Fairy Tale Romance

So you want to have a fairy tale romance in your life? Wonderful, you’ve come to the right place. We have several models on special right now.

First, we have the Cindy. You meet your man at an elaborate party given by his parents, where you attend in borrowed clothing which makes you appear to be of a much higher social standing than you actually are. He is attracted to you purely based on your looks, dances with you all night but never asks you your name or personal details such as where you live, and when you leave, he is unable to remember your face well enough to pick you out from a crowd. You will, however, be recognised by your shoe size, and the wedding will follow immediately.

Our second option is the Sleepy. You spend a long time in a coma. Your first meeting with your man is him kissing you, for which he does not obtain your prior consent because you are unconscious at the time. You marry immediately upon waking.

Third, there is the Belle. You move in with your man without having met him first; your family’s safety is at stake if you don’t. His appearance is quite repulsive to you. You spend your days alone, keeping yourself occupied in his mansion without another human being in sight. Every evening he visits with you over supper, and keeps asking you to let him go to bed with you; even though you say “no” every time, he asks again the next day. When you ask to visit your family, he pressures you to stay by threatening to die. When you finally come to care about him and accept him for who he is, he changes so drastically you barely recognise him for the same man, but you marry him anyway.

Finally, we have the Croaker. Your man, who has a repulsive appearance, bribes you to promise him a relationship by offering to do a service for you. When you physically remove yourself from this situation, he stalks you to your home and enlists the support of your family, who in turn pressure you to perform the extorted promises. He insists on sharing your food, even though his appearance is so unattractive it makes you lose your appetite, after which you are forced by your parents to take him to your bedroom. You are so disgusted by him you violently throw him against the wall. When this has the unexpected effect of changing his looks, you immediately go to bed with him; the marriage takes place the next day.

Take your pick, fairy tale romances for the choosing! Oh, what’s that you say? You want the kind of romance where you freely choose your man, spend time getting to know each other, and deeply fall in love before you head to the altar? True love, and true love’s kiss? I’m sorry, we don’t carry that model. Maybe try next door, the company with the round-eared mouse might have something along that line. But be warned, most of their romances involve excessive amounts of singing. Are you sure you don’t want to try one of our models? Guaranteed fairy-tale style, time-tested and proven, with lifetime warranty of happiness? No? Ah well, suit yourself. It’s your own love life, after all.



Magnum Opus Part I

And there it is, I just hit “send” on my first paper. Magnum Opus Part I has been submitted. It’s called “Once Upon a Movie Screen: ‘Cinderella’, ‘Sleeping Beauty’, and Their Disney Film Adaptations”. It’s the first part of a longer paper; once I’ve written and been marked on both parts, they’ll be combined into one big piece which is going to be my thesis.

Onwards to Beasts and Frogs…

Ella Enchanted

SPOILER WARNING: This post gives away the plot of the book and movie Ella Enchanted.

I won’t have room in my paper to discuss Ella Enchanted, but it’s such a fantastic adaptation of the Cinderella story, I want to talk about it somewhere. Well, the book is fantastic, the movie, on the other hand… But I’m getting ahead of myself.

One of the interesting things about Ella Enchanted is that the movie (released in 2004, starring Anne Hathaway) makes for a good study of an adaptation of an adaptation. The underlying story is, of course, “Cinderella”, the Perrault version. But then Gail Carson Levine adapted the story into Ella Enchanted, a young adult novel which won the 1998 Newbery Honor award. Levine’s adaptation is, above all, innovative. When I first read it, it took me almost halfway through the book to figure out that this was a Cinderella story. Okay, maybe I’m dense, but the story of Ella of Frell and her curse of obedience is so detailed and nuanced, it reads as a teen fantasy novel, not a fairy tale. The names are well disguised – the Prince is named Charmont, with everyone calling him Char; Ella, of course, is just Ella, and there is such an extensive cast of other characters that you get quite caught up in this world.

