Bending in delightful and vulgar ways
March 15, 2015 9:34 AM   Subscribe

A Girl, A Shoe, A Prince: The Endlessly Evolving Cinderella - Linda Holmes, NPR's Monkey See:
"The idea that animates the classic Cinderella is that the prince would not be free to consider Cinderella a desirable mate if he first saw her as she is, but he can meet her under false pretenses and fall in love with her. And, most importantly, once achieved, that love will be durable enough to survive her reversion to her real identity. Getting him to literally recognize her — getting him to look at a woman in rags and realize she's the woman he wants to marry — seems to function as sort of a stand-in for him proving that he can overlook her low status and choose her as a partner. Whether that's more a fantasy of romantic love or a fantasy of economic security, power and rescue from a lifetime of washing floors may depend on who's telling it and who's hearing it and when."

Meet the New Cinderella, Same as the Old Cinderella - Ijeoma Oluo, The Stranger
"The animals don't talk. Apparently, in the 'real' world, we can have fairy godmothers but not adorable talking rodents? That fat mouse saying 'Cinderellie' is basically the only reason for watching Cinderella in the first place. This is a fucking outrage."
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome (28 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
A girl, a shoe, a prince... panama?
posted by I-Write-Essays at 9:51 AM on March 15, 2015 [15 favorites]

That second link was great. Up with talking animals!!!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:19 AM on March 15, 2015

Cinderella can also be read as a parable of the bourgeoise invading and colonizing the ruling aristocracy, using the twin ruses of mysterious origin and physical beauty to overcome the socioeconomic and realpolitik barriers to power that had kept that class previously subservient. Cinderella falls from the middle class into the peasant class only to be "rescued" and raised up into the ruling class. The rise of a greater Class mobility--and the terror and delights gained therefrom--is the real theme of Cinderella.
posted by Chrischris at 10:20 AM on March 15, 2015 [7 favorites]

When I asked my 13-year-old what his biggest problem with the movie was, he said, "Cinderella didn't set that house on fire."
Smart kid.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:24 AM on March 15, 2015 [21 favorites]

If Cinderella's Dad had decided to patronize the local brothel a little more often, all this unpleasantness could have been avoided...
posted by Chrischris at 10:31 AM on March 15, 2015

Linda Holmes is such a funny and astute writer, this was such a fantastic essay.
posted by PinkMoose at 11:47 AM on March 15, 2015 [3 favorites]

Haha oh man, the first link was good but the second link made my whole day.

• Cinderella says, "Fuck y'all, I'm not your servant." Flips over a table. Electric guitar plays. Fairy godmother shows up and says: "Finally. That's the way a woman does it." She turns one of the mice into the Predator, who inflicts gruesome punishment on all who have wronged Cinderella. They destroy the patriarchal kingdom in an epic battle. Cinderella turns the house into an anarchist feminist commune.

In my fantasy world, women refuse to eat shit. In my fantasy world, having a sense of humor and a sense of justice are far more important than a pretty face. In my fantasy world, the animals fucking talk. Fairy godmothers help those who help themselves.

Yes, thank you. This is why in my heart, Ever After will forever be the only real-life Cinderella movie ever made until the movie described above comes along.
posted by bleep at 12:16 PM on March 15, 2015 [10 favorites]

In the 1950 cartoon, the prince is, in film terms, a MacGuffin. He is not a person but an object of pursuit, like the briefcase in Pulp Fiction.
Laughed out loud.
posted by purpleclover at 12:29 PM on March 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

The Cinderella familiar to United States popular culture, though, is most easily traceable, and most commonly traced, to the one published in 1697 by the French writer Charles Perrault,

It never occurred to me to connect the story of Cinderella with Balls and Princes and Mysterious benefactors and magic glass to the reign of the Sun King and the rococo lavishness of one of the most unequal, ball-mad, glass-obsessed periods in history.
posted by The Whelk at 2:38 PM on March 15, 2015 [5 favorites]

I just saw the new movie this afternoon, more for a chance to go out and see a movie than anything else. It's very lovely, very much influenced by nineteenth-century portraiture, and everyone is charming in their given roles. But I so hoped that Kenneth Branagh was hardcore enough to arrange matters so that Lady Tremaine would give a knife to one of her daughters and say, "Cut off your toe. When you are queen you will no longer have to go on foot." Not to really do it -- just a reference! Alas, no.

Also, I missed the little fifties updo she used to have. That was pretty much all that made Cinderella special, as a Disney Princess. Plus, an updo is more period, whichever period that was supposed to be.

I was a wicked stepmother in a panto-type play for kids, and I was also once a wicked stepsister in the staging of the R&H musical. Somehow, I got to wear an old turquoise satin hoop dress out of the costume department, and it looked so much like Cinderella's dress, I didn't deserve it. There is nothing as wonderfully femmy as wearing a hoop dress.
posted by Countess Elena at 3:51 PM on March 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Identifying a woman based on her shoe size does make a lot more sense when you consider that the author lived under a despot famous for being vain about his feet.
posted by gingerest at 3:51 PM on March 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

(Note: I am aware that Perrault cannot be said to be the chief author of Cinderella. I did RTFAs.)
posted by gingerest at 3:52 PM on March 15, 2015

Also, now that I think about it, it strikes me as significant that Perrault's telling ends with Cinderella as a princess, and not as a maitresse en titre -- which was a position that a poor, pretty girl could aspire to, and you would think that the French would be frank about these things. Maybe there's a folk version, or a lost oral version, that is plainer about this.
posted by Countess Elena at 3:58 PM on March 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Identifying a woman based on her shoe size...

uh...the 'foot' in the 'shoe' is a metaphor, i thought...
posted by j_curiouser at 4:07 PM on March 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

I believe that should be Mefi's own Linda Holmes, and also everyone should check out Pop Culture Happy Hour, her utterly delightful podcast with NPR.
posted by DGStieber at 5:11 PM on March 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

Wait, there are no singing mice in this new one? What the fuck, Disney? The only thing that made your Cinderella better than all of the other Cinderellas was the singing mice!

The first stage musical I ever saw was Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella. I was about 8 years old, and all I knew was that we were going to see Cinderella. No one told me that it wasn't the Disney version. I was 8; I didn't know there were other versions. All I remember from the whole experience was being mad that there were no singing mice (and hating theat "It's Impossible!" song). When I saw that Disney was making a live action movie, I thought "Finally! Cinderella with real people and singing mice!" I mean, not really. I'm not actually that invested in the Disney movies. But still. Apparently they screwed that up, too.
posted by Weeping_angel at 6:31 PM on March 15, 2015

This is the perfect opportunity to share MY favorite Cinderella: Meet Ember, the fire witch who's trying her damndest to not fall for Prince Charming's charming spell....
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:48 PM on March 15, 2015 [3 favorites]

"Cut off your toe. When you are queen you will no longer have to go on foot."

That is hands down my favorite part ever.
posted by corb at 8:39 PM on March 15, 2015

..and why I think they didn't have it in the newest Disney Cinderella cause Into The Woods just left theaters a month ago, and was also a Disney joint, and has Cinderella's wicked stepmother banishing a knife and singing

Careful my toe.

Darling I know.

What'll we do?

It'll have to go,
But when you're his bride
You can sit or ride,
You'll never need to walk.

posted by The Whelk at 9:18 PM on March 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

Apparently the glass slippers they created for this movie were so fragile that the actress couldn't wear them and it was all just cgi, which strikes me as incredibly ironic. Not even Cinderella can put on her shoe.
posted by rmless at 9:51 PM on March 15, 2015 [6 favorites]

It's partly a fantasy about simplifying the relationships between social standing and coupling — one that makes the most sense in a world in which class differences are an accepted barrier to a good man choosing to marry a woman. If the prince is a man who believes from the outset that love conquers all, the story doesn't really make any sense. It would be hard to set Cinderella on a properly functioning egalitarian collective.

The idea that animates the classic Cinderella is that the prince would not be free to consider Cinderella a desirable mate if he first saw her as she is, but he can meet her under false pretenses and fall in love with her.
Well, to be fair, in the Perrault version that informs most modern ones, the Prince and Cinderella wouldn't have even had an opportunity to meet each other before the ball.
In 1998, Ever After: A Cinderella Story very specifically staged an assault on some of the story's gendered elements, casting Drew Barrymore as a more self-possessed heroine (actually named Danielle, but taunted with the nickname "Cinderella") whose prince came to admire her for her intelligence and independence, rather than simply dancing with her and marrying her because she fit into a shoe... In Ever After, what's added is an actual courtship between the prince and Danielle that's not reliant on a single dance.

As for the new live-action Cinderella from Disney... there are signs that this is post-Frozen and post-Tangled Disney storytelling, this time in live action. And there are, quite honestly, beats that seem awfully similar to the markedly feminist Ever After.

Cinderella again meets the prince outside the palace before there is any ball... The film protects her from being after a change in status by ensuring that she doesn't know he's a prince when she goes to the ball hoping to see him.
Six years ago I wrote an Engligh libretto to Pauline Viardot's 1904 opera Cendrillon (original French libretto believed to have been a collaboration between Viardot and Ivan Turgenev). The pre-ball relationship between the Prince and Cinderella was a key element in that 100-year old version, as well. The prince came to her house in disguise as a beggar, and was touched by her charity and kindness. He arranged the ball hoping she would come, and switched places with his Chamberlain so she wouldn't be intimidated while he courted her. So, it's not exactly a new idea.
"Woman gives birth to a gourd."

This is the opening to the description of an Italian variant of the Cinderella folk tale — or, really, a relative of one of its relatives... In this version of the story, the heroine is born inside a gourd and accidentally abandoned in the forest — understandable, given that her mother has just brought forth a squash from within her person, and the last thought she's entertaining is probably, "Hey, I'll take that with me."

What is the name of this young lady who was born inside a vegetable? Her name, of course, is Zucchettina.
Can you stand another theater anecdote?

A few years ago, I played a witch in a Shakepereas-in-the-Park Macbeth. We were in view all the time, hanging out in a grove of trees behind the stage with a cauldron over an (empty) fire pit and charms hanging from the trees. As non-upstagingly as possible, we carried out daily activities in our little camp while the rest of the show went on: gathering wood, pouring and drinking mead, having silent conversations, folding blankets, etc. We kept our real-life belongings in old-looking bags stashed behind trees.

The director encouraged us to make the witches as individual as possible, so one girl wore a pregnancy pillow through the whole run. On the last night, we decided we’d act out birthing the baby during a long lull between our scenes toward the end. I happened to have a huge zucchini in my bag (a friend had given it to me right before the show and I wasn’t able to take it home in between), so we wrapped it in a ragged cloth and used it for the “baby.” So, I guess we were unknowingly acting out an old fairy tale!

(Got a big laugh during costume strike when I yelled out, “[Name], I need your baby – it’s my dinner tonight!”)
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:58 AM on March 16, 2015 [6 favorites]

Two articles on the new movie from The Dissolve and Vox. (Maybe better for a FanFare post, but there isn't one yet.)
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 10:00 AM on March 16, 2015

This is kind, you guys. Thank you.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 5:11 PM on March 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

Yes, thank you. This is why in my heart, Ever After will forever be the only real-life Cinderella movie ever made until the movie described above comes along.

I really appreciated how serious and thoughtful the Linda Holmes piece is about Ever After - melodrama and heavy-handedness notwithstanding, that movie is smart and kind and righteous in every way.
posted by naoko at 11:10 AM on March 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

So I finally watched it, and somewhere hiding inside is a much more interesting movie about Lady Tremaine, with much more fun costumes for her and her daughters. It was a fun movie, but as Linda Holmes points out, it's no Ever After.
posted by jeather at 4:52 PM on March 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

All this just makes me want to reread the Tanith Lee short story "When the Clock Strikes."
posted by salix at 9:30 PM on March 23, 2015

Vengeful Satantic Cinderella yes
posted by The Whelk at 9:36 PM on March 23, 2015

Yeah! After watching this, I agree with jeather that Lady Tremaine was the most interesting part, and honestly, the most sympathetic character in the movie. Her new husband is fixated on his dead, perfect, sappy wife, and then dies leaving them impoverished? And then his perfect "true daughter" goes around being a mousy saint all day? It's no wonder that she keeps pushing it and feeling frustration at the girl. It's not noble, but it's really human.
posted by corb at 9:10 PM on March 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

« Older It's a Fanmade World   |   The Case Against Credentialism Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments