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Thinking back to our childhood, we all remember hearing many kinds of fairy tales. Some of them inspired us others confused us, and most of them taught us valuable lessons. Through out centuries tales and stories have been used as a valuable tool to pass on our culture to new generations. There is a strong belief that these fairy tales mirror and influence society. All cultures interpret tales in their own unique way. They add and subtract various aspects of the tale to fit the needs of their particular society. The same tale in the United States is different from the tale told in Asia. A good example of tale evolution can be seen in one of the most famous tales ever told which is “Cinderella”. As a professor of women’s history Karol Kelley points out in her essay Pretty Woman: A Modern Cinderella “There are some 700 versions of Cinderella”.This fairy tale as many others has been changing for many years, and in recent years Cinderella has come under some criticism for its depiction of women’s roles in society.
In present day society, where political correctness and equality are at the top of the priority list, by reading essays such as the one by Karol Kelley we find that this might not have been the case in earlier days. Fairy tales such as Cinderella have been found guilty of possessing subliminal socialization traits. Classifying genders as inferior and molding young girls into the female that society expects them to be. In Charles Perrault’s version, which is considered the most common, Cinderella is seen as passive, limited, dependent and inferior. As critics argue, these traits can hinder a child’s self esteem. Karol Kelley states that the “expectations and the promises
of the Cinderella story are psychologically harmful to women.” (p648). The fact that Cinderella is a limited character may give the girl an impression that she should be happy with what she has and not have any or aspirations in her life. That is, until her Prince comes to rescue her. Since these comments were made, the Cinderella story has been modified and changed. In order to see how gender roles have changed in fairy tales from the old to the new, let’s compare the classic version of Cinderella by Charles Perrault to a recent version which is a movie that was released in 1998 called “Ever After”which was directed by Andy Tennant.
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After” to modernize the tale and change the way women are portrayed.
One of the traditional stereotypes that is evident in the classic version of Cinderella is the passive nature of the girl. Cinderella’s step-mother and her step-sisters constantly mistreat her which would normally cause a person to react in a rebellious and aggressive way. This is not the case in this situation. Cinderella absorbs and suppresses the anger, and never lets it show. She continues to be lovable and caring. “People would laugh if they saw a Cinderbottom at the ball” Charles Rerrault (p599). After her sister tells her that cinder bottoms like her would not belong at
a ball, she offers to do their hair in preparation for the big night. Teaching kids to hide their emotions is one of the negative traits of this story. This also teaches the acceptance of an inferior role in society. Most of these hints are geared towards young girls, who are supposed to see that they shouldn’t have any aspirations, but wait until their suffering will pay off in a glorious way. This passiveness takes a different turn in “Ever After”. From the beginning Danielle shows her toughness and aggressive approach from beating up her male friend when she was young, to throwing apples at the prince and punching her evil sister in the face. An explosion of emotions also occurred when the Baroness crossed the line. Another good example of Danielle’s aggressiveness and daring personality is exposed when she goes to buy back and rescue her peasant friend. She was not afraid to stand up for what she believes and tell her opinion to the Prince. She did not let the royalty of the Prince intimidate her. She is not only generous, but she is
also not scared to take risks.
As in most versions of Cinderella, she is beautiful, and characterized as the perfect fit for the Prince. This indicates that girls should only be pretty objects for men to look at. Girls are supposed to live up to the expectations of beauty and perfection, which could hinder ones self esteem deeply if one feels they are not what they are supposed to be. In the movie “Ever After” things have changed. Danielle is not simply beautiful, and she is not flawless. Danielle is developed into a strong, mature and smart woman. She is not just a beautiful face but a whole lot more. She teaches the Prince about literature and moral values. She shows him how to treat other people and not be judgmental like he was toward the Gypsies. The Prince is very much influenced
by Cinderella’s personality which helps him be a better person. Although she is a very good role model, she is not perfect and makes mistakes which reduces the image of perfection. She strives to be a good person and makes other people better.
Apart from the inner beauty and strength, she is also strong physically. “This is one tough, Cinderella” Drew Barrymore. She performs daily tasks that would be considered man’s work. She takes care of the pigs and even plays role reversal when she rescues the Prince from the gypsies by caring hm on her back This brings up another good comparison of how these two versions of the same story are different.
A definite trait of many versions of Cinderella is the reward for suffering. The Prince charming and the magical discovery of his perfect mate. Unlike Perrault’s version, the movie does not have any magical events. “Our version of Cinderella’s magic comes from within, not from some little old lady with a wand” Andy Tennant. Cinderella earns everything she gets through working hard. She does not wait to be rescued, but instead makes things happen for herself. She shows that women don’t need men or magic to gain an identity or be successful. Although the Prince is there in the end, he does not rescue her from the man who bought her. She shows her strength once again by getting away on her own. Danielle does not let things stand in her way.” The fairy tale Cinderella gets shut down by those around her, but Danielle refuses to get
shut down.” Drew Barrymore.
Not only Cinderella’s role has changed. Other characters symbolize a change in gender classification as well. In the movie, there are male servants, not just women. Also, there is a very important part played by one of Danielles’s step sisters. She makes it clear to the king that the Baroness has lied to the queen, which in turn helped Cinderella and made the Baroness and her evil sister into servants. Men are not the only ones who helped Danielle.
I think that we would all agree that even when things change, some things always stay the same. It is safe to say that Cinderella will always be a female, and this should not be looked upon as gender discriminatory thing. There are although some characteristics of the classic Cinderella that can be seen as discriminatory to women such as the labels of inferiority, dependence, and passiveness. By examining a recent version of the tale we can see a significant change in equalizing the differences between genders. Since fairy tales have been known to reflect on its society we can examine the changes that occurred between two versions of the same tale and see
the advances that have been made in society. We see Danielle as a much stronger, independent and more influential than the classic Cinderella. This implies that society is moving in a positive direction to level the playing field between men and women. Richard Convingtons essay definitely complements the points in this. This movie is a definite transformation of the classic tale. The director of the movie made a conscious effort to change this fairy tale to fit our society and he succeeded. As before there have been many different versions of this tale, and new ones are still being made. These new versions such as “Ever After” will be modeled after a different set of values and ideas to mirror present day society.