So with Disney’s Cinderella (2015) set to release in theaters today, there is a lot of angry backlash on the previous Disney films (don’t forget Cinderella (1997); along with the whole story of Cinderella. This doesn’t surprise me as Cinderella has been hated on for years, and to be honest, Cinderella may not be my favorite character, but she and her story really do not deserve they kind of abuse they have received over the years. So I decided to dedicate this post on why the tale is not as bad as we make it out to be. So let’s deal with the “issues” of Cinderella one by one.
1) Staying in an Abusive Home
Everyone I know always asks the question, “if her life was so awful, why would she stay in the house?” Many feel that she is too passive and should have left striking it off on her own. Well there is one big problem with that scenario of leaving, Cinderella didn’t live in 2015, she lived in the 1600s (earliest version) or 1800s (Brothers Grimm). In those time periods there was only three occupations open to a woman; governess, servant, and prostitute.
Governesses were typically well-bred women from poor families, sent to live a life of educating children, moving on to a new family when the old one grew up. For most of these women, by choosing the life of a governess they were signing themselves off as spinsters, doomed to never marry (as one does not marry a governess) and care for others’ children instead of having their own. For Jane Austen fans, think of Jane Fairfax in Emma. Everyone pities Jane as she was educated and raised well, but the only path for her is as a governess, dooming her to a very low class and as mentioned before a life of singlehood and low pay. Even if Cinderella was extremely well-educated (we know she came from an upper class family but are unaware of whether or not she was taught), this field was not something she could do as no self-respecting family would hire a governess without a letter of reference, which her stepmother would never give her. Besides the fact that governesses were often paid poorly, they could be abused by the the patrons- whether the father or son- and dimissed for “wanton behavior” if the patrons attention, i.e. rape, lead to the governess becoming with child. They then would be forced into no other employment but prostitution.
Servants mean domestic and those that served in taverns, pubs, and other eateries. Now I am not including those of trade in this list, such as seamstresses, cobblers, millners, etc.; as these professions weren’t open to the average women but were run by guilds or families, with the same family carrying on the occupation. It wasn’t like today where you can work in retail or food services; go to college and get a degree to work in another field; switching your employment. In those days your father was a tailor, making you (if a son) a tailor, and your son a tailor. People couldn’t just come by and bring a resume plus an example of their work and expect to get hired. Women would typically work in those fields only if their family controlled the business, of course quitting work when they get married.
Instead most women were servants or serving-wenches. Life of a servant was very, very hard and extremely back-breaking work. The servant awoke typically at dawn, before the rest of the family, and worked until way after sundown. Theyprepared the fires in the rooms, collected the eggs, fed the animals, prepared breakfast, did laundry, swept, washed dishes, cleaned the floors, cleaned the windows, cleaned the walls, prepared lunch, dressed the ladies of the house, prepared their toilette, etc. It was extremely hard work and extremely low pay. To make matters worse, servants were seen as property of their employers and were to be at their whim. Those that were pretty were typically raped, and if they became with child (and were unmarried) they would be dismissed without a reference and forever besmirched. Now shows like Downtown Abbey make all those with servants seem really nice and caring, but most people with servants weren’t as involved and didn’t care about them. And rape happened a lot. If you really want to get a view of life as a servant, read Alias Grace.
Then we have prostitutes. This is where most women found themselves when they needed to make money as it was more lucrative than the above places, and was always a way to make money. This was the hardest of all professions as diseases ran rampant, people mistreated you, Madams or pimps could keep all your money or abuse you, you could be raped instead of procured, if you became with child you better hope you had money to take care of the months you couldn’t “work”, and most of all you were treated with disdain, never helped or seen as important to society. Unlike today, where prostitutes are still people and can go to the police if beaten, threatened, or harmed in any way. Back then, if you were a proustitute, people could do anything to you and no one would care. The police would ignore you as you were the “dregs” of society. It was a hard life.
So when you look at it that way, what Cinderella had wasn’t all that bad. She was able to remain in her home, where she recieved food, water, and most of all didn’t have to worry about being raped or dismissed in a moment’s notice. She was protected and well treated in the fact that she was treated better than most servants. Was this what the daughter of the house deserved or anyone deserves? NO. Was it better than most women of her time? YES.
