It would be easy to be a princess if I were dressed in cloth of gold, but it is a great deal more of a triumph to be one all the time when no one knows it.

Last night I stayed up to watch the royal wedding.  It was a last minute decision- I hadn’t intended on doing it, partly because I disapproved of all the nosy media and some of the silly fictional material surrounding poor William and Kate.  Like that movie they played on TV the other day- a whole movie supposedly depicting the details of their relationship.  As if any of us could possibly know those sort of details, never mind make a movie that’s even remotely accurate.  Anyway, all that aside, I caved last night around midnight and spent the night on the couch.  Why?  In a word, princesses.

Ever since I saw Disney’s The Little Mermaid when I was little, I have been completely infatuated with princesses.  I wanted to be Ariel, and then that later changed to Sleeping Beauty.  Even now, I keep myself updated on the Disney princesses- The Princess and the Frog and Tangled were both fantastic.  Let’s face it- princesses make inspiring heroines whether you’re watching a children’s movie or reading an adult novel.  Princess Leia, for instance, remains a science fiction icon of bravery, attitude and sex appeal.  Mercedes Lackey has a whole series of books where fairygodmothers, princes and princesses have to fight against the Tradition as it tries to mold all of their lives against their wills.  The fantasy genre is strewn with intelligent, spunky princesses who want to get out and explore life.  Princesses aren’t just about rescues and true love- they are symbols of grace, beauty, politeness, dignity and courage.

I’ve heard parents worry about their little girls using Disney princesses for role models because on the surface, the whole princess factor appears to be about physical features and finding a prince.  But if we examine fairytales a little more closely, we can see that nothing is further from the truth.  These princesses represent real life problems that real girls experience.  Jasmine escaped the palace because she was tired of having stuffy suitors paraded under her nose and she wanted her own life.  Aurora wanted to meet new people and was torn between continuing a relationship that her guardians disapproved of.  Cinderella worked tirelessly on her own dress to attend the ball long before her fairy godmother showed us, and Belle loved a man who took some serious getting used to.   These girls were rewarded with happy endings not because they were helpless and needed rescue, but because they went through some tough circumstances and deserved some good luck.  Real life doesn’t always work out that way, but is it wrong to let your little girl have optimism that if she tries her best and makes an effort to change her life, good things will happen?

As far as I’m concerned, this morning’s royal wedding was a tiny peek into a real life fairytale for girls who love princesses all over the world.  Kate Middleton, now Catherine, Her Royal Highness Duchess of Cambridge, was a picture of dignity and confidence throughout the whole event.  Despite all of the formalities, the intense media and the massive crowds, Kate never faltered.  She truly did women everywhere proud, and represented us “commoners” beautifully.  Best of luck to Kate and her prince, may you live happily ever after.

“Whatever comes,” she said, “cannot alter one thing. If I am a princess in rags and tatters, I can be a princess inside. It would be easy to be a princess if I were dressed in cloth of gold, but it is a great deal more of a triumph to be one all the time when no one knows it.”
– Frances Hodgson Burnett in A Little Princess

Some of my best leading men have been dogs and horses.

Two weeks ago, Elizabeth Taylor died.  I’d just like to take a moment to remember her as an inspiring actress in her portrayals of some of my favourite book characters. 

First off is National Velvet.  Based on the novel by Enid Bagnold, Elizabeth Taylor played Velvet, a young girl who pretends to be a male jockey to race her unpredictable, but talented horse in a prestigious competition.  The movie was fairly close to the book, though some of the big details were changed for the film.  Taylor’s portrayal of Velvet, however, was exactly how I’d pictured the girl in my mind while reading the book.  Mickey Rooney also started in this film, and a young Angela Lansbury, another of my favourite older actresses.  Having only seen Angela Lansbury as a mature actor, I’ll never forget the moment I realized it was a younger version of her playing one of Velvet’s sisters.

My second favourite Elizabeth Taylor character will come as no surprise to anyone who knows about the collection of Egyptian non-fiction, historical fiction and mythology that I’ve gathered since elementary school.  Cleopatra.  She is a symbol of female beauty and power in a time that was ruled strictly by men.  The actual details of Cleopatra’s story and life have been greatly romanticized by Hollywood and authors, but that doesn’t change the sexy portrayal that brought Elizabeth Taylor so much fame.  She is absolutely captivating as the fiery Cleopatra, and that is how I will remember Elizabeth Taylor.

Rest in peace.

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