Tales of Yore is a series of articles about fairy tale adaptations. Adaptations can be direct or loose, and these reviews attempt to consider the films in the context of the stories upon which they are based.
This week, I am continuing my brief foray into fairy tale adaptations. This will also probably be the last time I do a classic Disney movie because, well, there’s really not all that much more I have to say about them.
Plot: A young lass’s father maries a cruel woman after his wife passes, but he also dies, leaving Cinderella to live with her wicked stepmother and evil stepsisters. They make her do all their chores and treat her terribly. Cinderella wants to go to a ball that the Prince is holding and her stepsisters are going to, so her Fairy Godmother gets her the goods so that she can do so.
This story is famous, as is this movie, the latter for its beautiful animation, lovely music, and silly mouse characters. Its main merits rely on childhood love and nostalgia, a love for the classic films that inspired many more movies and generations of children. It also has some really goofy, funny moments, and it’s fairly enjoyable to watch.
None of these things deserve to be written off. Disney movies were groundbreaking for their time, and I’m still enchanted by the visuals. But, much like Sleeping Beauty, any attempt to consider this movie in terms of things like writing and characters is futile. Cinderella is the main character, right? I mean, the movie is named after her. It’s her story. Yet…she’s strangely not present. She doesn’t talk much, and when she does, it’s only to show how nice she is in contrast to her family. She’s selfless, but also pretty flat. The other characters get the good lines, the laughs, etc.
Cinderella, as a character, doesn’t do that much and relies on people doing things for her. The mice make a gown for her, but that gets destroyed. Then, her Fairy Godmother saves her. She goes to the ball and gets to enjoy herself, but then she has to wait for the Duke to find her so that she can marry the Prince. She…does almost nothing on her own. I know that this might be a point anyone that thought about this movie realized, but it’s still disappointing.
I want to say this is all carried over from the original story by Charles Perrault, and in part it is: people have long lamented the passivity in characters like Cinderella in the old fairy tales that inspired Walt Disney. But despite the flat character Disney was working with, the decision to remove her from her own story and minimize the suffering she goes through on camera undermines any power the original story had. So as its own movie and as an adaptation, Cinderella, character/writing-wise, doesn’t hold up.
Still, despite all this whinging, I do want to reiterate that this is a fairly enjoyable movie for kids. Beyond that, it’s perfectly fine without much thought, and really that’s what happens with most Disney movies. They’re fun and pretty, but have weak female leads and lazy characterization. I think that I’m going to cut the Disney reviews (unless I look into some of their later movies, which are both entertaining and have more interesting characers) and, hopefully, get into more interesting fairy tale adaptations.
So join me next week as I look at another fairy tale movie; unless I get any amazing suggestions, I think I will look at the Hans Christian Anderson story adaptation, The Red Shoes, a film that largely influenced Black Swan. See you then.