Of course there was always the fourth option of marrying, but with the way the stepmother treats her, she most likely will be recieving no dowry which means marriage choices are limited to zero.
2) Only Cares About Shallow Things Like Boys and Pretty Clothes
Now this statement really irks me. Everyone I know who hates Cinderella always says that they dislike that she only stands for shallow things like being boy-crazy and wanting to wear nice clothes. Now hold up everyone, nowhere in the book or the original film is she only all about looking good and liking guys. In the original story all she wants to do is go to a ball. With a life of servitude, of course she wants to go out and have a fun time. Don’t tell me that during the middle of the week when you are at school or work you don’t dream of having a fun time Friday or Saturday night. Going out with your friends to a party, club, movies, etc. Well the same for Cinderella. Back in that time servants only had certain days off. They would get typically every other Sunday or so, weddings of their masters and lords, and of course Christmas and Easter holidays. This ball was a big thing, and Cinderella dreamed like to have the opportunity to visit it. She didn’t care about the guys she would meet, never thinking of them; she didn’t think of the fine dress she would wear, as she didn’t own one; all she was thinking of was the fun she would have there-dancing and feasting. Now don’t tell me you have never looked forward to a night of fun-eating, drinking, and dancing.
3) They Hardly Know Each Other and are in “Love”
This is also something people always complain about the message it is sending to children. Cinderella and the prince know each other for one night and think they are in love. Well…not exactly. It is true that in the Disney film they only know each other for one night, but in the actual fairy tale they know each other for three days. Now I know some of you are thinking, three days pshahh; but that is actually a long time. Remember, once again that this film takes place in the past and things were done much differently then. Most princes were in arranged marriages at children or teenhood. Each marriage was planned for land, money, and power-love had nothing to do with it. Often times they would never see their bride or groom, but just be sent a portrait, meeting only after the ceremony is completed. Most of the time they wouldn’t even be in the same marriage ceremony, but had it done by proxy-that is having a stand in for the bride or groom. For instance when Marie Antoinette was married to King Louis XVI, her brother played the part of the groom in the Austrian ceremony. So once again, three days is a lot when you would often have zero contact.
And let me point out that if you watch the film again you realize that the “love” Cinderella is feeling is more of a wonderful memory to keep her going. She doesn’t expect to run into the prince again, let alone have him send his advisor with her lost shoe.
4) Foot Fetish or Incredibly Stupid Male
Which brings us to the shoe. The part of the movie everyone likes to hate on. “Why does he need a shoe to find her?” “How stupid must he be not to recognize her face?” “Does he have a foot fetish or something?” “Like that shoe isn’t going to fit a thousand other women.”
Well this is actually a more ingenious trick to find someone than you would think.
Give me a minute and I will explain. So a lot of the time we think he should have recognized her right away by hair color, face, etc. There is two problems with that, first of all the way the aristocrats and courtiers dressed was all very similar. They often had wigs, hats, head-coverings, and loads of makeup. After the prince seeing so many women in one night, it is easy for him to mistake someone else for his true love, such as with her stepsisters. If they were close in height and build (corsets) had the same color hair, he could easily be confused. Remember this was back when everything had to lighted with candles and chandeliers, it’s not like he saw her in fluorescent lighting.
Besides some people have a hard time recognizing someone in full makeup, hair, and dress when they are used to seeing plain, and vice-a-versa. When I was in high school I wore very little makeup, t-shirts, and jeans. I always left my hair down and naturally straight. For junior prom I went in a gown, had my hair curled and styled, make up done, wore heels and NO ONE I mean NO ONE recognized me in the dim hall. And these were people who encountered my voice everyday. If in that case they couldn’t recognize me, well…I could see the reverse for the Prince.
