Two contemporary retellings of Grimm's Cinderella

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One of the most iconic marriages in recent memory is that of Lily Aldrin and Marshall Eriksen from the sitcom How I Met Your Mother (HIMYM). These two characters have been together since their early days in college, embarking on a decades-long adventure that has seen them go through every trial and tribulation that has only strengthened their friendship.

In many ways, Lily and Marshall exemplify the values of a happy couple, two people who embody the concepts of "destined to be together" and "happily ever after" (Hill, 2014). Various facts were unveiled in HIMYM to demonstrate how close and inseparable Lily and Marshall are. From the most significant moments of their relationship to even the most mundane of anecdotes, these two are depicted as being compatible in almost every level.

For instance, these two have been shown to exhibit social indicators of an extremely close bond, including finishing each other’s sentences, saying “good night” to each other through video-recorded lullabies, hosting dinner parties with friends and other couples, and odd traditions and means of communication only they can understand.

In another example, the two agreed to spend the days prior to their wedding away from each other after their friends remarked that they were so close to one another. Instead of following this rule, Marshall decides to sneak out every night to Lily’s room and helps her eat large quantities of food to fit in her wedding dress, an endeavour in which she succeeds. Later during the reception, their best friend Ted uses this incident in his toast as the ultimate example of why Lily and Marshall are perfect together, with which the audience may be inclined to agree.

While their love for one another is so strong they are still genuinely attracted to one another in their 18th year together (by the series finale), Lily and Marshall underwent difficult challenges that tested the stability of their relationship. The primary conflict between these two emerges from the expression of their individual identities, considering they started their relationship at relatively young ages (Hill, 2014). For Lily, her commitment to Marshall and their family was tested by her unrealized desire of travelling the world as an artist, which actually led her to break off their engagement the first time. For Marshall, his dream of becoming an environmental lawyer to save the world comes into conflict with providing for his family. Due to his unpaid student loans, bad investments, and Lily’s massive debts, he is forced to go into corporate law in his early career.

However, facing such adversity through the years have only made the love between Lily and Marshall even stronger. They share a similar philosophy about love being an emotion, an invaluable treasure that prevails against all odds and seems both pre-destined and empirically-determined at the same time.

In this context, the Lily-Marshall coupling share a similar theme to how Cinderella found the love of her life. In Cinderella’s case, it is portrayed in theory that love is deserved by someone who shows traits such as humility, kindness, faith in the greater good, and industriousness. These, along with her mysterious identity early on, are what it took to get the prince to be impressed by her, leading to their eventual union. In contrast, those who show what is considered to be a terrible attitude and mistreatment of others will get punished, in one way or another. For Lily and Marshall, this philosophy is seen in their interactions which are expounded on more than Cinderella’s story. They both believe that love is built on a foundation of strong friendship, effective communication, a willingness to compromise, and mutual trust and attraction between two people. This is the reason why every other couple in HIMYM have looked to the pair as the example on which their respective relationships should be based.

Leonard and Penny

The pairing of Leonard and Penny Hofstadter is the primary relationship featured in the popular sitcom The Big Bang Theory (TBBT). The dynamics between Leonard and Penny parallel the Grimm’s tale of Cinderella in many ways in terms of the concepts of love and romance, while at the same time it defies currently established social norms.

TBBT portrays how intellectuals handle social situations, especially when it came to relationships. In this case, Leonard resembles Cinderella’s role in this story. As a highly-gifted physicist, he is portrayed to be hardworking, humble, and kind yet socially-awkward. He also had to deal with the behaviour of his closest friends, all of whom are fellow scientists with mannerisms considered by today’s standards to be even more unusual. Having to deal with day-to-day stresses and still remain his optimistic, hopeful self makes Leonard a similar character to Cinderella.

On the other hand, Penny can be seen as a more modern adaptation of the prince from the Grimm’s tale. She is portrayed as a physically attractive woman, desired by multitudes of men. While at the onset of the series she possesses neither financial stability nor success in her pursuits as a professional actress, Penny is shown to be friendly, highly intelligent in social situations, and has a good heart. She is searching for happiness or the love of her life, similar to the prince.

As soon as Penny moves across the hall from Leonard’s apartment, he was attracted to her immediately and started to pursue her. Eventually, they would end up dating and getting married, although not without difficulties. The personalities of Leonard and Penny have very little in common, just like Cinderella and the prince, which is something that is repeatedly highlighted throughout TBBT to the point of being the source of humour for their friends.

For instance, the two are often shown to fight over different issues. Given their different backgrounds and opposing approaches to dealing with them, Leonard and Penny have frequent arguments, which has almost become the subject of jokes from their friends (Scroggins, 2016). From simple matters like watching football with Penny’s friends or going to Comic-Con with Leonard’s group to major issues like Penny’s financial troubles and deciding on an apartment to live after their marriage, the two clashed over almost every matter imaginable.

As a result, Penny had a difficult time committing her future to Leonard. She hesitated to commit herself to Leonard during the early days of his courtship. This uncertainty led her to initially break up with him, which that lasted for more than a year (Scroggins, 2016). Even after their reunion, she still had episodes of doubt because she thought their love for each other was “boring” in contrast to her relationships with more physically attractive men in her younger days.

Despite all of these problems, Leonard and Penny truly love one another. Throughout TBBT, it is shown that their years of friendship, the effort they placed in their relationship to overcome their differences, and personal growth experienced through their time together have strengthened the love they feel for one another. As Penny began to take interest in Leonard’s interests in physics and video games while Leonard has become more socially adept, their bond has become stronger than ever and proves that love can overcome any type of adversity, as long as the pair are willing to venture into unfamiliar territory.

While at first glance the romantic history of Leonard and Penny resembles nothing like that between Cinderella and her prince, a deeper look at their romantic history and shared experiences together reveal that their love story is essentially a modern adaptation of a classic tale.

Works Cited

Hill, Libby. "Ode to Marshall and Lily: The true central couple of How I Met Your Mother." A.V. Club. N.p., 22 Sept. 2014. Web. 15 Apr. 2017.

Scroggins, Laura. "Is Penny and Leonard’s Relationship Actually HEALTHY? Here’s Our Analysis…." Monday Monday Network. N.p., 31 Dec. 2016. Web. 15 Apr. 2017.

October 20, 2022



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