Thursday, July 31, 2014

Lessons from Penelope

Over this past weekend I went on a trip to my friend's cabin in Alabama.  We had a blast boating and swimming in the lake.  It was nice to relax and not worry about anything.  We watched a lot of movies and one of those movies was Penelope.  Now, I don't normally like chick flicks because I was spoon fed them by my girl cousins growing up who insisted that I would be forced to watch them by future wives later in life....

Scratch that.  I don't normally like romantic chick flicks.  Chick flicks like Mean Girls are hilarious and awesome.  Romantic chick flicks that reinforce codependency and unrealistic expectations in relationships are not.

Anyway, Penelope is a little romantic but it's more of a whimsy rite of passage for a girl burdened with a curse.  The titular character comes from a long line of proud wealthy families.  One of her ancestors snubbed a servant girl because he was pressured by his family to marry someone of noble birth.  The servant girl got super depressed and committed suicide.  Her mother just so happened to be the town witch and cursed the family that the first daughter born to them would be given a curse of hideousness.  The curse would only be lifted until the girl would be loved by one of her own kind.

Fast forward 4 or 5 generations and we have Penelope.  Penelope is the first girl and she is born with a pig nose.  The mother, who is overly concerned with having a "normal" life and status hides her daughter from the press and keeps her shut in.  At 18 years of age they start introducing suitors who get interviewed behind a one way mirror.  Penelope observes them, asks them questions, and then reveals herself to them where they run away screaming like clockwork.

Every guy runs away up until she turns 25.  Max, actually stays and gets to know Penelope.  They become friends and potential for companionship blossoms.  Penelope reveals herself but Max doesn't run away--not at first anyway.  We later find out why Max runs and it's not the same reason why the other guys run.  Still, Penelope is hurt and decides to head out on her own and live independently from her parents and actually experience the world that she's been shut out from.

The movie loses a little steam at this point but picks back up when Penelope actually reveals her pig face to the world.  The irony is that she is adored by the public.  Her quirkiness is nothing short of endearing and people love her.  A previous suitor is then pressured to marry her because of her public appeal and Penelope agrees.  At the Altar, Penelope sees that she's only marrying him to please her mother and break some curse that she doesn't even care about.

Penelope leaves the altar and goes to her room being stressed out by her mother.  Her mother says, "Don't you want to break the curse?  Don't you want to be loved?"

Penelope responds, "I love myself!"

Thunder rolls and Penelope falls backwards.  She helps herself up and realizes her pig nose has been replaced by a human nose.  Penelope broke the curse because she loved and accepted herself.

Lessons on Love

One of the most important commandments is to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.  I think a big part of that commandment is the part where we need to truly love and accept ourselves as we are.  Penelope came to love and accept herself with the pig nose.  Her love was unconditional and completely sincere.

Ironically, Penelope even misses her pig nose when the curse is lifted.  She came to see it as a part of her that was likable.  Though she has mixed feelings on the curse being lifted, her self compassion remains unconditional and moves on in life.  That's one of the reasons loving ourselves is so important and so difficult.

A few years ago I learned about fears I had that made it really difficult to love and accept myself.  I didn't like who I was because I believed I was someone different.  I had to learn how to love myself again.  I found that as I grow I change and become something new.  When I become something new, I need to learn who I am and get to know me.  I have to do that, if I'm really going to love myself unconditionally with full acceptance.

Lessons on Action

When Penelope leaves the altar she does it for her.  She certainly loves her mother.  She probably even cares for her fake fiance.  But if Penelope stayed at the altar she would have put her mother's need for a "normal life" above Peneolope's need to love herself and having a life that's her own and not her mother's.  Penelope did something painful but for what she believed was best for her.

It's easy to confused self compassion with arrogance or self centeredness.  If we really love ourselves though, we'll do what's right for us despite the pain.  Taking a shower everyday because you want to be clean and even going to the gym (even if it sucks) can be a a way you show love to yourself.  If you value you, you'll take the medicine and you'll do what's right even when it hurts or isn't convenient.

Lessons on Curses  

We all have them.  We have trials.  We have stuff that makes our life hard or unique.  For Penelope, she had a pig snout.  For one of us, we may have cancer, a difficult addiction, a terrible loss, or even experience same sex attraction.  In the weight of our curse, we may not see it for the potential of the blessing it can be in our life.  When Penelope saw that no one really cared that she had a pig nose it allowed her to be in a place to consider that maybe being "cursed" with a pig nose wasn't so bad.  In fact, it was actually a good thing.

When a boy hears Penelope's story he thinks the moral of the story is, "It's not the power of the curse - it's the power you give the curse."  Our trials can definitely be challenging experiences but they can also be empowering when we start to see them in a different light.  We have power over what can bring us down or "curses" us.  How we go about taking power back from our curses (in healthy ways) and learning from them is a different story on its own.

I'd definitely recommend seeing Penelope.  It's a cute movie with a lot of heart.  Thanks for faithfully following us here on Mormon Geeks!


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