The basic premise of the story is that Ella is under a spell, cast by a well-meaning but extremely stupid fairy, which forces the girl to always be obedient. If anyone gives her a direct command, she must obey it; her body forces her to. Of course, this explains why Ella/Cinderella is so easily put upon by her stepmother and stepsisters – in this case, she literally has no other choice. She cannot rebel, she is physically unable to. Cinderella, the girl without agency, becomes Ella, a girl cursed into powerlessness. However, Levine’s Ella is a protagonist who in spite of the curse, the crippling handicap she is under, takes agency. Ella obeys direct commands, as she must, but even as a young girl discovers ways to exercise choice within the command. When her godmother, the family cook, commands her to hold the cake bowl for her, Ella holds the bowl – but she walks away with it, so Mandy has to follow her around the kitchen in order to beat the cake batter. When the singing teacher tells her to sing louder, she becomes so shrill the teacher can’t bear it, when he subsequently tells her to sing more quietly, she becomes inaudible. Ella is cursed, but she is also gifted, among other things with a knack for languages. She uses her abilities to her advantage and that of her friends, and works around her restrictions at every turn. Ella’s connection with the Prince, a sensible, kind young man, begins as a genuine friendship when he comforts her after her mother’s funeral, and she becomes as much of a support to him as his friendship is for her. Ella makes a strong effort to be rid of her curse; she tries as hard as she can, including travelling long distances through dangerous territory in order to find the fairy who cast the spell, to try to get her to undo it. None of this, however, is effective. But what finally breaks the curse, or rather, what finally gives Ella the strength to resist the curse to its breaking point, is the Prince’s marriage proposal. She realises that if she accepts the Prince and marries him, it would be he who would be at the mercy of anyone who would command her; that through her, they would be able to control the Prince, and the whole kingdom – she would become the weapon of his destruction. And so, because of her love for the Prince, despite a direct command to accept his proposal, she refuses, even though it nearly costs her her sanity. This refusal, the act of disobedience which takes all her strength, is what breaks the curse and sets her free. No longer cursed, she can marry the Prince and achieve final happiness.

Ella’s power is what permeates the whole story. Despite her crippling curse, she is a girl who takes charge of her life, she is a strong person.

The film takes this storyline, flattens it out, inserts it into a rather silly medieval-Beverly-Hills setting, adds a bad-guy royal uncle with a talking snake (who seem to have recently escaped from Disney’s Robin Hood), turns Prince Char into a teen idol, and makes the final motivation for Ella’s breaking the curse the command by Bad Guy to melodramatically stab the Prince on the stroke of midnight at the ball. Anne Hathaway’s Ella, though a quite lovely girl, is too dense to figure out that something like this might happen if she accepts the Prince, which is enough motivation for her book counterpart to find the strength in herself to resist. The girl in the movie has no agency, she is completely controlled by the curse. On the other hand, the Prince is a dimwit, and in standard rom-com style only takes notice of Ella because she is the only female who does not fall into fan-girl hysterics whenever he enters the room (or the mall opening ceremony, as it were). Like the Prince in Ever After, he needs to be lectured by CinderElla on how to be a ruler and start thinking for himself. (Another parallel between those two movies is that the more wicked one of the two stepsisters is almost the same character in both films, so much so that until I saw otherwise on IMDB, I was convinced it was the same actress playing the role.) The beautifully intricate fantasy world of Levine’s book, peopled with a myriad of races, each with their own carefully drawn culture and language, is dumbed down into a goofy kind of Disneyland where elves are oppressed by having to always sing and dance, which terrible injustice Ella makes the Prince revoke in a token nod to a serious theme (racism, in this case). Once the wicked bad-guy uncle brings about his own downfall after Ella’s rebellious breaking of her curse foils his plan to kill his nephew, the Prince (now King) and Ella can marry, and the wedding is celebrated with great pomp and ceremony – well, actually, with a big pop dance number (“Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”) which includes every last member of the cast; and the credits roll happily ever after.

See what I mean about the difference between the book and the movie? Ella Enchanted, the film, is a piece of fluff without substance. The novel it abuses – uh, pardon me, adapts – is a brilliant re-imagining of the Cinderella story which answers the question of just why Cinderella is so easily put upon and pushed around, and thinks about how a girl can have agency in spite of the cruel restrictions placed on her. Gail Carson Levine’s Ella is a young heroine full of strength, and her overcoming of the obstacles she faces is a story of empowerment in the best fairy tale traditions. The Newbery Honor was fully deserved.



