A couple weekends ago I went to see Cinderella. I have a brother who Loves loves loves Disney princesses and so whenever he sees another re-make of a classic fairy tale, we book in a date to check it out. Jeffrey keeps me young at heart. He has down syndrome and has a fresh romantic view of the world that makes me want to Wish Upon a Star whenever I am with him!
While we grew up on Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin, I had quite a few friends at church who’s parents didn’t let them watch Fairy Tales.
Some of the most common reasons I have heard were:
1. Female character dependent on a male character to save them
2. Frightening scenes of the villain (Think Jafar as a huge poisonous snake..)
3. Simplistic portrayals of life (“And they lived happily ever after..”)
4. Stereotyping physical features of Good Guys vs. Bad guys
5. Portraying communities as broken down into good guys and bad guys
For me, yes these traits of fairy tales make me hesitant to show them to my kids. Or to indulge in them myself.. However, there are a few things I really love about fairy tales:
1. I love a story about an underdog/misfit rising out on top (Cinderella, Mulan, Belle etc)
2. I love that the conflict gets resolved (Albeit, a little simplistically at times..)
3. I like that the story includes people that are both making bad choices and good choices
4. I love that there is always someone (a “friend) who sees that underdog and pushes them on through their struggle (whether its a genie, a fairy, little mice, a fellow lion cub from your pack)
5. I love that things like goodness beat out jealously, rivalry, and hatred
So I guess at the end of the day I reason,
Is this a realistic portrayal of life? Probably not.
Are there good themes to extract? I think so.
Are people over simplified? Yes, but they tend to be in most children’s lit/movies. I think this is an area for growth. One that animated movies have been exploring in recent years. A lot of attempts to giving a back-story to the “villain”. (Maleficent, Despicable Me, etc)
I am working in our church lounge right now and a grandmother just came up to me and asked if I had seen Cinderella and if I would recommend it for her to take her granddaughters to. So I shared some of my hummings and hahings about Disney in general. (Well on one hand this, another hand that..) And then mused a bit about Cinderella in specific.
On one hand it is a Disney Fairy tale, so the building blocks of the story are still there (Boy + Girl =Happily Ever after). But on the other hand, I think Modern day Disney is seeking to redeem the old school classics and fill them in with some substance.
In this 2015 Version of Cinderella:
- The main character is yes, flawlessly beautiful, but actually so are the stepmother and stepsisters if you look beyond some of the outlandish outfits. This film doesn’t stereotype physical appearances in the same way the animated versions might have
- Prince and Princess fall in love in a matter of minutes? Yes. Hah!
But the film DOES attempt to explain this attraction as something beyond outer appearance. In addition to adding some back story to the prince and princesses relationship they have the prince explaining why he wants to marry Cinderella and he says its so much more than her appearance, that there is a goodness in her.
- Theme of Leadership
Prince is encouraged to use his platform and relationships to strengthen the kingdoms political influence. He resists and says, sometimes a kingdom needs to realize all the strength they need is within them.
Perhaps a good reminder for the adults in the theatre?? Our churches? 🙂
- Theme of forgiveness
Cinderella works towards peace and unity with her stepmother and step sisters but when all fails they and truly prove to have no capacity for a mutual relationship (even though they are family). She cuts ties at the end. She closes the door on that relationship by pausing, and looking up at the Stepmother and saying to her: “I forgive you”
- Theme of Character
Cinderella stay responsible to her own self and her own choices. She decides that through life’s circumstances she will choose to have courage and to be Kind no matter what.
So yes, in the end, there is a fairy godmother to swoop in and make dreams come true to go to the ball. There is a boy who technically “saves” the girl (though he expresses the kingdoms need for Cinderella’s strength to pull them together). There is the usual bad guys vs. good guys… So you could probably say that (expectedly) that the building blocks of the story are a bit old school. However, there were so many good lines and a strong emphasis on character (qualities, forgiveness, courage, and kindness) that I really found it to be a beautiful story.
Having said that, our little ones might need a little help extracting the bigger life themes of forgiveness and kindness. Like many of the kids in the theatre, I am pretty sure the only thing my brother took away from the film is that there was a beautiful blonde in a gown with sparkly glass slippers and magical pumpkin carriage… For me that’s not enough.
But for him? I think guess that’s acceptable.