14 February 2012

For the Valentine's Day in Your Life

 This Valentine's Day, I'm thinking about Christ's perfect love.   Here's an amazing article by Regina Doman, Catholic author of several fairy-tale retellings (I love fairy tales, don't you? I also-- don't spit at me or anything-- love Catholic authors. Occasionally. They tend to be really good writers. Ever noticed that? well...that's another discussion for another time, then). Anyway, I tried to find this article online but the internets failed me, so here it is: straight out of the pages of The Chesterton Review Fantasy Literature Issue.  (Incidentally, I posted part of this on my old blog a forever ago, so if you read it there, then a)you get brownie points for being an awesome person and b) it's worth re-reading.) Anyway, here you go:
Author's Reconnaissance: Reflections on Snow White by Regina Doman
The Prince:
The Prince is the most maligned fairy tale element in the modern world today. Only the knight in shining armor garners more pot shots than he. Perhaps it's because of the unfortunate appellation, "Charming"-- a legacy of the Disney film. In my casual reading and viewing I make a point of seeking out modern retellings of fairy tales in the media. So far I have yet to find one truly good prince.
    William Goldman satirizes Prince Charming as "Prince Humperdink" in the movie The Princess Bride. In Stephen Sondheim's fairy tale musical Into the Woods, which puts together a half-dozen Grimm's taes into an ensemble musical, the two Princes are egocentric white males obsessed with the thrill of the chase and low on commitment, symbolized in their song "Out of Your Reach". The exceedingly turgid teen romance novel Just Ella, ... about Cinderella's later life, has Prince Charming turn out to be a flake only interested in his bride for her looks.
         Other examples of ingrained Prince-hatred are forthcoming. The crippled-beyond-repair miniseries, The 10th Kingdom, wavers frustratingly between presenting a real fairy tale world and becoming enamored with satire and sex instead. What gave the overlong miniseries its death blow, in my opinion, was the decision to drop the Prince (Prince Wendell) as the hero and instead raise up a werewolf into a human fit for the heroine to marry.
    In the attempted remake of the "real" Snow White tale, which turned out titled Snow White: A Tale of Terror, and was blocked from major release in the U.S. by the now omnipotent Disney Company, the filmmakers apparently tried hard to believe in the fairy tale, but could not believe in the prince. I have not yet seen the film, but I understand that in this version, Snow White marries one of the "dwarfs" (!). A prince exists in the film, but only as bait for the evil queen's seductions. Seeing these lists of examples, one might well ask: why is it that we no longer believe in princes?
        I think it's not accidental. In the allegorical reading of Snow White, the Prince represents Christ. It is he who rescues the princess from her own deadly choice. He restores her to life, and brings her into his father's kingdom. Unlike in "Sleeping Beauty", he does not wake her with a kiss, but when he vows his love for Snow White (In language that recalls wedding vows) before the dwarfs, they surrender her coffin to him.
    As the servants carry away her coffin, they stumble over a tree stump, and "with that shock, the piece of poisonous apple that Snow White had bitten came out of her throat". The coffin shatters. She awakes and cries out, "Oh heavens, where am I?" "You are with me," the king's son cries out joyfully. "I love you more than anything in the world. Come with me to my father's palace and you shall be my wife." And Snow White goes with him gladly. 
     “The modern female, girl or woman, is sadly unacquainted with Christ the lover. Without him, her only hope for solace is human male love. And the rites of modern courtship expect that she will surrenser her soul not to one man, but to several over the course of her lifetime. The first man or boy she kisses will not be the last. She will fall deeply in love with at least one other man before she marries, and the pain of that breakup, which in many cases will be intensified by the tearing apart of an extramarital sexual bond designed to last a lifetime, will damage her trust and ability to believe in a man significantly, if not irreparably. After losing that first boyfriend (or, sadly, husband) is it any wonder that girls and women begin to doubt that the Prince exists? If they can still believe, it is because of a miracle. But God, even in this modern age, is generous with miracles in His healing of hearts. But apart from healing, how can you believe in the Prince? A female writer or consumer may well have her difficulties, given her own personal knowledge of men. Inevitably, they discover the idea of the Prince coming to save them is too good to be true. He just doesn’t seem like any man they’ve ever met, so therefore, he must not be real.
     The Prince has a hard role, detailed in other fairy tales. In “Snow White”, he comes in at the end and rescues the princess from death. Bit one doesn’t get that kind of power lightly. The Prince in other tales defeats dragons, suffers trials, searches the world on quests, and gains wisdom. He may be born to privilege, but he takes his responsibility seriously. In “Snow White,” he is not drawn to the princess because of her royalty, but because of her distress, which he feels a responsibility to put right. He and his father take upon themselves the responsibility of punishing the evildoers--the witch—at the end of the tale. If we follow the extra-literary coda, he is also responsible for ensuring Snow White can indeed live happily ever after.
      That’s quite a lot to live up to, and it’s unsurprising that many a modern male, artist or consumer, feels uncomfortable when it’s suggested that this might be a real standard he might be expected to imitate. Christ has never been an exactly pleasant role model. It’s too obvious to the appraising man what the consequences of truing to be like Christ might be. Being crucified naked upon a tree doesn't fit into most men’s career goals.
       The anti-Christ culture in the modern world, as much as it hates and vilifies women, in the end, must spew its final venom on that Man. Not only can it not believe in His divinity, it can’t believe in any of His personas. It refuses to believe that there is such a thing as a good man. It refuses to believe in such a thing as a pure man. A strong man with a combination of those qualities lives only in the most insulated halls of myth. It dreads and fears the virility of Christ. Any man who dares to make himself a persona Christi, whether he be a priest, a good father, a youthful activist, or any man fulfilling his calling, must be shot down. 
     But there he is: the Prince. He makes the fairy tales. The fragile bubble of the eucastrophic world can’t exist without him.”