The Power of Female Beauty: Cinderella (2015)

cinderella_ver2Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella (2015) reveals what makes a woman truly beautiful. Cinderella (Lily James) is not only physically beautiful, but she also has a beautiful character and personality that set her apart from all her peers. This is manifested in nine virtues: love, kindness, courage, selflessness, contentment, diligence, generosity, humility, and the ability to forgive. An important theme in the film is how people respond to beauty: While the prince (Richard Madden) is swept away by Cinderella, the stepmother and her daughters are repelled by her.

Cinderella is a paragon of virtue. These virtues were instilled in her by her mother (Hayley Atwell) who taught her: “Have courage and be kind.” As an orphan, Cinderella shows love and kindness to her stepmother (Cate Blanchett) who constantly mistreats her, and her courage is seen in her positive attitude after the death of her parents. Cinderella is selfless, offering her bedroom to her sisters, and finds contentment living alone in the attic. Her diligence is seen in the household chores she does in obedience to her stepmother, while her stepsisters, Anastasia (Holliday Grainger) and Drisella (Sophie McShera), are both idle. Cinderella is generous, sharing her scraps of food with the mice, and giving an old woman (Helena Bonham Carter) something to drink. Cinderella is humble, never presuming that the prince would choose her to be his bride. Finally, despite being wronged by her stepmother in countless ways, she forgives her. These nine virtues make Cinderella more beautiful than any woman in the film. If she did not have physical beauty, she would still be beautiful, for she has a beautiful character and personality.

Cinderella’s beauty is a force that either attracts or repels people. The prince falls in love at first sight with her, drawn at first to her physical appearance, but ultimately by who she is as a person. In contrast, the stepmother and her daughters have no love for Cinderella at all. For the stepmother, Cinderella is a reminder of the husband that she lost, and a threat to her ambition to have Anastasia or Drisella marry the Prince. More importantly, the stepmother and her daughters are repelled by Cinderella because they do not possess her many virtues. Everything that she is, they are not. They are unloving, unkind, selfish, greedy, and lazy. Because they do not love virtue, they do not love Cinderella. Her beautiful character shines a light on the ugliness that is in their hearts.

Cinderella demonstrates the power of female beauty. A woman with physical beauty is a wonder to behold, but a woman with a beautiful character possesses a greater beauty. As women (and men) grow old, their physical beauty usually diminishes. However, when Cinderella grows old, she will still be beautiful, for she is beautiful within. Her beauty will last a lifetime.

My Kindle eBook: The Donkey King and Other Stories


Seven Symptoms of Mania: Homeland “The Vest” (2011)


In Homeland “The Vest”, Carrie (Claire Danes), who is bipolar, has a manic episode. When on her medication, Carrie has a track record of forming accurate judgments in her work as a C.I.A. agent. However, when she goes off her medication, and becomes manic, no one believes what she says. An unexpected theme in “The Vest” is that people who experience mania can still have an accurate perception of reality.

A manic episode is an “abnormally and persistently elevated, expansive, or irritable mood and persistently increased goal-directed activity or energy, lasting at least one week…”1 When Saul (Mandy Patinkin) visits Carrie at the hospital, he is visibly stunned by her changed personality. Carrie is irate that the nurses do not have a green pen. Later, her mood is euphoric—in one shot, she smiles gleefully for no apparent reason.

In addition to an abnormal change in mood, there are seven major symptoms that can manifest during a manic episode. These include “pressure to keep talking”, “flight of ideas or subjective experience that thoughts are racing”, “decreased need for sleep”, “increase in goal-directed activity”, “distractibility”, “inflated self-esteem or grandiosity”, and “excessive involvement in activities that have a high potential for painful consequenes.”2 In “The Vest”, Carrie displays six of the major symptoms of mania.

The first symptom of Carrie’s mania is she talks at a very fast pace. When Saul visits her at the hospital, he tells her: “You’re not yourself. You’re talking very fast. Your thoughts are running together.” Carrie’s thoughts are moving faster than her ability to speak.

With racing thoughts, Carrie has a “flight of ideas” and a unique revelation. She tells Saul “there is a bigger, pernicious, Abu Nazir-worthy plot…” Saul doubts what Carrie says, but she is convinced that another terrorist attack is imminent even though she has no evidence.

After her release from the hospital, Carrie has a “decreased need for sleep” and an “increase in goal-directed activity.” She studies and color-codes boxes of classified documents until late in the evening, and only gets tired when she is given medication.

