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Cinderalla, a Story About a Pumpkin

Pumpkin CoachThe summer I turned three, I was miserable.  My mom was on bed-rest with my brother-to-be, and my dad was in graduate school in Moscow. So I was obsessed with Disney’s Cinderella, a story about an orphan (which I felt like).  I watched the damn movie every day and did things like scrub the kitchen floor and carport floor while singing “Sing Sweet Nightingale.”  That’s a lot of days off my life I’m not getting back.

And I haven’t really watched the movie since then.  I had no intention of seeing the live-action remake.  The only reason I saw it was because my boss was playing it in the video store where I work.  I didn’t like it, but it made me curious enough that a few days later when I was minding the store on my own, I put on the cartoon.

I remembered why I liked it as a kid, and why I don’t like it so much now.  But also why it’s better than the remake (sorry, Dad).  Let’s look at the checks against the original.  Cinderella isn’t very bright.  The mice are in nearly every scene.  It’s sexist.  The Prince doesn’t have much personality.

Now let’s deconstruct.  Cinderella isn’t very bright, but she still behaves like a person.  She gets angry when she’s mistreated, and she fights to get out of her tower when she’s locked in. Basically, she’s been a victim of abuse for years (she looks like she was about 10 when her father died), so that probably has messed with her head some, but she also still has an inkling that she doesn’t really deserve for the stepmother and stepsisters to treat her like garbage.  And she does stand up for herself from time to time.

The mice might be too much.  I don’t know.  I just liked them better than the stuff with the Prince and his father in the remake.  And now for a defense that isn’t my opinion… in the original movie, it’s mentioned hurriedly that Cinderella and the Prince are in love.  But what’s more emphasized is that the King has basically told his son that he was to get married and start producing heirs pronto.  The old King is as much if not more of a driving force behind the search for the maiden with the slipper because of his desire for a dynasty.  It offsets the “they can’t be in love after two hours” argument somewhat.  As well as the Prince not having much personality.  With his father having him under the gun to get married, what Cinderella sees in him isn’t as important.

Finally, the sexism.  I’m not going to defend it per se.  All I’ll do is give the movie a certain amount of credit for being upfront about it (sewing is women’s work, the king sees his future daughter-in-law as a walking uterus, beauty or the lack thereof is a personality trait).  The remake is still sexist, but a ton of its publicity was taken up with assuring the public that it wasn’t, and that this Cinderella was no victim, and all that.  Then they bungled it (and my disappointment comes at a price).  At least with a fairy tale made in the 1950s I know what I’m getting into.

In the end, though, it’s still a familiar story about a girl and a pumpkin.  Or a girl and the holy family.  Or a skeleton.  Or a dog.  Or whatever version you please.  I didn’t like the Disney remake of its classic, but I don’t care enough to rail against it.  Or even the first one.  I have a long history with Cinderella, and even though it’s a little embarrassing now, it was all pretty harmless.  And I’d be interested to see somebody else give the story a try.

Bippity boppity boo.

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2 thoughts on “Cinderalla, a Story About a Pumpkin

  1. I think the fairy godmother- a powerful, *benevolent* witch whose power is shown to be good (vs other Disney movies where witches and women who have power are almost universally bad), and who is also a grandmother figure, does offset the other stereotypes. Female characters are most of the movie, even if 3 out of 5 are bad. Plus the stepmom is the head of the household. Not super ideal, but it is something.

    Plus, I reject the notion that portrayal of female victimhood is necessarily antifeminist, especially in a movie where you have a defiant/resisting victim and the complicated dynamic of female abusers. I am reading way too much into this, but Cinderella is the only child of the father and under patriarchy she should inherit. But that would leave his wife, and her own children, completely out in the cold because, again, patriarchy. The stepmother is protecting herself and her daughters. Her treatment of Cinderella can be seen as an example of how patriarchy pits women against each other.

    I always liked it less because of the romance (which was pitiful) than because of how the poor treatment of Cinderella came back to bite the stepfamily. However, this movie gave me HORRIBLE second-hand anxiety and embarrassment as a kid, so it was never my fave. I can probably recite all of Aladdin, though…

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    • That’s definitely true about the fairy godmother. It’s not a point that gets talked about much.
      I didn’t mean to imply that portraying abuse is inherently antifeminist. It’s definitely not. I could have gone more into the failings of the remake, but I wanted to focus more on the original.

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