Sunday, April 15, 2012

Mirror, Mirror

"Who is the greatest in the kingdom?" (Mt. 18:1)

Mirror, Mirror is just one movie in a string of fantasy films and television projects that have been emerging into the pop culture stratosphere this year.

In addition to this latest film, TV audiences have been caught under the spell of Grimm and Once Upon a Time. And later this summer, we anticipate seeing Snow White and the Huntsman, Brave, Dark Shadows, and the extremely historical fiction piece, Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter.

What connects all these elements together is the fact that fantasy stories provide us an allegory of our lives - a chance to put ourselves into another character's shoes (or glass slippers, etc.). Fantasy characters reflect who we are, yet at the same time, we enjoy them because they are nothing like who we are.

They exist in another "universe" where the rules are slightly different and the stories can be beyond the bounds of reality... but in some ways, they are still grounded in our everyday experiences: love, betrayal, heroism, danger, and so forth.

Just as the evil queen (Julia Roberts) asks, “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?,” we too might try to throw ourselves into the role of the charming prince (in this case, Armie Hammer) or the beautiful Snow White (Lily Collins) – but we find the connection just isn’t there in every scene.

Sometimes the mirror reminds us we’re just plain Dopey.

That's not to insult us. Consider the seven dwarfs here, modeled after the traditional "Disney" seven. Amongst all the fantastical characters in this film, it was the collection of dwarfs that truly caught my attention. It might have also had to do with the fact that, among their number, we could find the some of the best acting in the movie. But I digress.

Mirror, Mirror took some liberties with the naming of the seven, but the characteristics are still the same. These are the ones who might reflect us more than the inhabitants of the castle. These are the ones whose lives are more akin to middle class movie-goers than the story of the aloof Charming or the bitter Queen.

In fact, we might say that it all depends on the day as to which dwarf we're more connected to as we watch the film.

Some days we’re content with the happenings of our day like Happy/Chuckles (Ronald Lee Clark), while other days we’re overwhelmed, lethargic, or tempted to procrastinate like Sleepy/ Grub (Joe Gnoffo). Sometimes we get angry like Grumpy/Burtcher (Martin Klebba), while at other times, we’re ready to take charge like Doc/Grimm (Danny Woodburn).

Seeing how the seven dwarfs interact with one another and the critical role that they play in the story gives us a chance to put a cinematic mirror up to ourselves.

We can get frustrated when we find ourselves more aligned to these supposedly "minor" characters, but we shouldn’t. In these stories, everyone serves a purpose, even Dopey. In fact, with this timeless tale, the story would be flattened without these seven men. In fact, we should be happy (no pun intended) to be counted among their number.

In almost a similar cadence to the queen with her mirror, the disciples also asked Jesus, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” (Mt. 18:1) Jesus’ answer shocked them as it continues to shock us today: “Whoever humbles themselves like a child is the greatest in the kingdom.” (Mt. 18:4) This echoes another of Jesus’ proclamations; “Blessed are the poor in spirit…the meek…they who are persecuted…” (Mt. 5:3,5,10)

So when we feel humbled like Dopey or Grumpy (or any of the others, in whatever name we choose to give them), Jesus says, “blessed are you!” Even if we fall short of reflecting the hero or heroine of the fairy tale in our lives, God is still there with us and loves us just as much as princes and princesses and queens.

And that is no fantasy.

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