Three Hazelnuts for Cinderella


Schloss Moritzburg, the Prince’s castle. (Photo credit Lee Strauss, leestraussbooks.com)

Three Hazelnuts for Cinderella, Three Gifts for Cinderella, Drei Haselnüsse für Aschenbrödel, Tři oříšky pro Popelku: It’s my newly-discovered favourite “Cinderella” movie. Having grown up in Germany in the seventies, you’d think it would have been a childhood favourite of mine, but we didn’t have a TV, so I didn’t find out about this cult classic until I started my research for this paper.

The movie is a Czech/German production from 1973, and has been broadcast every year since at Christmas time. By “a Czech/German production”, I mean it was made in a collaboration of the DEFA (Deutsche Film-Aktiengesellschaft, the movie production company of East Germany) with the Czech Filmové studio Barrandov – but also, that the film had an international cast, Czechs and Germans, who each spoke their lines in their own language and were dubbed into the other language for the final product. So in the German version I watched, most of the actors’ lines are dubbed, except for the King and Queen, but then in the Czech, it’s the other way around. Unfortunately, and somewhat incomprehensibly given the quality of this movie, it seems to never have been dubbed into English, or at least not in a version I can find anywhere. Youtube has a version produced and broadcast by the BBC which is an English narration over the Czech soundtrack (link is above).

Anyway, those Czech/German fairy tale films are fantastic, and Three Hazelnuts is, perhaps, one of the best. It has been unfailingly popular for forty years – in a “making of” documentary that was shown in December 2013 for the fortieth anniversary of the film, more than one of the interviewees said that it just wouldn’t be Christmas at their house without this movie. Now, why Christmas? It’s not because of the plot of the film, but the setting – for budgeting reasons, it was shot in winter, and bingo, it became a Christmas movie. But that lends it part of its charm, which it has by the bucketload.

The film’s story follows a “Cinderella” version written by Czech nationalist writer Božena Němcová, who was roughly contemporary with the Brothers Grimm. The story is closer to theirs than to Perrault (the version better known in America, courtesy of Disney), which might explain part of its appeal in German-speaking countries. In the film’s version, there is only one stepsister, and the magic that gets Cinderella to the Prince comes from three hazelnuts, which are given to her as a gift by one of the loyal household servants. As in Grimms, where the hazel branch is given to her by her father, the girl has asked for the first thing that knocks against the man’s hat, and it just so happens to be a branch with nuts. Three times she drops the nut to the ground, and each time it contains the magical outfit that gets her into the Prince’s company. But only once it’s to the ball – this Cinderella has a few other things up her soot-covered sleeve to catch a Prince’s attention.

In fact, having watched both Three Hazelnuts and the 1998 Ever After, I have a strong suspicion that the latter was materially influenced by the former – the parallels are too much to be coincidental. In both stories, Cinderella is put upon, of course. But in both cases, she doesn’t let herself be downtrodden. The first meeting with the Prince takes place out in the field or forest, where the Prince is on the run from his royal duties, and the first thing Cinderella does is throw something at him to foil his plans – in Ever After, she knocks him off his horse with an apple, in Three Hazelnuts, she chucks a snowball at him which makes him miss his shot at a deer. In both cases, he only sees her as a little peasant girl, but is intrigued nonetheless. The next meeting takes place in the forest. This time the Hazelnut-Cinderella has cracked her first wishing nut, and found a huntsman’s suit inside. On her trusty horse, the last legacy of her father, she goes for a gallop and falls in with the Prince’s hunting party, where she shoots a falcon out of the sky right in front of the Prince’s nose and wins the day’s price for best hunter (Prince, of course, doesn’t recognise her, and in fact thinks she’s a man. Well, what do you expect? She’s wearing pants, that’s a sure-fire disguise). The Every-After-Cinderella, by comparison, impresses the Prince with her manly wit and learning (quoting Machiavelli on statesmanship), which are her legacy from her father. Both of the girls beat the Prince at his own game long before the ball scene, which, no surprise, gets him to sit up and take notice. The two Princes are not unlike each other, as well – both try to escape their princely duties, but with Hazelnut-Prince being more boyishly mischievous rather than irresponsible like Ever-After-Prince, giving his Latin tutor the perpetual runaround down to the very last scene in the film.

However, back to Hazelnut-Cinderella. She does go to the ball, the old-fashioned way, togged out in a hazelnut-sourced gown, and knocks the Prince’s last remaining socks off. (That’s finally the point where the film dates itself – her hairdo for the ball is so very seventies, it’s almost funny. Up until that point, everything is more of a quasi-Renaissance style, quite timeless.) The story follows the well-known lines after this, with the last gift from the hazelnut being a wedding dress, clad in which Cinderella rides off with her Prince – not pillion behind him or cradled in his arms, but on her own horse, cantering side-by-side over a vast snowy field, holding hands.

As I said, this movie is a cult classic in its countries of origin. Libuše Šafránková and Pavel Trávníček, the lead actors, became stars through the film. Die-hard fans practically hyperventilate at the sight of the costumes, which are still being shown in exhibitions in the original filming location: “It’s the very one she wore to the ball!” (in the documentary, one devotee shares her excitement at seeing the sweat stains on Libuše Šafránková’s outfit…). The castle Moritzburg, outside Dresden, which was the setting for the Prince’s ball, has a brass shoe mounted on the swooping staircase where the fateful slipper was dropped in the film, for the pilgrims to admire.

I wonder if part of the reason the Czech and German fairy tale films are of so much higher calibre (not to mention number) than most of what is produced in Hollywood in that genre is the simple fact of all those beautiful castles around. No need to build elaborate sets: find the nearest castle, start shooting. But also, those are the countries in which these fairy tales originated in the first place. The European fairy tale films have an organic feel to them, they fit. There is something about the character of the landscape, the actors, the buildings, that makes these films have a sense of, oddly enough, reality, in spite of their unapologetic use of magic. Fairy tales are folktales, and perhaps that’s what comes through in these movies – they are filmed among the folk, the people, and in the landscape that is their home. Three Hazelnuts, for example, used as extras and stunt riders the staff of a large riding school in Dresden, whose horses were used for the film. Not actors, but real stable boys, if you will. That sense of “realness” permeates the movie – Cinderella is actually dirty; her horse’s stall is in a real stable (in the aforementioned riding school); the walls of the buildings are genuinely weathered; there is real muck on the ground in the courtyard. And because of all that realness, it takes no effort at all to believe in the reality of the Prince, the hazelnuts, the possibility of a royal ball and a magical happily ever after. Or, perhaps even better, as many of the German fairy tales would have it, not “happily ever after”, but “contented to the end of their days”. A reality which fosters belief, and gives hope.


Schloss Moritzburg, Dresden (Photo credit Lee Strauss, leestraussbooks.com)



Cinderellas Galore

So I thought there were a lot of adaptations of “Snow White” out there to be looked at. Hah! That was before I checked out “Cinderella”. The number of Cinderella movie adaptations is simply ridiculous, and there are new ones coming out almost every year. And that’s just the movies – never mind novels, and plays, and musicals, and picture books, and TV shows, and so on and so forth. And we won’t even mention the stories that aren’t a retelling of the fairy tale per se, but have a “Cinderella” theme to them, like Harry Potter, because if we started on that, we’d still be here tomorrow. Let’s stick with movies, for now – and even there, only a small selection, the ones that stuck out to me, or crossed my path for one reason or another. Let’s do this chronologically.

The first Cinderella movie made, indeed, one of the first fairy tale movies made, ever, was Georges Méliès’ version from 1899. It’s a short little thing, just five minutes, and you pretty much have to know the story to catch what’s going on, but it’s the beginning of it all. Méliès made another version, much longer (half an hour), in 1912, which I haven’t actually watched all the way through. My silent-film tolerance is only so great. Oh, both of those films are live-action.

I already mentioned the amazing 1922 Lotte Reiniger animated paper cut-out version, which is probably one of my favourites.

The next movie after that, chronologically, is the Disney version of 1950; I won’t bother talking about that one right now because that’s what my paper is on, so there’s far too much to say on it. And besides, everyone knows it, anyway – in North America, at any rate.

However, the “everyone knows it” version for Europe is not Disney, but the beautiful 1973 live-action film Three Wishes for Cinderella, or rather, Drei Haselnüsse für Aschenbrödel(German) or, in the original Czech, Tři oříšky pro Popelku. Here is a BBC version with English narration overlaid over the Czech film. It’s a cult film in Germany, shown on TV every Christmas season. I’ll tell you some more about it some other time.

Jumping ahead to the 1990s, the number of Cinderella movies is really starting to take off. A quite amusing version is the 1997 musical with Whitney Houston as the fairy godmother. I just read somewhere that the production has a “multi-cultural” cast, but actually, it’s not multi-cultural, just multi-racial. My favourite bit about that is that the white King and black Queen (played by Whoopi Goldberg) have an Asian son (and very charming he is, too). As far as the culture goes, the setting and costuming is firmly mono-cultural, namely that pseudo-medieval-European flair which spells “stereotypical fairy tale”. It’s all of a piece, realism need not apply, which adds considerably to the charm of the version and, oddly enough, makes a story more believable (which is a whole other topic).

The exact opposite of this is the 1998 Ever After: A Cinderella Story with Drew Barrymore in the lead. It’s probably next to the Disney version the most popular Cinderella film, one of the first hits on a Google search for the name. Ever After tries to play the story as “real”, starting with a scene of the Brothers Grimm talking to an old French woman who is telling them that the story of Cinderella really happened, to a great-great-grandmother of hers, no less. I’m afraid the movie loses me, right there. A story which tries to be taken seriously as “real” but plays fast and loose with actual facts isn’t really my line. Not only were the Grimms German, not French, but the glass slipper with which the old lady entices them is not even part of the Cinderella story as they told it (the slipper in question is gold, in their version). Later, the movie brings in Leonardo da Vinci together with Prince Henry of France, but in reality their lives overlapped by no more than a month – Prince Henry was a babe in arms when Leonardo died, not a marriageable Prince Charming. And that’s another thing that bothers me about this movie: I don’t find this Prince particularly charming. In fact, he treats Danielle/Cinderella like dirt, humiliating her in front of the whole court for something that is pretty much his own fault. But in spite of this, she still eats out her heart for him. Of course, he’s a better choice than the enslavement by her stepmother, but her love for this overbearing, self-absorbed royal is still quite pathetic. The success of their relationship – and if we’re trying to be “real”, let’s go all the way and consider what their actual marriage will look like – is based on the romantic premise that the love of a good woman can change a man’s character, which is, I’m sorry to say, a faulty idea. Once you do away with wand-waving fairy godmothers, and substitute science, technology and Machiavelli for magic, you’re left with nothing but real-life principles, and they don’t always work so well the way they’re laid out here. This movie has been lauded as a feminist revisioning of the Cinderella story, but in the upshot, Danielle/Cinderella is still dependent on the Prince to say sorry for being a jerk and graciously accept her, after all; she doesn’t have the inner freedom that a truly empowered character should have.

Speaking of fairy godfathers, this brings me to the very hilarious 1999 Sesame Street musical Cinderelmo. The title character is played by everyone’s favourite furry red monster (insert Elmo giggle – ha ha ha!), who wants nothing more than to go to the Princess’-Eighteenth-Birthday-Holiday-Find-a-Husband Ball to dance. His fairy godfather – “Pardon me, fairy godperson!” – (played by Oliver Platt) tells him in no uncertain terms and a snappy song that just wishing for something isn’t going to do the trick; you’ve got to start by doing something – in Elmo’s case, who is sad because he’s too dirty to go to the ball, “Go have a shower!” The story goes from there as expected, except that at the end, when the Princess asks Elmo to marry her, he just laughs: “Get married before kindergarten? No way!” They find a better solution to the royal husband problem; Elmo and stepbrothers Telly and Baby Bear go off to play with the Princess at the castle; and everything truly ends happily for all involved.

So that’s a hundred years’ worth of highlights of Cinderella movies – see what I mean about the number of them out there? There are more; the new millennium hasn’t been a slouch on the Cinderella-filming front. Just to mention a few:

-2001: I was a Rat, adapted from the children’s novel by Philip Pullman. The story of Roger, who was changed from a rat to Cinderella’s page boy and missed the re-changing afterwards, and now has to adapt to life as a boy.

2004: Ella Enchanted, adapted from Gail Carson Levine’s novel. I’ll talk about that more some other time, it’s too good not to (the book is, the movie, uh, not so much).

-2004: A Cinderella Story, with Hilary Duff in the lead. Cinderella in a California high school – ’nuff said.

-2008: “Cinderella”, an episode of BBC Modern Fairy TalesShe’s a cleaning lady in a university, he’s a highly respected professor who gets the surprise of his life when this uneducated girl proves to him that his most cherished theory is, in fact, wrong.

And then there’s a Kenneth Branagh version slated to come out in 2015, with Helena Bonham Carter as the fairy godmother. I’m looking forward to that one.

And I’m sure there’ll be about three other Cinderella movies made between now and then, but I ain’t going to write about them!


Cinderella in Scissors and Paper

I just found the most amazing Cinderella movie: Lotte Reiniger’s 1922 version done in Scherenschnitt (paper cut-out), shadow puppet style. It’s available on Youtube in several different versions (some with music, some without). Beautiful, hilarious in places, and touching. And because paper cut-outs never speak, anyway, and are black-and-white by definition, it has a really contemporary feel to it – unlike with other silent-film-era movies, you forget that this is nearly a hundred years old. It’s short (just twelve minutes), but amazing.

More Gripes About Zipes

I’m getting to the point where I’m quite seriously annoyed with Professor Jack Zipes, he of the erudite fairy tale scholarship whom I’ve considered, recently, my academic guru. I was reading his 2011 book The Enchanted Screen: The Unknown History of Fairy-Tale Films (New York: Routledge). And what I was almost afraid to call “intellectual snobbery” in my last griping post (because, after all, who am I to disagree with Zipes?) is just constantly tripping me up in this book, and it’s no longer deserving of the gingerly approach I gave it then. It’s got to be called what it is: SNOBBERY. Okay, I’m skipping over quite a lot of what he says because it’s not relevant to my current study, and I only have so much time to read right now, so I’m zeroing in on what matters. But over and over he is scathingly dismissive of some works of adaptation, while highly praising others. And what is it that draws down Dr. Zipes’ ire the most? The name “Disney”.

Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, for example, is castigated as “a banal adolescent love story” in a “rendition [that] is so stale, stiff and stupid [alliteration much?] that one must wonder why the film was such a success when it premiered in 1959.” Well, one must wonder that he still wonders, as in the preceding paragraph he is dismissing the film’s hypotext, the Grimm’s version, so much tamer than the Basile and Perrault tales of which it was an abridgement, as “a boring fairy tale” (88). Excuse me? Why does Zipes think this story has endured as one of the perennially favourite fairy tales, as part of the Western Canon? Why is it that it’s the boring Grimm’s version that’s stuck with us, not the (presumably) exciting French/Italian one with rape and hidden children and baby-eating ogresses? Well, maybe it’s because the common people like boredom. Or is it that there’s something in these stories that Zipes just fails to see?

My bet is on the latter. Here he is on “Cinderella”: “[T]he musical adaptation of Perrault’s tale that truly ignited filmgoers’ hearts [well, at least he admits that much] was Disney’s animated Cinderella (1950) … It is difficult to understand why this film … had so much success. The music is mediocre; the plot is boring; and the themes are trite” (181). I’m afraid it’s not at all difficult for me to understand why Zipes finds it difficult to understand. He’s just answered his own question. He fails to comprehend the film’s success because he finds the story boring. Condemned from your own mouth, Dr Zipes.

Now, I don’t mean to put Disney on a pedestal – far from it (far from it!). I have my own complaints about those insipid airheaded princesses and cardboard princes (“Someday my Prince will come”, indeed! Get a life, girl!), and the commercialism of the Disney enterprise just gives me the willies. But that does not lead me to write off the films that they made and their enormous success as just a case of the masses falling under the spell of the culture industry. People ain’t all that stupid, you know! And I think it’s a piece of bloomin’ arrogance to talk as if they were. Not just arrogance, ignorance. It’s missing something vital about those stories – the main, core reason that they have been popular for centuries, and keep getting told over, and over, and over, and over.

The reason we love “Cinderella” and “Sleeping Beauty” and all those other stories, and one of the biggest reasons the Disney films were the blockbusters they were on their first release and are still being watched by little girls today with unabated fanaticism – in the case of Cinderella sixty-four years later, sixty-four! – is that there is something in the story, in the “boring” plot, that speaks deeply to us. And to dismiss the films because they happen to be made by Disney is, and I’m going to stick out my neck and just say it, folly.

As I said before, folktales are tales of the folk, of the people. The common people. And today’s commoners love the Disney versions. There is no way around that. And if Dr Zipes has nothing but scorn for those films, I’m afraid I must think that he is, somehow, missing a point.