The recent March 13th release of the new live-action Cinderella movie offers us a time to reflect on how far we have come, since the original Cinderella was released in 1950. However, after watching the film, that was always one of my childhood favourites, I was surprised when virtually nothing has changed in the past 60 years. I cannot remember how many times I sat in my living room, clutching my Cinderella doll, watching the movie over and over again. Now as I have grown older, I am able to see right past the pretty dresses and fairy godmothers to the many gender issues within this film. Unlike other remakes of Disney classics that have defied the traditional roles of women and have given the protagonists more power, such as Maleficent and Snow White and the Huntsmen, the remake of Cinderella is incredibly alarming, as the only thing that has changed is that the film is now live-action.
The fairy-tale tells the story of Cinderella, who is a servant for her stepmother and sisters, and one night with the help of her newly found fairy godmother and some mice she is turned into a beautiful princess for the night. She attends the Prince’s party, where they fall in love, however at the stroke of midnight, she must leave and as she does she loses one of her glass slippers on the castle steps. The prince visits all the houses in the area to find the mysterious owner of the slipper, and when he finds Cinderella they live happily ever after.
Although the film was made in 1950, and times were much different then, the traditional domestic role of Cinderella, even in the 2015 remake is particularly shocking. Cinderella, a servant for her step-family is always doing housework, such as sweeping and cooking. It is evident that Cinderella, a teenager, is not getting educated. In the 1950s, the ultimate goal for majority of teenagers and young women was to get married. This traditional lifestyle of women is highlighted in Cinderella. I believe that today, as women have incredible amounts of power, influence, and independence in the world, Cinderella, specifically the 1950s version, provides a negative message to young girls, as instead of teaching them to be independent and hardworking, it illustrates that women do not need any skills or education. Instead, they can simple marry someone who they will forever rely on. I want my daughter dreaming of what profession she wants or where she wants to travel to, rather than if she will meet the right guy, or get invited to the grand ball.
The message in Cinderella that makes me absolutely disgusted is how it illustrates that girls must be beautiful in order for someone to fall in love with them. In the film, Cinderella becomes happy once the Prince falls in love with her. However, the real question is did the Prince fall in love with Cinderella or her beauty? If Cinderella had showed up at the ball wearing her everyday clothes, would the Prince have fallen as quickly and madly in love with her? It is made clear in the film that the second Cinderella walks into the room, the Prince is enamored by her. He falls in love with her based solely on her appearance, rather than her personality. This is a terrible message for our girls, as it shows them that their beauty is more important than their personality, skills, or knowledge, and that in order to be loved they must be absolutely gorgeous. Our young girls are learning that to be a princess natural beauty does not matter. Instead they must rely on magical makeovers with makeup, glitter, and ball gowns. I believe that this message has the ability to influence girls to lose weight, begin to wear makeup, and become self-conscious.
Finally, Cinderella paints the picture that girls are extremely passive and unable to do anything by themselves. This message is made clear in the song, “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes”. Although perhaps this song was meant to be sweet and inspiring, when you begin to truly think about what the song is suggesting, it is ridiculous! Yes, I believe it is important to have dreams, however in this particular case, it creates the idea that women are passive and cannot stand up for themselves when they are in a situation that they don’t like. Cinderella sings, “In dreams you lose your heartaches”. Instead of being confident and assertive, Cinderella relies on the temporary solution of dreaming to fix her problems. The song continues, as she gets ready for the day ahead of her, with the help of her bird and mice friends. Although the scene is quite cute, and the animals fall in love with Cinderella’s voice, the lyrics are hard to swallow as Cinderella sings, “No matter how your heart is grieving if you keep on believing, the dream that you wish will come true”. Again, instead of taking action and changing the situation, Cinderella relies on her wishes coming true to get to a better place. This shows her as a weak, passive girl, who depends on luck and a man in order to escape her servitude. The song ends with, “And someday the dreams that I wish will come true”. This final line emphasizes how passive Cinderella is. The word ‘someday’ shows how she is in no hurry and she will wait for a man or her wishes to come true, rather than taking control of the situation she is in. Below, I have embedded the scene from Cinderella where she sings, “A Dream is a Wish your Heart Makes”, so you can see for yourself!
As a Disney princess lover, with Cinderella being my favourite, I am finding it quite hard to criticize this film. Yet now that I am older the negative messages that I believe are in this film are as crystal clear as Cinderella’s glass slippers, and can no longer be masked by the sparkly dresses and catchy songs. But instead, I believe that we need to be aware of the potentially harmful effect that this film can have on our children and protect them from it. Now, will I boycott Disney movies and princesses? No! However, I am definitely going to be more aware of the underlying messages and gender stereotypes within the films and ensure that my daughters do not feel influenced by what the film may be teaching them. As the saying goes, “If the shoe fits, wear it”. However, I believe that just because the pretty glass slipper fit the pretty Cinderella, should not mean that she should be confined to being the Prince’s pretty prop or his princess. Instead, she should be an influential women, with dreams and ambitions, teaching the young film viewers how important it is to have goals other than being a pretty princess.