Reexamining Disney’s Cinderella

As I tend to do, I was clicking around on YouTube when this video essay titled “Cinderella: Stop Blaming the Victim” caught my eye.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen Disney’s animated version of Cinderella, but it was one of my favorites as a kid. Something I failed to recall was right there in the opening narration it says in clear text “Cinderella was abused”.

…Oops.

I’ll admit it’s fun to watch folks poke fun at and criticize Disney films because, let’s be honest, we’re bored; But most people don’t sit down and do a serious texual analysis because we hated English class for a reason.

So, to recap. The Disney version of Cinderella is about a physical and emotional abuse victim trapped in a bad situation she cannot get out and despite ALL that she remains optimistic, hopeful, and kind. Like you see her abuse ON SCREEN. Wtf.

So, if one were to assume that Cinderella is bad for feminism one would be actually quite mistaken. It’s not actually a victim’s responsibility to fight back against her abusers. In fact fighting back is a very masculine trait. Cinderella is a very feminine character and she stays true to herself the whole movie.

The biggest criticism I’ve heard is the “waiting for your prince to come” trope. But that’s an over simplification and missing the point entirely. It’s not the love-at-first-sight gooey stuff that “saves” Cinderella, it’s the fact that the prince is literally the first person to treat Cinderella with kindness in years and he’s giving her a way out of her abusive situation in a setting without women’s shelters and abuse hotlines.

The truth of the text is Cinderella DID do something about her situation; she got help and she got out. For an abuse victim that is a HUGE accomplishment.

So kudos to Cinderella for not losing hope in a hopeless situation, for staying true to her morals of kindness despite the negative actions of others, and protecting those weaker than herself when she didn’t have to. She totally deserved that happy ending.

And I have no intention of ever watching the live action remake.

2 thoughts on “Reexamining Disney’s Cinderella

  1. My comment on that video 9 months ago was “This is so amazing. I never realized how much this is almost like… maladaptive daydreaming and like the true coping mechanisms fantasy can be… I grew up with abuse from my mother and it wasn’t quite this extreme but just… YES” – it was one of the first ScreenPrisim videos I saw but now I’m addicted to and adore most of their channel. I love a lot of their analyses.

    I love your analysis here that “In fact fighting back is a very masculine trait. Cinderella is a very feminine character and she stays true to herself the whole movie.”… it’s an interesting observation for sure!

    I’ve seen two live action versions of the film and haven’t seen the animated film since I was a kid but I did watch it many times and even read the Brothers Grimm version. While Hansel and Gretel was my favorite fairy tale growing up: https://luvtheheaven.wordpress.com/2014/08/24/the-story-of-hansel-and-gretel-really-resonated-with-me-as-a-child/ I think Cinderella was a really interesting tale to me too, and Rapunzel too, even Snow White, because they all showed narcissistic cruel women in the role of pseudo-mother to a daughter, and a part of me really needed that kind of representation.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The video was definitely an eye opener for me as a great example of a strong yet feminine character. I tend to relate more to masculine characters because I’m pfab nonbinary, but feminine characters clearly make interesting protagonists too so we need more if that, I think.

      Like

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