Rant by Amber
There is something I have just been dying to get off my chest: Cinderella is awesome. Disney heroines have certainly evolved over the decades—from waiting to be rescued by her prince (Snow White, Aurora from Sleeping Beauty), to going out to find (and potentially rescue) her prince (Belle from Beauty and the Beast, Tangled’s Rapunzel), to not needing a prince at all (Frozen’s Queen Elsa). Of course it is wonderful to see the stories told in animated films adapt with the times and provide admirable and independent heroines for young girls to look up to, but the downside is that we tend to look down on what came before.
There are countless re-tellings of the Cinderella story spanning centuries and originating from all corners of the globe. In our modern and oh-so-progressive society, the common theme is that the “better” versions of the Cinderella tale include vengeance on the evil stepmother and stepsisters. Sometimes that vengeance is bloody and gruesome, as in the Grimm brothers’ version (published in 1812); and at other times the punishment seems to fit the crime, as in the 1998 film Ever After. By contrast, in Charles Perrault’s telling (published in 1697), on which Disney’s Cinderella (1950) is based, Cinderella simply goes off to her happily ever after and leaves her past—and all of its evils—behind her. “What? The stepmother and stepsisters just get away with being horrible people? And Cinderella never stands up for herself? Lame.” The Disney heroine is labeled inferior and the more modern heroines are preferred.
But Cinderella—yes, the Disney heroine—is awesome. Think about it. The poor girl loses her father, is left with terrible people as her only “family,” is deprived of all of her worldly comforts, and endures at least a decade of verbal and emotional abuse. Yet through it all, “Cinderella remained ever gentle and kind,” (yep, that’s a line directly from the movie). Through all the years of oppression, Cinderella stays cheerful and positive, and is continually generous with everyone around her—as we see in her behavior towards her animal friends. Seriously, after all the stuff she went through, Cinderella should be huddled in a corner, hugging her knees, crying and cursing her fate—and in desperate need of intensive psychotherapy. But she’s not. She’s happy and even hopeful. This woman is strong—only incredible strength of character and endless patience could bring a person through those experiences with her sanity in tow. Beyond that, once she finds her happily ever after, she does not hold on to any bitterness or resentment; she lets go of the past and moves on.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). The original Greek word for “meek” in this verse was the same word used to describe horses that were broken to the rein or halter*. Meekness does in no way equate to weakness: it is controlled power; it is strength tempered with patience and self-control. Cinderella is a meek heroine—something rarely lauded by our 21st-century society. She clearly possesses incredible strength, but she does not use it to lash out at her oppressors; instead she remains hopeful and devotes her energy to helping others. Not only is she a great role model for younger viewers, but we adults could learn something from her too!
As we share the 21st-century Disney heroines with the younger generations, let’s not discount their predecessors—because Cinderella is freaking awesome.
* Woodward, Tim. Walk This Way. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1999