Monday, November 7, 2016

Disney Princess Analysis - Part 2: Cinderella

Click here to read Part 1.

In my last post, I expressed quite a high opinion of Snow White as a symbolic figure, a representation of various virtues. We are now moving forward to 1950's Cinderella. Like Pinocchio and Peter Pan, this movie has become known for a famous song and for famous imagery without necessarily being known for "the whole movie." I think that more people could name more individual scenes from Snow White than from Cinderella.

The truth is, I don't think Cinderella is the best of Disney--in fact, I think it's one of the weaker Disney princess movies, despite having some really beautiful elements (the animals might just be the best aspect of this movie, and the visuals are distinctive and wonderful). But this isn't a film review. I'm just talking about Cinderella the character.

Like Snow White, Cinderella embodies certain virtues. She is hardworking, hopeful, kind, and sometimes patient. Even though her stepmother and stepsisters (and the cat, Lucifer) are mean to her, she not only puts up with them but also tries to be nice to them, to at least view them as people. Though the kindness of a Disney princess has become something even Disney is willing to parody, kindness remains a highly important virtue (as expressed so well by the live action Cinderella).

Yet Cinderella falls flatter than Snow White, perhaps because Snow White was designed as a symbolic figure whereas the movie attempts to flesh out the details of Cinderella's story a little more. We see her waking up in the morning, and we see her at work at more types of tasks than just cleaning house (feeding the chickens, for instance). We also see a little more of the world around her; the scenes with the king, however, ultimately add more comic relief than characterization or realism (and notice that there are scenes with the king, but no attempts to characterize the prince, whom I would think would be more important).

And here's the thing: Snow White is a princess hidden in rags who falls in love with a prince that she meets and then longs to see this particular prince again. Cinderella, however, is a downtrodden noblewoman who looks longingly at the glamor of the castle and falls in love with a man she danced with at a ball. So she has a, shall we say, stereotypically feminine longing for glitter and jewels and parties. Granted, a ball at the castle would be a welcome break from the hard life her stepmother has forced her into; however, this longing does come across as a bit trivial. (Now, there is a possibility to look at this in terms of class, with the castle representing the ultimate upper class--but the rest of the movie, particularly the ending, does not address this issue, therefore I'm pretending it isn't there.)

Now, I shouldn't be too hard on Cinderella, anyway, though: if she is so hardworking as she obviously is, what's wrong with her finding glitter and jewels pretty? When it came down to it, she remained what you might call humble, or genuine. When she enters the palace, you'll recall that she gets lost; the prince sees her from afar and goes up to her and they start dancing and then fall in love. Very quick falling in love, but hey, it's a movie. Cinderella doesn't know that he is the prince until the next day--and then she is so shocked that she drops everything in her hands. The fact that the man she has fallen in love with is the prince is only an added bonus; she is happier simply to be in love and to be loved than to think that she'll become part of the royal family.

Cinderella, then, is more of a love story than Snow White. Other than maintaining the concepts of hard work and kindness already established with Snow White, Cinderella doesn't really offer anything new as a character and she also doesn't quite manage to fill her predecessor's shoes. Snow White is a sweet girl, and Cinderella is a young woman who hopes for a better life. I do think that Snow White makes for more of a role model for people in general, and Cinderella is simply someone that girls might like to be because she's pretty and wears a pretty dress. Seeing, however, that there is nothing wrong with enjoying wearing a pretty dress, there is nothing really wrong with that.

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