Kenneth Branagh’s 2015 film version of the classic fairy-tale, Cinderella, struck me as having a significant difference. In the traditional renditions of the story I was told as a child, I think I came away with the idea that ‘beauty’ and ‘ugliness’ were about physical appearance. However, Branagh manages to convey the idea that attitudes of the heart matter so much more, and this started me wondering about whether the film might prove a useful tool in explaining Non Violent Resistance (NVR) to children.

Branagh’s telling of the story moves away from any notion that the step sisters were physically ‘ugly’, and redefines their unpleasantness as their unkindness. Ella is charged by her dying mother to ‘have courage and be kind’ and this is a theme that is carried throughout the film. Ella’s step mother, and 2 step sisters, none of whom are particularly unpleasant to look at, go on to treat her increasingly cruelly, threatening her image of herself as a child who was loved by both her parents before they passed away. Her attractiveness comes from her courage and kindness, in the face of considerable abuse – her refusal to give up, or resort to being mean to them in return. In the same way, the practice of NVR requires both courage and kindness – courage to ‘break the rules’ and act in a way that can feel counter intuitive, and kindness in loving others and moving towards them despite their behaviour. Cinderella (as she has been renamed by her tormentors) pronounces her forgiveness towards her step mother as she leaves the home at the end of the film, so keeping her dignity, self respect, and promise to her mother intact.

As trainers, practitioners, parents and grandparents, I guess we not only want to encourage (note the French for ‘heart’ buried in that word – take heart, dear friend…) other parents to resist violent behaviour in their children, but to teach and train our children and grandchildren to develop attitudes of courage and kindness towards others, when faced with bullies, or those who threaten their images of themselves as loved.

In the same way, I can see that my own journey of development of the practice of NVR requires courage and kindness – not least of all to myself.

Julie Oates

Julie Oates

Specialist Family and Systemic Psychotherapist

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