The American Dream
Ash is the universal symbol of humiliation and penitence.
Earlier versions of this Occidental tale can be traced to Asia, Africa and all parts of the planet. Cinderella is an ancient universal dream.
The fairytale is an educational tool used to teach us how to live. Why does it perpetually repeat itself?
It is a matter of escaping the ashes to access the light, to shine on one’s own, like a diamond extracted from gangue. Escaping is not only a question of personal pride but rather that of a lucky star (a fairy godmother), chance, good fortune, destiny. It’s a matter of being recognized for who one is within oneself. To be discovered because one exists, to be loved because one exists, to be celebrated because one exists. One is worthy because one exists.
To seduce and to please: those were the intended effects of Massenet’s opera. The fairytale is living in a dream world, the comforting opinion that all ends well, the promise of heaven.
But reality is more cruel; rarely does a prince marry a commoner.
United States in the 1950’s. After the war, after saving Europe, by way of Hollywood, United States assumes the role as the new aristocracy. The marriage of Grace Kelly to Prince Rainier proves that anything is possible.
It was the last time anyone felt confident about the future.
What follows is feminism, the Vietnam war, May 68, Kent State, the Black Panthers and then, in succession: the first oil crisis, economic realism, triumphant capitalism, The End Of History by Fukuyama, Thatcher, Reagan, Bush father and son.
We no longer believe in fairytales. Ours is a time of irony and cynicism. And yet the desire to believe is more quotidian than ever, evidenced by our fascination in the lives of the rich and famous, in gossiping about the stars. When asked youth no longer dream about becoming astronauts. Instead they want to be famous. No longer serving the greater good. Everyone for themselves. Times are hard. Me first.
In the 1950’s our mothers and fathers married for life, for better or for worse. They believed in it. We are the children of this naiveté, this confidence in the future. This American dream.
The American dream is to escape the ashes, to become somebody. To succeed. Own property. The American dream is an electrical appliance for every task, gleaming, strutting about in the kitchen for the Queen of the house.
The American dream is a small white gate demarcating the kingdom’s frontier. If a blender is able to make one happy, why wouldn’t a Formica table be able to transform itself into a carriage?
Modern comfort is an enormous lie, intending to make life easier it became a substitute instead. Mr Clean proliferates to ensure that everything stays clean and shiny! And the television became the new prophet, an oracle at the centre of the temple: the kitchen.
For a housewife marriage was the Royal Way. Finding the right match will save us from misery, tedium, banality, the disdain of those who believe they are better than us.
Finding true love? Everyone deserves it. Everyone can find it. It’s a simple question of finding the shoe that fits.
Drive-in cinemas. Fat cars and big stars. Magic is the cinema, the stars, the dream.The dream of the little girl who is to marry the Prince. With the Prince comes love, money and fame. Three for one. With a wedding ring, one is known at last, recognized. Discovered.
In America class division doesn’t exist. Everyone wants (and is able ) to become a star. To that end there are competitions for beauty, popularity and talent. Everyone can be the chosen one since everyone is unique. Everyone has a talent waiting to be discovered, is a true love waiting to be found.
One absolute condition: one must know who one is in order to know what one wants. Therein resides the rub!