One of the great joys of my life was watching Steven Heathcote represent a Prince on stage many times during his wonderful career with the Australian Ballet. From what I understand from friends in the know he is truly a Prince among men as well.
News came across my desk recently that Steven Heathcote had returned to teach a whole new generation how to dance the Russian icon Swan Lake, a ballet composed by Pyotr Illyich Tchaikovsky in 1875-76, which inspired my thoughts on what is a Prince?
Swan Lake is a tragic tale of love and life about the lovely Princess Odette turned into a swan by an evil sorcerer. The only way for the spell to be broken is by the power of eternal love.
Prince Siegfried is the man also chosen to save the ‘Queen of the Swans’ but despite his best efforts the whole thing ends messily as the lovers drown themselves in a lake. Although we are all heartened to know they are reunited forever, even if only in death.
It’s perhaps the downside of Cinderella.
Some day my prince will come
Some day we’ll meet again
And away to his castle we’ll go
To be happy forever I know
In embracing ‘modern’ culture and talking to young women around the town when I am out and about I find there is a propensity to believe the idea of a Prince arriving to ‘save them’ still prevails.
Promotional jargon and powerful imagery seems to be pushing all the goal posts far beyond old boundaries, telling me that a Princess is what most men want too, preferably one that looks like a supermodel or a glamorous actress in Hollywood.
Even scarier is the idea both may want and demand a relationship that offers more than ’50 shades of grey’.
And now another new movie Cinderella is back to guide them.
The difference is that in the 1950 musical, which certainly dazzled me, the figures were animated.
This time Lily James an actress young women all know as the rebellious Lady Rose in the period drama Downton Abbey on TV , is now a real life Cinderella albeit a woman who has promised her mother she will always be kind.
Sitting next to a gaggle of gorgeous young girls in a café recently who had seen the movie was illuminating. All the chairs were so close I couldn’t help but hear their conversation about the type of Prince Charming they idolized.
Goodness I thought have times not really changed as I have been led to believe?
We have certainly looked at a lot of women of influence in our time, and the occasional man of power and perception here on the ‘Circle’.
So is it socially and culturally a good time to re-evaluate what being a Prince among men is really all about or to at least promote some sort of discussion about it?
I’m wishing (I’m wishing) for the one I love
To find me (to find me) today
And the prince answers Snow White: Today!
So is change just really an illusion?
It was 1937 when imagination’s role model Walt Disney presented his movie about the lovely Snow White.
During the age I grew up in Australia after World War II most girls I knew were heavily involved in that dream that one day their prince would come based on all the songs in the movie’s lyrics.
After all my friends and I enjoyed it countless times down at the Boomerang Picture Theatre at Coogee Beach.
It was even a subject of conversation in high schools and then in institutional and other work places I was in around the town all through the swinging 60’s.
It was a big beat up from tales told in Grimm storybooks when we were young and, the promises made by our mothers.
Just wait, my mother used to tell me, it will happen.
I enjoyed a vast ‘reading career during my teenage years at the library and was truly amazed at her blind belief in something I could never see as a reality.
To me a marriage having read a great deal about it, was about much much more than a gorgeous guy and a girl in a white dress, flowers and a cake.
But then most people hadn’t as I later found out, also had a grounded fiercely practical Scottish Granny as I had to guide their lives to date.
No wool had been pulled over her eyes!
They also hadn’t read Kahlil Gibran’s stuning work The Prophet at the Library, whose dissertations on friendship, giving, love and marriage had helped shape my views as well.
Certainly I knew early on that without finding a man you could trust as the main component, then the happy ever after would not ever ensue.
Men never had it so good as at that time … women looked up to them with shining eyes and adoring faces.
If they were indeed ‘Pretty Women’ men opened doors for them and a lucky few were given fashionable allowances without limits as well.
It was required that like our previous counterparts we metaphorically at least, should put a blue bow in our hair when he came home from his hard day at the office and smile, smile, smile.
Corporate types took their ladies on international and interstate jaunts, to events great and small as well as on fancy holidays. All was right in the world, well so they thought.
