Is 'Cinderella' About a Damsel in Distress or a Hellacious Heroine?
What is Disney's "Cinderella" really about?
Is Cinderella an anti-feminist tale? This is a question that has been asked countless times about the 1950 animated Disney film, as well as virtually every other Disney Princess picture since Snow White, because, unlike their male counterparts, female Disney characters appear to be passive, weak, and unresponsive toward challenges they face, opting instead to wait to be rescued by their Prince Charming.
But this video essay from ScreenPrism argues that critics of the Cinderella may be unwittingly "blaming the victim" for her unmasculine response to familial abuse and neglect.
As a kid, I was what you would call a complete and utter tomboy. I was into BMX bikes, dunks, and ninja moves. I loved Muggsy Bogues, Big League Chew, and building forts. The only times I ever played with Barbies was when I was putting them in the middle of the street to get run over by cars. However, for some damn reason, despite idolizing Michael Jordan, Bruce Lee, and Coolio, all I wanted was to grow up to be like Cinderella (who could also hit threes, play guitar, and roundhouse kick someone in the face).
It's not something I can fully explain, probably because I don't fully understand it, but there was something in this Disney character that struck me as strong, like, way stronger than my Stretch Armstrong. She had to deal with such assholes day in and day out, but she still managed to be kind and hard-working and positive. F**king how?!! I'd knock a kid out for not letting me play football because I was a girl and here's Cinderelly caring for people that viciously take away her freedom daily.
As an adult, I can see the weaknesses and strengths of not only Cinderella's character but of the narrative message as well. Some kids will walk away from the film thinking it's best to keep quiet and remain subservient to those who hurt you, while others will walk away thinking that if you have faith, one day your dreams will come true. Regardless of the takeaway, it's pretty clear that beyond the pretty face, cute dress, and demure manner, Cinderella is a much more mysterious and complicated character than she appears to be.
Do you think Cinderella is a feminist film? What message(s) do you think Cinderella is communicating most to audiences? Let us know down in the comments.