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I fell in love with the movie “Penelope” for several reasons: 1) It starred James McAvoy <3, 2) It was funny, and 3) It was cute, lighthearted, and fairytale-like. At first, that was all I saw in it — just a cute movie, with a cute story, and a VERY cute actor. Only after watching it again did I realize that behind its lighthearted surface lay a deeper lesson, one that hits us all someway or another. I figured it was worth uncovering.
If you do not want the plot spoiled for you, DO NOT read the following 4 paragraphs. The reason I’m doing this is to give you some background in order for the movie’s “lesson” to make sense. Here it goes! Don’t say I didn’t warn you! 😛
Basically the movie goes like this: Penelope is born cursed with a pig’s nose. The only way to break the curse is if a ‘blue-blood’, someone of noble birth like herself, falls in love with her as she is, pig nose and all. Her mother invites potential suitors from noble families to court her. At first the courtships go well as conversations occur from behind a one-way mirror — she can see the suitors, but the suitors can’t see her. But everything goes downhill once she reveals herself to them; revolted by her pig’s nose, they flee. Every single one of them.
But one day a suitor named Max visits her, despite not being a ‘blue-blood’. Unexpectedly enjoying her company, he visits her again — something no other suitor has done, since they all left after the first encounter. So Penelope reveals herself to him, trusting that he won’t flee like the rest. Unfortunately, upon seeing her face, he backs away, leaving her devastated, hopeless, and feeling unlovable.
Rather than being revolted by her pig’s nose, however, the real reason Max backs away is because he knows he isn’t a ‘blue-blood’, so he can’t break her curse. The only reason her mother wants Penelope married is for the suitor to break her curse. So he figures that he cannot marry her if he can’t provide that.
Penelope, without knowing this, goes out to find herself. Distressed that no suitor will accept her despite her pig’s nose, she finally decides that she will stop waiting: If no one else will accept her nose, she will. Then VOILA! The curse breaks. It turns out that all she needed was to love herself first, not to rely on someone else’s love. In the end, like all fairytales, Penelope and Max live happily ever after.
THE ‘LESSON’ …
This story rings true for so many of us women on a deeper level. Let’s face it: Each one of us desires to be known intimately, to be loved exactly for who we are, to know that people are willing to stick around with us regardless of our flaws. But sometimes we’re guarded, afraid that revealing more of ourselves will cause others to flee. Yet once in a while there are those select few who manage to gain our trust, beckoning us to come out from our hiding places, giving us the courage to share more of ourselves.
Yet sometimes the inevitable happens: life causes certain people to drift out of our lives, either by choice or by chance. So what do we tell ourselves? We tell ourselves that we aren’t lovable or beautiful enough, since if we were, they wouldn’t have left. We tell ourselves that the reason they didn’t stay was because they saw nothing worth staying for. Then, like Penelope, we perceive ourselves as cursed, inherently flawed in someway or another.
So desperate for validation, we cling to the affection of others to feel worthy. But as Max discovers, no one else can break the curse for us; self-acceptance and love must come from ourselves first.
This may be a life-long process — perhaps no one will ever love themselves perfectly — but it’s totally worth the effort! The people in our lives can help us along the way, but nothing beats a love that comes directly from ourselves.
WHERE ‘YOU’ COME IN …
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Oh, and watch the movie. I’m totally promoting it.