When I was younger, I loved Cinderella. I was the Disney princess girl. Disney princess bedding and Barbies and jacket and costumes for Halloween. And just like every other little girl my age, I loved Cinderella. In retrospect, I have no idea why she was my favorite for the longest time because today, I can’t stand Cinderella. Today I’m more on the Belle, Rapunzel, Elsa side of things. I’m sure you’ll be able to piece together why as I critique my beloved childhood princess, Cinderella.
It really isn’t Cinderella’s fault that I can’t stand her story. Well, it’s kind of her fault.
I do give the girl credit. She slaves away for those awful relatives of hers, and in a way, she did deserve something good coming to her for it. But it bothers me that other than possibly deserving good karma, she didn’t do anything to get where she went. A fairy godmother literally appeared and waved a wand to create her happily ever after. I’d much rather have a story that teaches our children that hard work pays off. So that’s kind of her fault. More so than…
…the fact that the prince can only recognize her foot and not her face. That bothers me even more than Cinderella Sin #1. If you’re in love with someone, I’d think you’d recognize her face! Besides, how is it that she is literally the only person in the entire kingdom with that shoe size?! And not only does the prince not recognize her when he goes looking for her, but her stepmother and stepsisters don’t recognize her when they see her at the ball. Really?! You live with the girl- I’m sure you know what she looks like. So that part isn’t Cinderella’s fault, but it’s a major offence in my opinion. How romantic- you matched my shoe to my foot; now we can get married! Said no one ever.
Besides the fact that the whole idea of love at first sight just isn’t realistic to me- especially when paired with the whole “I recognize you by your foot, not your face” thing. I guess the notion of love at first sight is kind of romantic, but honestly, you can’t know everything about a person just by looking at them once. So, sorry, Cinderella, but that’s strike #3. You’re out.
But actually, I didn’t just write this article because I wanted to bash on Cinderella. She does have a kind heart, after all. That’s got to count for something. Anyway, how many of you remember the song “Cinderella” by the Cheetah Girls (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e-Zwp_CQpp8)? It was really popular in my late elementary school years when I only knew the song because the girls in my Girl Scout troop would play it at our meetings. But I really liked the song. I always loved how it didn’t romanticize Cinderella, how, in fact, it said how “I don’t want to be like Cinderella sitting in a dark, cold dusty cellar waiting for somebody to come and set me free. I don’t want to be like someone waiting for a handsome prince to come and save me… I’d rather rescue myself.”
That describes me to a T. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing. There’s something to be said about being a strong, independent woman. And just because a woman is strong and independent doesn’t mean that she can’t have a man by her side. Plenty of women (and other Disney princesses) have made it work.
In my opinion, this is actually what being a princess is about. To me, being a princess is more about a set of characteristics than a question of nobility. Princesses are strong women who are brave, compassionate, loving, generous, selfless, helpful… They are not weak, and I hate the portrayal that princesses are helpless and they always need someone to save them. This image looks down on women in a negative way, and unfortunately, Cinderella in some ways is the poster child for this mentality that princesses and thereby women cannot help or save themselves. That, and that a woman’s purpose in life is to cook, clean, maintain the house, and get married. Oh, and look pretty. Because let’s be honest: that’s all that Cinderella does.
Admittedly, it’s not Cinderella’s fault that she came about during a time when women were viewed as such- when these things are literally what was expected of her and what she did day in and day out, just add in a few kids and you had the modern-day woman of the time. And Disney’s leading ladies have certainly evolved since then if you take a look at the wide array of princesses that have come about since Cinderella was made. But looking at Cinderella with a twenty-first century mind, and in light of the upcoming release of a live-action Cinderella film, I don’t really find Cinderella’s story to be all that appealing.
I prefer to offer the alternative Ella Enchanted. While loosely maintaining the basic characteristics of Cinderella’s story, Ella Enchanted gives us a much stronger heroine who falls more in line with the princess-like characteristics I outlined above. Sure, Ella still ends up with the prince, but she has a good hand in the saving that goes on, and at least that version of Prince Charming remembers her face.
I think it’s good for our little girls to want to be princesses, but it’s even better for them to understand that to be a princess, you don’t have to have a fairy godmother, a tiara, and a prince. You need to have a good heart that wants to help others. So as much as I don’t like Cinderella, at least she fits in with the true spirit of being a princess. And as long as our daughters realize that they are all princesses no matter what they look like or the fact that they don’t live in a castle, and they know that they can be princesses who save themselves (maybe with a little help from their friends), even stories like Cinderella have their merit, if only to teach our children to believe in the magic of love.