The Grip of Fairy Tales

Published on 04/29/11 at 10:39:32 pm using 650 words.

Susie Diamond, the character played so authentically, flawlessly and unforgettably by Michelle Pfeiffer in The Fabulous Baker Boys wasn’t immune. She was somewhat hardened… made tough. Impossible not to have been leading the life she led. But however hardened or tough, she never came across as invulnerable to the grip of fairy tales embedded in our psyches since childhood.

In an unguarded moment, or rather a moment of unguardedness we all occasionally yearn for, welcome and seize for better or worse, she recounts a night in a magic sort of place.

But I stayed at the Hartford one time. You should see the rooms. All satin and velvet. And the bed… royal blue, trimmed in lace clean as snow. Hard to believe sleeping in a room like that don’t change your life. But it don’t.

She was not immune to being swept by beauty or believing for a short while that a different environment, a detail, beauty itself might have the power to change the course of a life. Proof is that the thought crossed her mind long enough for her to voice it.

I went to work but didn’t teach this morning. Neither my students nor I could manage to make enough of an effort to concentrate given our proximity to a TV set. The British Royal wedding was on and we couldn’t keep our eyes off the screen. At first, we only wanted to see the dress, then we stuck around for the vows, and finally it seemed only right to hang in there for the kiss on the balcony. Time went right on by and eventually we quit pretending we weren’t that interested.

The ceremony’s tug-of-war effect on the people around me (pitting those who made time to watch quite enthusiastically and were openly moved by it against those who rolled their eyes proud of their conviction and immunity to such inconsequential lofty displays) got me pondering… What is it about the notion of ‘fairy tale’ that still makes some of us respond to it against reason and against consistent evidence that it rarely leads the way to happiness ever after? It might just be a phenomenon that stems from the mainly female tendency… sensibility… weakness… (call it what you will) to take in beauty as promise of better things and to breathe in that perceived promise blindly.

It can be wildly intoxicating, facing a moment where something extraordinary becomes visible, tangible in our world. Watching the making of such a moment. In Vanilla Sky, Penelope Cruz’s Sofia Serrano is reduced to girlish shrieks at sensing the birth of what could very well be true love in her life.

I suppose women are easier than men in that regard. I suppose the mere possibility that this time things might turn out differently, speaks louder than reason. What starts off as beautiful, grandiose and so close to perfect simply has to leave a rainbow in its wake which in turn can only lead to every magical detail we expect might follow.

The glitter of tiaras, lace “clean as snow,” uniformed/strikingly handsome/all of the above men who, from afar, resemble the princes of Disney fairy tales we grew up on and dedicated our daydreams to, feed and stretch our optimism to a dangerous extent. To the point where everything seems possible and reality (from our restricted vantage point) is relegated to not fully acceptable.

We err in pitting so-called fairy tales witnessed from afar against reality. For it is all reality whether we witness it from up close or from a safe, rose-colored distance. We err in overvaluing that which seems extraordinary for whether it be ordinary or extraordinary, it is certainly not perfect.

Perfection is purely seeming.

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