For: communism, and pervasive lying and moral confusion
Ever After is the charming little story of two chronic, unrepentant liars in a love/hate relationship—one an immature, ignorant jerk, the other a hypocrite and a radical communist. Over the course of their love story, he becomes less of a jerk and more of a communist, and she becomes more of a jerk and simply rides her platitudes and double standards on toward the Utopian horizon. For all the liars, jerks or communists out there, here’s a movie for you. For everyone else, here’s a great opportunity to pick a different movie.
The communist-idealist book “Utopia” is given to Danielle by her beloved father, and becomes central to the movie’s plot and dialogue. Danielle’s father says that “Utopia… means paradise,” and Danielle’s concept of paradise is thereafter built on the book’s vision of a pure communist society.1
Danielle’s communist statements include, for example, “A servant is not a thief, Your Highness, and those who are cannot help themselves,” and, “If you suffer your people to be ill educated, and their manners to be corrupted from infancy, and then punish them for those crimes to which their first education disposed them, what else is to be concluded, sire, but that you first make thieves and then punish them?”
Danielle attempts to buy back a servant who was sold off to be sent to America along with convicted thieves. Danielle finally persuades Prince Henry to agree to the buy-back, but then rebukes him with, “Well, you gave one man back his life, but did you even glance at the others?” The others are, however, convicted criminals, which would make giving them freedom a criminal, arbitrary and unjust act in itself. The conversation is intended to highlight Danielle’s view that criminals who are poor are victims, not perpetrators.
On the other hand, when an obviously rich man takes off with one of her horses, Danielle attacks him and calls him a thief. When the man claims that his own horse was down, and he had no choice, Danielle replies, “And our choice is what? To let you?” Her attitude in this situation is exactly the opposite of her views on poor thieves as stated elsewhere in the movie.
Shortly after this scene, Prince Henry institutes a royal decree that any man who sails as a prisoner must be compensated, meaning that, while he has not freed the criminals, he has ordered them to gain financially for serving their sentence.
Danielle chalks up unethical or irritating behavior to the individual’s wealth.
Danielle tells Henry, “A gypsy… is rarely painted as anything else. They are defined by their status, as your title defines you, yet it is not who they are.” This would be a true and appropriate statement, except that it immediately follows the gypsies’ theft of private property and threat on an innocent person’s life. The gypsies’ subscription to a code of honor is portrayed as overbalancing their criminal, immoral behavior, and their sheer poverty is used to make their choices and priorities look superior to those of the non-criminal wealthy.2
Pervasive Lying and Moral Confusion
Danielle tells a string of unnecessary lies to Prince Henry, and deliberately sets up situations to trick him into believing false things about her. She attempts later on to confess, but because of the awkwardness of the truth, and Henry’s talkativeness, she backs down again. This is portrayed as his fault, not hers.
Henry is initially angered and devastated by Danielle’s chronic dishonesty, and defends his breaking off the relationship by asking, rhetorically, “And love without trust? What of that?” Henry later gets over his devastation, but without dealing with the actual breach of trust. He realizes that, even though Danielle is a liar, and he has no good reason to trust her, she is still his “perfect match”, and goes so far as to describe himself as having “betrayed” her “at the first test of honor” in reacting negatively to the revelation of her deception.
The villainess and her daughter are brought in on charges of having lied to the queen, which is apparently punishable by death. Their sentence is initially commuted to banishment to a prison colony, and later to domestic indentured servitude. This is portrayed as both legal and poetic justice for that crime, in their case. However, Henry had flippantly admitted to having lied to the queen, himself, previously, and Danielle is also guilty of having lied to the crown prince on multiple occasions. The moral standard held against the villainess (the only crime of which she stands accused) is not applied to them.
Henry displays numerous vices and character flaws, including arrogance, selfishness, a hot temper, pettiness and persistent immaturity. All of these character traits are shared by the villainess and her daughter, and are condemned in them, while in Henry they are excused or even applauded. Danielle, having seen most of these vices, and having not seen any objective virtue in him, adoringly asks Henry, “Why did you have to be so wonderful?”
Danielle attacks her stepsister for taking her dress, punches her in the eye and violently chases her through the house. The stepsister’s behavior during that scene is no less kind or ladylike than Danielle’s, and yet the stepsister’s disgrace and brutality are portrayed as despicable, while Danielle’s are portrayed as commendable.
Also note that Danielle makes the unqualified statement that those who are thieves can’t help themselves (see Communism, above), but severely condemns her stepmother and stepsister for taking her property.
When Henry asks her if she doesn’t attend church, Danielle replies that her “faith is better served away from the rabid crowd.” Henry dreads the day when he will have to “g[i]ve up my life to God and country.” Another positively-portrayed character says that he “could no sooner talk to God” than talk to Leonardo da Vinci, implying that he has never talked to God, and has no intention of doing so.
As a child Danielle is shown having threatened, fought with and proudly “slaughtered” her little friend Gustave, and as an adult she says she can “whip” him again. This attitude and behavior is feministic, since it would be considered inappropriate for Gustave as a child, and criminal for him as an adult, to do the same to her.
Divorce is considered a non-option by the royal family only because it’s “something they do in England.”
1 “Utopia”, by Thomas More, presents a land “where no man has any property… where every man has a right to everything… where every man has a right to everything… for among them there is no unequal distribution…” More calls “all the other governments… a conspiracy of the rich…” while Utopia sees “the use as well as the desire of money being extinguished…” He also claims that “the frauds, thefts, robberies, quarrels, tumults, contentions, seditions, murders, treacheries, and witchcrafts, which are indeed rather punished than restrained by the severities of the law, would all fall off, if money were not any more valued by the world.” He adds, “Men’s fears, solicitudes, cares, labours, and watchings, would all perish in the same moment with the value of money; even poverty itself, for the relief of which money seems most necessary, would fall.” Quoted in the nineteenth-century Marxist philosopher Karl Kautsky’s commentary “Thomas More and his Utopia”, 1888 at https://www.marxists.org/archive/kautsky/1888/more/ch13.htm
2 Also note that, for all the declared sentiment, the movie Ever After itself fails to paint gypsies as anything other than the stereotype.