but in reality, it’s rarely a solidly redeeming quality. Having a kind and patient person rewarded in their life lends credit to those traits in us and our efforts in exercising them. And it certainly reminded me that my actions and words matter, and taking it out on those around me when I’m not doing well isn’t fair to them or flattering about me.
The second theme I found in the Cinderella stories is that the ingenuity and the virtue of hard work can be very beneficial. Whether it is cleverly making the most of her dark situation by creating for herself a social support-system to cope with her stresses (in this film, the household or farm animals), orchestrating her own escape from hard circumstances with the help of her fairy godmother (as in the All-kinds-of-fur Grimm version), or working to maintain the moral high-ground in the face of such emotional and mental cruelty (as in the actions of Lady Tremaine), Cinderella archetypes are adept at using the little resources they have and/or realizing they need to make decisions whose consequences they can live and cope with. Adding more stress onto yourself isn’t helpful when things are already hard. Even in the times it seems the most difficult to believe that anything better will come of hard work, of simply trying, when external forces push against me, I much prefer that than the regret of making things worse for myself.
The third theme I pulled from the story was that of hope and possibility. Often times, when depression or fibromyalgia symptoms are really pulling me down, there is an accompanying sense of hopelessness. It can be a feeling as though life will be devastating and impossible forever no matter how hard you try to convince yourself that, rationally, it isn’t true. Cinderella kept her hope up, maintaining it with her kindness and her hard work. Think about that for a second. Think about how important hope is. When it drains out and you lose it, you close off to the possibility that changes happen and miss opportunities to make those plausible changes into realities. The fairy godmother in the Disney film puts it best when Cinderella finally feels as though she couldn’t keep up the task of being a good person after Lady Tremaine has her daughters tear her dress to shreds and heartlessly crushes her hope of going to the ball:
Cinderella: Oh, no. No, it isn’t true. It’s just no use. No use at all. I can’t believe. Not anymore. There’s nothing left to believe in. Nothing.
Fairy Godmother: Nothing, my dear? Oh, now you don’t really mean that.
Cinderella: Oh, but I do…
Fairy Godmother: Nonsense, child. If you’d lost all your faith, I couldn’t be here. And here I am.
She helps Cinderella have this one night of pleasure before going back to the hard life she has, and Cinderella had just enough hope left to be open to the possibility that someone was actually helping her and realize she could seize the opportunity offered to her as aide. I’ve had some dark days come and go, and I’m sure there will more to come; I just want to have enough hope to get through them and work my way out of them. Although, admittedly, I don’t think I’ll have as much grace as Cinderella as I go through them. Heheheh.
Depression and Dreams
Long after I finished the movie, I was still stitching up the second mandala and contemplating what these themes mean for me. What they mean for my depression and coping. Depression can make things hard to go through, unnecessarily so, because it messes with focus, motivation, willingness, and reasoning. It can make hope hard to hold on to and make aspirations, plans, or dreams seem impossibly out of reach. But those themes, those lessons, can be applied and maintained to keep us on a preferable path in our personal lives, our intrapersonal development, and our desires for the future. Slowly, but surely, despite feeling awful, keep working, being kind, and hoping because they work. After all…
Cinderella: No matter how your heart is grieving, if you keep on believing, the dream that you wish will come true.
(Press the bar to play.)
Until Next Time
If you are curious about the pattern I use for the mandalas, you can find it in the A Creative Being blog. Check it out and give this meditation a try. So worth it! Happy crafting!