I grew up watching Disney movies from Jungle Book to Toy Story to every one of the princess movies. I’m sure that somewhere in my garage I have dusty stacks of VHS tapes of all the Disney classics.
It’s fair to say that in the last few years Disney has been trying to reinvent itself by putting out movies (and remakes) that display their female characters in more heroine like positions. Disney princesses are famously known for playing into the damsel in distress character, needing a charming prince to swoop in and save them from their troubles.
I commend Disney for trying to change that and modernize their movies with pieces like Frozen, where the main relationship focuses on sisters rather than romance. Films such as Brave don’t even have a romance element to it, purely diving into the relationship between mother and daughter.
Their latest film remake of Cinderella is a different story. The original tale of Cinderella, first made in the 50s, in no way really allows for her to be a powerful female character. She is in the end waiting for her prince charming to come with her glass slipper and be whisked away to the kingdom.
This time around, Disney tries to twist the story by giving not only the prince a backstory but also putting more value into Cinderella. It repeatedly brings out the theme “Have courage, and be kind” over and over, trying to pull the audience to feel almost pity for Cinderella.
Though I understand the movie was trying to have Cinderella seem more proactive, her actions displayed the opposite. There is a fine line between being nice and allowing yourself to be a complete doormat. Certain moments in the film were cringe worthy due to the complete lack of respect Cinderella had for herself.
In addition to the problematic characteristics that the characters brought up in the movie, there was the issue of body image. The scene where Cinderella receives her magical makeover, the dress she wore (with a corset) made her waist look absolutely non-existent. In fact, I think the cartoon version may seem more realistic.
The Cinderella cast and crew have to deal with this backlash and they’ve come up with some pretty good comebacks. Things have been said like “Corsets were of the time period”, “the actresses were just naturally very small people” and “the dress itself is proportioned to make the waist look even tinier”
The most compelling reason I’ve heard so far is that the movie is not about the waist size; it’s about the character. Basically, it is what’s on the inside that counts.
But is it?
There are three flaws I see with this way of thinking. If it’s what’s on the inside that counts then why couldn’t Cinderella still be more proportioned? Yes, I understand the corset and the time period, but you are presenting this film to modern day girls.
And in comes the second flaw I see. You cannot simply say that girls do not care about appearance. As a small child, my favorite princess was Sleeping Beauty. She had long flowing blonde hair, a thin stature and a beautiful dress. I wanted nothing but to be her. Yet, I was a chubby Asian girl with short black hair and it seemed like the only princess I could aspire to be was Snow White because we had similar hair.
Young girls see these princesses and want nothing but to be all of them. They want to be kind and brave, but they also want to be beautiful. They want to wear the pretty dress and have their own happily ever after (with or without a prince). So, yes the size of Cinderella’s waist does matter to a certain extent.
The final flaw I see in this is that Cinderella’s character just isn’t strong enough for you to justify ignoring the possible negative body image Disney is creating for young girls. Sure she’s kind and courageous, but is she really?
Throughout the movie you see her barely fight her evil stepmother. Even at the very end, she doesn’t even attempt to escape the attic she’s been locked into. Instead she sits singing with only her mouse friends to swoop in and save the day.
I’m not sure exactly what message this sends to kids. If Disney wanted to reinvent Cinderella, presenting it with a modern day look, then they should have had her character be more strong willed and less so a doormat.
This all may sound very cynical, but at the core of it, I do enjoy Disney. While watching Cinderella, I couldn’t help but feel giddy about the moments between prince charming and Cinderella. Just like four year old me, I love a happily ever after even now as an adult. This time around I just want a happily ever after without a damsel in distress.
Bloody hell and best wishes,