Although Carrie has a singular focus on stopping another terrorist attack, she is easily distracted. When her sister Maggie (Amy Hargreaves) stops in traffic, Carrie impulsively gets out of the vehicle, crosses the street, and is nearly hit by a car. As she stares at the plants sprouting from the soil, she has a revelation that this is analogous to a coming terrorist attack. To Maggie, Carrie is living in a world of her own, seemingly divorced from reality.

The sixth major symptom of mania is grandiosity: an “unrealistic and exaggerated concept of self-worth, importance … and ability.”3 Carrie believes that she is right, and that everyone else is wrong. Her father, Frank (James Rebhorn), tells her: “Feels good out there, doesn’t it? Like you’re the Queen of the world.” To Frank, Carrie’s behavior is grandiose. She has overestimated her abilities as a C.I.A. agent.

The final outcome of Carrie’s manic episode is ironic: The person experiencing mania has more insight and understanding than people who are in a normal state of mind. Later in the series, there is a terrorist attack, just as Carrie predicted. This is the one aspect in which Carrie’s manic episode is atypical. When a person becomes manic, they are absolutely convinced that their revelations are right, but in reality, they are often wrong.


  1. American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-5 (Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing, 2013), 124.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Medical Dictionary, s.v. “grandiosity,” accessed November 9, 2017,

My Kindle eBook ⇒ The Donkey King and Other Stories

Three Reasons to Delay Sex Until Marriage: The Other Boleyn Girl (2003)

003486_dvd_the_other_boleyn_girl_bbcIn Philippa Lowthorpe’s The Other Boleyn Girl (2003), Anne Boleyn (Jodhi May) wants to marry King Henry VIII (Jared Harris) and become Queen of England. Although Henry wants to have sex with Anne before they are married, she refuses for three reasons: to avoid a pregnancy, to increase Henry’s desire for her, and to give him an incentive to marry her.

Anne’s refusal to sleep with Henry is not because of any moral objections. She previously had sex with Lord Henry Percy (Oliver Chris) when he promised to marry her. Instead, her concern is the risk of a pregnancy, which would prevent her from becoming queen. A year earlier, her sister Mary (Natascha McElhone), a married woman, was Henry’s mistress, but after she became pregnant he abandoned her. Anne tells Mary: “I do not intend to be the king’s whore. I will be his queen.” In 16th century England, a king could never marry a woman who had a child out of wedlock.

A second reason Anne refuses to have sex with Henry is to increase his desire for her. She also flirts with him, kisses him, and dresses provocatively to entice him. Her refusal to have sex is a risk because Henry could move on and pursue another woman; however, Anne’s gambit pays off: Henry desires her even more and falls in love with her.

Anne’s actions show how a woman can test a man’s love for her. If a woman doesn’t want to have sex before marriage, and the man she loves leaves her, it proves that sex was more important to him than a relationship. If he loved her unconditionally, he would be willing to wait.

Anne is unable to make Henry wait until their wedding night to make love, but she does make him wait over two years, just prior to their wedding. This shows how delaying sex can give a man an incentive to get married. Anne’s decision to remain chaste motivates Henry to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon (Yolanda Vazquez). If Anne had slept with Henry right away, he would have had no reason to annul his marriage. She would have been his mistress but never his wife.

In the end, Anne’s marriage to Henry implodes because it wasn’t founded on companionship. Anne married him because of her ambition to be queen, and Henry married her so she could bear him a son. He claimed he loved Anne, but he was not faithful to her. Anne should have known that a man who would have an affair with her sister would also cheat on her.

My Kindle eBook ⇒ The Donkey King and Other Stories

Why Racial Stereotypes Are Not Always Racist: The Lone Ranger (2013)

lone_ranger_ver19_xlgRacial stereotypes are “simplified and often misleading representations of the characteristics of members of a given ethnic group.”1 Stereotypes can be misleading because there will be individuals in a group who do not have the same characteristics as other group members. It is a common misconception that racial stereotypes are always false. On the contrary, in some instances, they may accurately portray individual members of an ethnic group. Stereotypes are not only negative; they can also be positive.

Gore Verbinski’s The Lone Ranger (2013) has been criticized for reinforcing racial stereotypes about Native Americans. Some critics have called the film racist.2 Tonto (Johnny Depp) speaks in broken English, has a painted face, and is referred to as a “noble savage.” Although these are considered racial stereotypes of Native Americans, Tonto’s characterization is not racist.

