Cinderella the Slacker

A couple nights ago, my wife, my eldest daughter and I sat down to watch Disney’s live action version of Cinderella. Of course my daughter, being 12, loved it. (My younger two kids decided it would be more fun to go play together in another room. They didn’t break anything, so I figured the night was a success.)

Myself? I wasn’t terribly fond of the movie. But then again, I’ve never been terribly fond of the story of Cinderella, anyway. That’s because Cinderella is an extremely passive character. Throughout the entire story, she spends most of her time reacting to what’s happening around her, rather than actually trying to do something to change her circumstances. No matter which version you read, she typically only makes two choices – to go to a party, and to say yes to the prince. And that last point can be debatable, depending on the version. After all, he is the prince. If the choice is to get married or spend the rest of your days locked in a dungeon, what are you going to do?

In my opinion, Cinderella is a terrible princess for young girls to model themselves after. It presents the idea that, no matter how rough life gets, just wait and eventually a prince will come along and sweep you off your feet.

News flash, ladies – there are only so many princes in this world, and out of those princes, most aren’t looking for love. Or are handsome. And if there is a handsome, eligible prince out there, unless you’re working hard at looking good, there’s an excellent chance he’s not sweeping you up off your feet.

In terms of Disney princesses, there are many others that are much better models to emulate. One of the first that comes to mind would be Mulan.

Dude looks like a lady. For good reason.

Here we have a character who defies social norms to do what she believes is right – protecting her family. She’s willing to risk her honor and her life in order to defend her country and to prevent her crippled father from basically committing suicide. The Disney movie definitely plays with gender roles, but in a positive way. Sure, people may have different roles because of their genders, but that shouldn’t stop them from doing what’s right.

Another great example would be Merida from Pixar’s Brave.

Which redhead tropes apply? Yeah… pretty much all of ’em.

Yes, due to her short temper and her stubbornness, most of Merida’s troubles are self-inflicted. But she also shows a willingness to learn from her mistakes and tries hard to atone for them. She changes over the course of the movie, mainly because of her experiences. And she doesn’t have to rely on a prince to bail her out of trouble (yes, I’m looking at you, Ariel and Aurora. Come on, ladies – step it up!)

So if my daughter – either one of them – is interested in trying to model herself after a Disney princess, I certainly hope it’s a more dynamic one. A princess who is willing to step out of the “damsel in distress” role and go make something of herself. In other words, not Cinderella. Yes, she may make mistakes. But if she’s willing to learn from them, then it’s for the best.

But I feel pretty good about my eldest daughter. She has expressed some interest in learning how to use a bow. That could be partially inspired by her recent discovery – and love – of the Hunger Games novels, too. Then again, Katniss was motivated by a desire to protect her family as well, now that I think about it.

I think my daughter has chosen well.

3 thoughts on “Cinderella the Slacker

  1. Well Cinderella is based on an old fairy tale, which is perhaps more reflective of the restrictions girls and women operated under in those times. Tales like Mulan and Brave are set in presumably older times but perhaps with a more modern spin in the writing.
    I liked the live action version of Cinderella for what it was. Cinderella acted with dignity in kindness in contrast to the stepmother and stepsisters.
    One theme in Cinderella that never gets explored is why would her father have married such an ugly woman, in terms of her heart, and expose his daughter to someone like that at all.


    1. Very true about the fairy tale aspect, but not all fairy tales depicted such passive female characters (the story of Bluebeard is one example, as is the tale of the Six Swans). It’s interesting to compare how Disney films have changed over the years with their presentations of female characters as well. And you’re right – the father’s choice of the wicked stepmother is one that is never really explained in the various tales! Thanks for reading!


  2. There are glimpses of why i the live action version. He ask/tells his daughter that he wants to live again. On the outside the wicked stepmother is beautiful and polished. I am sure that she could be charming if she chose to as well. Since the father was away so much he would only see the surface of her and her annoying daughters. So it was for selfishness and physical reasons I think that he married such a person. Though I might be a bit biased having had four stepmothers in my life.


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