But that does not cover the shoe debacle. “No,” you still say. “That shoe could fit thousands of other women.” Except it couldn’t. That shoe was designed to fit one person and one only. Now you have to remove yourself from a present state of mind. Today you can go to Payless, Marshalls, Wal-Mart, or whatever and find a shoe you like, purchasing it and you are not the only one as thousands of others all over the country are buying the same thing. Back then it was different. Everything was custom made. You don’t go down to the Payless and buy a shoe or Forever 21 and get a dress. Everything was ordered and made to fit you exactly. Depending on your economic status you either bought the material and made your dress at home, or hired a seamstress to create an outfit for you. The same goes for shoes. Each one was handmade by a cobbler to fit the client’s foot. Feet are actually very unique so the shoe would be designed to fit that client and that client only. Now, would someone else who has the same size feet not be able to wear your shoes, no they probably would, but it won’t fit like it would the client, therefore clearly showing it does not belong to that person.
In fact, as Cinderella does not have a coach in the original tale and runs past the prince home, this is an extremely logical approach. If the girl is running, that means she must live by. If she lives by, than she must have had her shoes made at one of the local cobblers. Thanks to guilds and family businesses, there would only be a few and the prince would only have to approach each cobbler who would recognize their own handiwork and be able to tell him who the shoe goes to. I mean it is a glass slipper only one cobbler probably could make it. It is an ingenious plan and would have worked, if not for that fact that the show wasn’t made by a cobbler, but gifted by Cinderella’s mother in the tale, and a fairy in the film. This of course causes the Prince to have to try and approach every house to find his lady love.
5)Waiting Around and a Prince Will Save You
Now this one always gets my rankles up. People complain about Cinderella just waiting around to have a prince save her. Yes it is bad to be waiting around for some guy to come along. But read the story! Watch the film! Cinderella is not expecting some guy to come around and save her, she is living her life and when a nice guy comes around is open to having a relationship with him. There is a big difference in hoping to catch some rich guy who will take care of you (Cinderella’s stepsisters) and having a rich, nice guy come into your life and you being open to being with him. As I said, if you read the story or watch the film, Cinderella doesn’t care about the prince she only wanted to go to a ball. She doesn’t want to catch the prince, but just have fun. She doesn’t try to go after him, he comes after her. It’s him that does the pursuing, not Cinderella. And is it really so bad to be open to love and open to possibilities? No. And let’s be honest, you saw her life, how could she say no? Not to mention he is the future king, it’s kind of hard to say no (unless you are Anne Boleyn)
And let’s give some props to the Prince. Now I’ve said this multiple times when I talk about the Darcy/Lizzie relationship, but the fact that the prince is willing to marry a girl who has been living as a servant for the past few years and most likely isn’t royal…that’s huge! HUGE. It was not done as this was scandal on the household, was a major diss to royal families everywhere that he would rather have a pauper than their highbred daughters, it brought no new money, it brought no new land; in essence it was a bad deal but the prince didn’t care as he loved her. We as Americans, especially those of us living in the west, do not comprehend “old money” vs. “new money”, and are used to two people from different social-economical worlds marrying. But back then, this did not happen. So props to you Prince.
So Cinderella may not be as forward thinking or as modern as many out there wish, but for her time period Cinderella and the Prince are pretty awesome. And instead of hating on them you should all hate on the dad. Yep, the dad. If you read the original story, the mom dies, dad remarries, the stepmom is evil, but then we never hear of the dad again. Now in the film they give him a pass by making him dead, but just because he isn’t mentioned again doesn’t mean he died. I think he was a selfish loser and that he cared more about making money, the pleasures of his wife, etc; than he cared about his daughter. That needs more exploring, analyzing, and hating than Cinderella
Well I hope you enjoyed this post. Comment below on your thoughts and views on what I wrote, and let me know if you want another post like this. If you are anti-Cinderella 2015 I wish you a very happy unwatching. If you are going to see it, I am as my niece wants me to take her, I hope it is as good as Disney wishes it to be with their massive merchandising (it’s everywhere). Otherwise happy friday.
For more on Cinderella, go to Cinderelly, Cinderelly
For more Brothers’ Grimm, go to Happily Ever Aftermath: Grimm (2012)
For more Disney, go to Well I Feel Sheepish: Chinese New Year
For more fairy tales, go to Heaven on Earth