Racial stereotypes are only racist when they are used to characterize one race as being inferior to another race. Racism is “the ideology that humans are divided into separate and exclusive biological entities called races … and that some races are innately superior to others.”3 For The Lone Ranger to be a racist film, it would have to characterize Native Americans as being inferior to white people. Tonto, representing the Comanche Indians, is not inferior to anyone.

One stereotype in the film is Tonto’s inability to speak English as well as a white person. A recurring (and funny) line is when he says, “Make trade.” Tonto is not inferior because of his broken English. On the contrary, he is bilingual, a sign of intelligence, and he has learned a second language without going to school.

Tonto does not have any formal education, yet he has something more important: wisdom and life experience. In contrast, John Reid (Armie Hammer), who has a University degree, is naïve and out of touch with the real world. He refuses to carry a gun, saying, “I don’t believe in them.” Unarmed, he gets shot, falls off his horse and nearly dies. In an earlier scene, he does not realize that a poster for “Reds” is for a brothel, and when he sees the women in the brothel, he does not know they are prostitutes. Reid grows as a human being and becomes the Lone Ranger due to Tonto’s wisdom and influence. Tonto’s characterization as the “wise” Native American is a positive stereotype.

Another stereotype in the film is Tonto’s painted face. Although the style of his face paint may not be historically accurate,4 and the dead crow on his head is a parody of the Comanche Indians, Tonto’s strange appearance is used for comic effect, to make audiences laugh, not to portray him as inferior. Stereotypes arise from past and present observations of an ethnic group, and some of those observations are funny. Tonto, however, is more than a comic character. A loyal friend to Reid, he twice rescues him from death, often risking his own life in the process, even after Reid has abandoned him. Tonto is the hero of the film, a brave warrior who is not afraid to die, a positive stereotype of Native Americans.

Perhaps the most controversial stereotype in the film is Tonto being referred to as a noble savage. In a flash forward scene, he is too old to work, so he earns money in a circus by standing in a tableaux called “Noble Savage in his Natural Habitat.” This term is not negative or demeaning. A noble savage is “a representative of primitive mankind … symbolizing the innate goodness of humanity when free from the corrupting influence of civilization.”5 Tonto may fit the definition of a noble savage, but he is not a brutal one. A white man, Cavendish (William Fichtner), is the brutal savage. He guts Dan Reid (James Badge Dale) with a knife and eats his heart. Cavendish, who killed everyone in Tonto’s village, is the most inhuman character in the film. Additionally, all of the “bad guys” in the film are white men—another racial stereotype.

In The Lone Ranger, the Comanche Indians are innocent victims of white men, but the historical reality is they were a brutal and violent tribe. The word Comanche means “anyone who wants to fight me all the time.”6 According to author S.C. Gwynne, when the Comanche attacked white settlers, “All the men were killed, and any men who were captured alive were tortured; the captive women were gang raped. Babies were invariably killed.”7 The film, however, depicts the Comanche as a peaceful tribe who do not attack any white settlements, and only go to war to defend their territory. This is a positive stereotype of Native Americans, and while many Native Americans in the 19th century were peaceful, there are others who were not. Thus, it is not only negative stereotypes that can give us a simplified and misleading representation of an ethnic group; positive stereotypes can too.


  1. Questia, s.v. “Ethnic Stereotypes,” accessed October 31, 2014,
  2. Aisha Harris, “Johnny Depp’s Tonto: Not as Racist as You Might Think. But Still Kind of Racist,” Slate, July 3, 2013,
  3. Encyclopædia Britannica, s.v. “Racism,” accessed October 31, 2014,
  4. Caity Weaver, “Johnny Depp’s Tonto is Based on a White Man’s Painting of an Imaginary Native American,” Gawker, May 1, 2012,
  5. Oxford Dictionaries, s.v. “Noble Savage,” accessed May 5, 2015,
  6. Encyclopædia Britannica, s.v. “Comanche,” accessed April 4, 2017,
  7. Jonathan Foreman, “The truth Johnny Depp wants to hide about the real-life Tontos: How Comanche Indians butchered babies, roasted enemies alive and would ride 1,000 miles to wipe out one family,” Daily Mail, August 18, 2013,

Before you go, I would like to send you a free eBook