I have to say, I enjoyed Cinderella a lot more than I enjoyed Snow White. It’s very similar, in that they both start off as domestic slaves, and both have very sweet tempers and kind natures. Disney sure came a long way in the dozen years between releasing both movies. Which is good, because they released ten films theatrically between the two Princess films (including, but not limited to, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo and Bambi). Cinders was originally a coppery red-head, but for some reason they changed and made her blonde.
the Gothic King
The first thing that struck me, besides the fact that Cinders could actually talk to her Princess-requisite animal friends, was the portrayal of the King. The King wants his only son the Prince to get married and have babies, god damn it! There is no Queen. We see a collection of pictures of the King and the Prince enjoying their lives as the Prince grows up, and the King sleeps along in his enormous bed (which I know some royal and other VIP couples sleep in separate beds anyway), but the absence of a mother figure for the Prince struck me as rather important.
The King has extreme bi-polar in comical measures. He swings between happy to furious to sobbing to furious. He throws things around and destroys his belongings in a child-like tantrum. And his main objective is to get grandchildren. It freaks me out no end. I’ve even convinced myself that Cinderella is a Gothic story masquerading as a romance, because the King is so set on having grandchildren that he would probably sweep aside the Prince and take his place in the matrimony bed to ensure he gets descendants with the pretty, innocent girl! It grossed me out.
I like Cinderella a lot. She’s pretty, graceful, kind, and caring – even though her foul-tempered stepsisters declare that “It’s not like YOU care!” when she asks them if they slept well. Cinders doesn’t complain about anything: she just takes it as her lot in life. Much like Snow White. The difference between the two heroines is twofold:
- While Snow White was more than happy to pick up a dustpan and broom and clean the dwarves’ house, Cinderella probably would not do the majority of the housework if she wasn’t forced to.
- Cinderella comes from a wealthy family and her father marries a high-ranking lady (a Baroness, if I remember other versions correctly), but she herself is not a Princess.
Cinderella is surprisingly strong-willed, and presents a convincing argument as to why she should be allowed to attend the ball. The evil stepmother never intended to allow her to attend though. I can’t exactly figure out why. I think it is a mixture of habit in making Cinders’ life as difficult as possible, not wanting her to enjoy anything, and jealousy out of her beauty and that she might be a rival for her own daughters. I say this because the step-mother tells Cinderella to re-do a chore that she’s already done.
Or, you know, it could be because Cinderella is locked away in a tall tower by a tyrant. Sounds pretty Gothic to me.
Domesticity Prevents Selfishness
Part of me thinks that Cinderella’s lovely personality is partly due to being forced to be a house servant. All that hard work, in comparison to her spoiled step-sisters who fight all the time and incredibly vain and selfish. Cinders is nothing like them, and I can’t help but wonder if it is due to her deplorable upbringing. I also get the feeling that Cinders is less of a passive victim than her previous Princess counterpart, Snow White, because she actively pursues her own destiny. She does, however, need help in doing that, which is surprisingly feminist for a film released in 1950.
Also, in the version we watched, my partner (who patiently watches my Disney with me and permits himself to be a sounding-board for my thoughts) and I both didn’t notice if the Fairy Godmother told Cinders the magic wore off at midnight. Plot hole, anyone?
One of the other things I liked a lot was that even though the Prince was clearly smitten with her from the first moment he saw her, they actually took time out to have a private chat and get to know each other, which gives Cinderella +10 points as a romance in my eyes. Yay for personalities!
PS – did anyone else LOVE Cinderella’s pink dress that her step-sisters ripped apart? I thought it was gorgeous!