Then society and its structure began to change urged on by the momentum gathered as Helen Reddy in the lead up to the all new United Nations declared International Woman’s Year 1975 sang I Am Woman – Hear me roar – ‘I am not a novice any longer and will make my own way in the world.
By then the voices of the lucky few during WW 1, plus the many more from WW II who had been given a taste of the freedom of ordering their own lives, were resonating loudly and long, beginning to make an impact in the wider scheme of things but how would it end was the inevitable question?
Especially when it came time to have babies? They were not being relegated to the arena of ‘afterthought’, not the primary motive as they had been by all those women before us.
The girls from World War II believed that it wasn’t enough to have worked in highly skilled jobs deciphering highly intelligent codes designed mostly by men as well as other high level intelligence formats, for them to be expected by the same men once the war was over, to just go back to how it had been before.
They had the vote and were now NOT voting as their husbands told them to do, but as they decided for themselves. After all a cardboard voting booth was one place he was not allowed to follow them.
From what I can deduce today however some 50 + more years later, no matter how strong or committed the ‘feminist movement’ was to changing the status quo or having many young women learn to stand on their own two feet, metaphorically and in reality for many it didn’t really happen as they had predicted it would.
Equality many women believe is still only available in the realms of fantasy, especially if the reporters on the Insiders program on Channel 2 are to be believed.
On Sunday 22nd February, 2015 the Insiders program on ABC reported that women who do rise through the ranks and achieve a role in an executive suite in the corporate world full of men of commerce, find that it is often only in a place where the true ‘princes’ that surround them really don’t want to be.
When the girls do arrive in the top office it seems they’re still not paid remuneration commensurate with experience or skills or, an equivalent to what a man would be offered in the same position.
The men do know now the girls like ‘challenges’ both in the bedroom and in business too and that they have something to prove so they patronisingly give them many.
Recently Patricia Arquette, when receiving her Best Supporting Actress award that I feel compelled to say …
“To every woman who gave birth, to every tax payer and citizen of this nation: We have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America!” Meryl Streep and Jay Lo whooped and clapped her, and ‘twitter’ exploded.
The struggle is still ongoing it seems.
Some day when spring is here
We’ll find our love anew
And the birds will sing
And wedding bells will ring
Some day when my dreams come true
So, is it then a case of some women settling for less rather than demanding more?
And is the climate right for making waves because if you do girls, you may need to be prepared that just maybe it will come back to bite and perhaps even haunt you.
My generation may have started this wave of independence but is it being measured as a man as a Prince among men still the penultimate goal?
What is it that constitutes being a Prince; and will your role as his Princess stack up and stand scrutiny as well?
Is it just a matter of being born into a ‘royal’ or aristocratic bloodline?
Or is it all about so much more?
Talking Princes we would have to say a real Prince William, England’s Duke of Cambridge is ticking many boxes, at least as far as his media profile provides.
Despite his success, we would have to start any serious discussion by saying if we do completely embrace ideas of democracy and freedom as we purport to do in western civilisation, then the very idea of a Prince of the ‘blood’ doesn’t really work at all.
To Prince William’s credit he seems genuine, vulnerable, kind, considerate, strong and firm especially when he needs to be.
He is deeply passionate and really concerned about helping others including his wife Katherine, the penultimate Princess, although she is really only a Duchess.
They are putting family first and we would have to also say that these two seemingly do epitomize Kahlil Gibran’s dissertation on Marriage in his landmark work The Prophet bending in the breeze together but apart.
They are excellent role models for their generation.
Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow**
In a true democratic society a man considered a prince among other men would be required to prove himself worthy of the ‘title’, earning his stripes as a leader of all – a first among equals by earning and giving respect and revealing his kindness.
Cannot see why it should be any different for the girls?
He’s certainly not out there looking for your glass slippers because let’s face it girls, we still outnumber the guys, so perhaps we should be out there looking for his shoe instead!!!
Does anyone know what they will be made of?
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2015
*Lyrics from Some Day My Prince Will Come and I am Wishing – Snow White 1937
**Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet