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Cinderella has gotten a lot of grief in recent years for being anti-feminist, but does the
movie really deserve this hate?
The 1950 film is often assumed to be a story about a weak, passive woman who has to be
rescued by Prince Charming and becomes a rich, happy princess thanks to pure dumb luck and
a pretty face.
The film has become a straw man for the argument that Disney princesses are not good role models
for girls.
But if we look closer at the actual movie, this is all a misreading that doesn't pan
Painting Cinderella as no more than a damsel in distress ignores the context of her life
and blames a victim of emotional and physical abuse for being unable to escape her situation.
This unnuanced view cheapens what is actually an empowering message at the heart of Cinderella.
This isn't a story about a man stepping in to save a helpless woman.
It's about a woman who faces adversity head on, who chooses kindness and optimism even
when it's hard, and who uses her own creativity and inner strength to rescue herself.
The story of Cinderella is so familiar to us, it's easy to assume we know everything
about it and watch the film passively.
Disney itself now even plays into the Cinderella fallacy, as we can see in The Cheetah Girls.
“I don't wanna be like Cinderella / Sittin' in a dark cold dusty cellar / Waitin' for
somebody to come and set me free.”
But the criticisms usually focus on our culture's shared interpretation of Cinderella, not what
the character actually says and does in the film.
"That means I can go, too!"
Her, dancing with the prince!"
"Well, why not?"
Sure, the princess culture at large markets unfair beauty standards and other problematic
ideas to young girls, but it doesn't actually make sense to saddle this film in particular
with so much blame.
Critics of the movie probably feel they're espousing girl power by attacking the damaging
idea that a happy ending equals a handsome prince.
But, counterintuitively, the tendency to dismiss Cinderella is actually a little sexist.
The character's chief personality traits -- kindness, caring and optimism -- are stereotypically
"Cinderella likes you too!
She's nice, very nice."
"Poor little Gus!
Cinderella doesn't stand up to her abusers in a traditionally masculine way.
She doesn't physically fight back, make daring plans of escape, or hold back her tears.
So writing off Cinderella is on some level buying into masculine standards of strength
and weakness.
Saying her traits of kindness and perseverance aren't good enough devalues femininity.
And it also unfairly presumes that a victim of abuse should fight back.
Because we're primed to watch Cinderella passively, people tend to willfully ignore
the context of Cinderella's upbringing and the trauma she suffers as a child.
Even though the opening scenes of the film literally state that her stepmother abused
"Cinderella was abused, humiliated, and finally forced to become a servant in her own house."
Lady Tremaine is lit in a way that reminds us of a horror movie.
The visual contrast between her and Cinderella makes it clear that Cinderella has no power
in their dynamic, and she has no choice but to obey.
We witness a truly disturbing scene of abuse when Cinderella's stepsisters rip the clothes
from her body, while Lady Tremaine watches with satisfaction.
Cinderella's eyes widen in total terror as she backs away from her stepmother's
And her expression communicates to kids that Lady Tremaine is as scary and powerful as
any dragon or witch.
The black background as Anastasia and Drizella rip Cinderella's dress frames and emphasizes
the terror in Cinderella's face.
The stepsisters leave Cinderella feeling destroyed, her dress in tatters.
And the scene leaves us feeling we've just watched a violent assault.
"Through it all, Cinderella remained ever gentle and kind, for with each dawn she found
new hope that some day, her dreams of dreams of happiness would come true.”
Cinderella has to retreat into her imagination in order to stay sane.
Our first interaction with her shows her using fantasy as a coping mechanism, and remarking
that dreams are the only aspect of her life she can control.
"Well there's one thing -- they can't order me to stop dreaming.”
A key thing our culture often misses is that Cinderella's dreams don't revolve around
a man, but around a vision of future happiness, where she can live free from her abusers.
"If you keep on believing / the dreams that you wish will come true."
Cinderella's inner strength and tireless imagination manifest physically as the Fairy
“If you'd lost all faith, I couldn't be here.”
It's when she believes she's hit rock bottom that her Fairy Godmother materializes,
and the reprise of “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes”
"It's just no use..."
-- tells us that she is the embodiment of Cinderella's dreaming or her heart's wish.
When she needs it most, Cinderella has willed a loving maternal figure into existence.
Since she has no real family, the fairy represents her determination to mother herself.
The Fairy Godmother's magic works through imagination, creativity, and resourcefulness
-- all qualities that Cinderella relies on for her survival, as that represent the true
Each magical transformation finds hidden potential in what Cinderella already has.
A pumpkin becomes the carriage, the mice become horses, and Cinderella's horse, who assumes
he'll pull the carriage, becomes the coachman.
Gus's transformation especially symbolizes how imagination can help us overcome our oppressors.
When he's transformed into a horse, he's finally able to escape Lucifer's clutches,.
Cinderella's ability to remain positive makes her fantasy of freedom become a reality,
at least for the night of the ball.
Cinderella proves that imagination can be power, offering joy and independence when
the outer world seems bleak, and training the mind to be resourceful.
"Well, maybe this is a little old-fashioned, but I'll fix that."
So Cinderella's fantasies really displays of strength from within, not the passive,
mindless daydreaming they're often seen as.
Her ultimate triumph over evil comes when Lady Tremaine shatters the original glass
slipper, and Cinderella reveals that she has the other.
Her imagination and inner strength brought her the Fairy Godmother, her night at the
ball, and thus the glass slipper, so Cinderella provided herself with the one thing that could
free her from this abusive household.
This slipper is physical, hard evidence that Cinderella willed her fantasies into a reality.
A glass slipper is the perfect symbol of a dream made real.
It's made of glass, delicate and fantastical, not the most practical footwear -- even the
idea of a “glass slipper” seems otherworldly.
But it is real.
It can be felt and seen.
Lady Tremaine's act of breaking the slipper is her symbolic attempt to shatter Cinderella's
dreams, but those dreams can't be destroyed.
So we see that the shoe isn't a frivolous accessory at all, but the tool Cinderella
needs to break free.
“After all, I suppose it would be frightfully dull, and boring, and completely...wonderful.”
For Cinderella, wanting to attend the ball actually has nothing to do with finding a
It's about freedom, choice, and agency over her own life.
"Oh, no.
What do they want?"
It's a much-needed fun night off, a much needed brief escape from the oppression of
her daily life.
“Have a good time!
Be gay!
Now off you go, you're on your way!”
It's not Cinderella, but her stepfamily, who are preoccupied with the prince's eligibility.
"Every eligible maiden is to attend."
"Well that's us!"
"And I'm so eligible!”
In the scene where the prince first sees Cinderella, she doesn't even see him.
She's enamored of her surroundings, excited to explore a new place she normally wouldn't
have the privilege of visiting.
She doesn't even realize she's dancing with royalty.
"Oh, the prince.
I haven't met the prince."
"A prince?"
The unexpected love she finds functions as poetic justice for her cruel step family,
who are punished for their vanity and greed by witnessing the object of their hatred receive
the very thing they coveted.
Cinderella's good heart makes her capable of true love, whereas her stepsisters are
far too petty and selfish for a true connection.
The experience of falling in love is also an unforeseen reward for Cinderella's righteousness
and perseverance.
She escapes her abusive family to start a new one that will reflect her values and understanding
of what a positive loving environment can be.
The prince is also absent not just from Cinderella's dreams but also her final escape.
Ultimately, she saves herself.
When Lady Tremaine discovers Cinderella was the one dancing with the prince at the ball,
she follows Cinderella to her room and imprisons her there, in yet another undeniable act of
It's Cinderella who retrieves the key to her door through teamwork with her animal
The term “Cinderella Story” is often applied to sports or other situations when someone
unknown comes seemingly out of nowhere for a huge win beyond anybody's expectations.
But the Cinderella in these stories has struggled and worked to bring about their success.
So while it may it look like dumb luck to an outsider, the Cinderella is generally receiving
the just rewards of hard work, grit, humility, and believing in dreams that seems unrealistic,
all things that Cinderella herself exemplifies.
In the trap?!
Why didn't you say so?”
Cinderella demonstrates that real kindness is active, not passive.
Rescuing her friends in this oppressive household is brave and heroic.
The film establishes Cinderella's compassion.
She clothes and feeds the animals, and they show their gratitude by helping with her morning
It's reciprocity for the care and love she generously offers them.
When Gus gets stuck in a mousetrap, we see that Cinderella is quick to help those who
can't help themselves.
And she's spirited -- she doesn't hesitate to tease her friends --
“Serves you right for spoiling people's best dreams!”
-- or stand up for herself in her interactions with Lucifer.
"You mean, old thing!
I'm just going to have to teach you a lesson."
These interactions are important to show us that Cinderella's not a pushover.
She knows when she's being treated unfairly, and, when she can object, she does.
But there's a distinction between this and someone who represents a truly grave threat
to her safety.
When Cinderella tells Bruno to stop dreaming of chasing Lucifer, it's because disobeying
Lady Tremaine's orders could result in losing his home.
"Suppose they heard you upstairs...You know the orders.
So if you don't want to lose a nice, warm bed, you'd better get rid of those dreams."
She knows that Bruno's situation could become parallel to her own, and she's been forced
to value practicality over justice in order to survive.
Nearthe end, we see a return to the parallel between Cinderella and Bruno
"Bruno...Yes, Bruno!
Get Bruno!
Get Bruno!"
At this critical moment, Cinderella decides that Bruno should disobey orders, despite
the danger, because they have a real opportunity to escape.
Her changed attitude toward Bruno reflects that she's newly emboldened in own situation.
But the help of her friends -- and her concern for them as well -- are key to all of their
In the end, the friendships Cinderella has built through kindness make her escape possible.
It's unfair of us to expect that Cinderella should be able to escape her situation sooner
just by being a little bit sassier.
She grows up in an abusive environment where she lacks all power.
Her kindness and ability to cope through fantasy actually represent her strength and bravery
in the face of adversity.
In the time since the film's release in 1950, perhaps qualities like kindness and
optimism have come to seem simple, obvious and naive.
But in reality, these qualities are undervalued, difficult to practice and not at all common.
This is a story about a woman who is both feminine and strong, who doesn't have to
rely on a man, or take on traditionally masculine characteristics, to triumph over evil.
The movie's not perfect and certainly reflects its times, but the desire to oversimplify
Cinderella as backward reflects a hidden disdain for femininity.
A closer look at the character reveals that this has been a story about a strong woman
all along.
"Oh, well, it's over and..."
Your slipper.
Your slipper."
"Thank you.
Thank you so much for everything."


Cinderella: Stop Blaming the Victim

78 タグ追加 保存
徐芳儀 2020 年 1 月 13 日 に公開
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