Classic "Cinderella" Fairytale and Feminism


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Feminism has been around since the late 18th century, and the fight for gender equality and a balance between the sexes has become more relevant and important as years go by. Today, feminism is widespread as women fight for their rights every day through feminism movements but, it is not universally accepted. Representations of females and femininity in Disney princess films has been a widely discussed topic. Cinderella has become one of the most influential princess tales with its many different storytelling and film adaptions amongst women and young children. 

Many young girls look up to her. The 1950’s animated classic (Disney Classics, Cinderella, 1950) derived from the classic “Cinderella” fairytale by the Charles Perrault (Perrault Charles, 1697, Cinderella) and also Cinderella written by the Brothers Grimm (Brothers Grimm,1812, Cinderella) has been the most significant because it was one of the first ever Cinderella films. Many concepts in Cinderella from 1950 concerning the feminist theory still exist in today’s society thus, displaying the influential and evolved role of the importance of how females are portrayed. 

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Another significant Cinderella adaption is the live action 2015 film (Branagh Kenneth, Cinderella, 2015) because of the significant time difference, change in century, a modern time period and relevance of the feminist theory, the role of feminism becomes more meaningful as Cinderella plays a more active role and takes control of her own destiny, whereas in the 1950s animation some aspects of the feminine theory are present when Cinderella stays strong through hard times and shows kindness, but still stays quiet, does housework and sits around in the hopes to be rescued by a man. 

Even though the 1950 animated classic “Cinderella” presents several exemplifications of feminism through kindness and strength, it ultimately suggested that the only source for fulfillment is heterosexual marriage therefor, dominating any sense of female empowerment. The 2015 live action film “Cinderella” uses the same framework as the animated classic but, with a newly empowered Cinderella and a stronger sense of female empowerment thus the evolving ideas about feminism and female character portrayal. As the years have passed, so has the role of feminism in Cinderella and it has had its negative and positive effects on audience.

When speaking about the animated classic Cinderella 1950, Her mother passes away and her father re-marries. Cinderella lives tormented and abused by her step-mother and step-sisters being treated like a slave, having to do house chores. Feminism is somewhat present in this film, “The issue at hand is that traditionally feminine qualities are deemed “not feminist” and a woman with those traits can’t be considered strong or a great role model. Cinderella challenges that by embodying both femininity and what it means to be a feminist”(Esmeralda Figueroa, 2019), Cinderella wears her gown and goes to the ball showing her feminine qualities. 

She chooses to show strength even while living in an abusive household, she continues to be kind, she stands up for herself by going to the ball even though her step mother said she can’t but, despite these feminism characteristics, the ultimate goal is to go the ball so she could meet the prince and live happily ever after hence, her need for a man overpowers any sense of female power she may have. In the 1950’s times were different, especially in terms of gender norms and stereotypes. Marriage was the ultimate goal in life for women; they were a slave to their home, and being saved by a man was the only way to be successful, “In the 1950’s women felt tremendous societal pressure to focus their aspirations on a wedding ring” (peoples & events: Mrs. America: Women’s roles in the 1950’s). 

Marriage was a way to escape one’s family, and in terms of Cinderella; it was a way for her to escape all the abuse from her step-mother. “This idea can be seen when observing the film through a critical lens. Every eligible bachelorette wants to be married to the Prince, from Cinderella to her step-sisters. The whole existence of a grand ball that allows a slew of single females to mingle with the Prince—and hopefully solidify a marriage proposal—reiterates the idea that marriage is supremely important.” (The artifact, Cinderella’s representation of gender), Due to these stereotypical norms of the 1950’s, Cinderella was portrayed as a weak, vulnerable and passive female waiting to be saved. 

She had the expectation of meeting a dream lover and living “happily ever after” she was weak in the sense that she obeyed every order from her step-mother and step-sisters without complaining and suffering in silence just hoping and dreaming to be rescued by her prince charming rather than fighting to her own freedom. If a women was to take on the role of man it would end in misfortune and failure therefor suggesting that the only way for a woman to succeed is through heterosexual marriage and only the men take on difficult tasks. (add citation) Women were also treated as incompetent, and less important than men. 

In Cinderella we see examples of male dominance between the prince and Cinderella, when she says that she needs to leave the ball, the prince continuously says no you can’t leave; this is an example of how she did not have an independent voice. Another important concept to point out is that a women’s physical appearance is also important; Prince charming instantly falls in love with Cinderella, not because of her personality but because of the way she looks; which is an example of how she was viewed as an object of infection. Even despite all of this, the film continues to imply that Cinderella’s only way to escape the abuse in her life is to marry someone even if she’s only known them for a few hours.  

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