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Tag Archives: Cinderella

Disney* Hates Your Daughters, part 1

Disney has, inarguably, done much to uphold the white skinned, doe-eyed, tiny waisted ideal of physical femininity (consider Ursula the Sea Witch and the Queen of Hearts as a counterpoint). The women of the canon are, broadly, split into three traditional archetypes: the maiden, the mother and the crone. The virginal teenage heroine who must overcome a real or imagined obstacle and bag her man (Snow White, Beauty and the Beast‘s Belle); the nurturing, white-haired older woman as advisor or wish granter (Sleeping Beauty‘s three fairies, Cinderella‘s fairy godmother); the striking, red-lipped antagonist, sexually available, clever and evil (Malificent, Cruella De Ville). Up until The Little Mermaid, these women are entirely controlled beings with no real sense of selfhood, directed to their destinies by forces beyond their control. Whether or not these destinies correspond with each character dream (something that she must have) is a matter of chance and accident. Luckily for these girls what they all seem to dream of is love, or, more accurately Disneylove, which is instantanious and all encompassing, blind to flaws and everlasting.

The Disney Princesses (two of whom aren't actually princesses, but let's not be picky).

But Disney’s fairy tales – Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid, and the like – are based on the stories collected by Perrault, Grimm and Andersen, so if they don’t show us a range of images of womanhood, whose fault is it?

That’s a difficult question to answer. Has Disney chosen to retell the most famous of the fairy tales, or are they the most famous fairy tales because Disney has chosen to retell them? Whatever the answer, the motivation of Walt Disney, of most entrepreneurial business minds, is not social progress. It is cash, cold and hard. This is not an admirable stance but it is a valid one. Disney will give the public what it thinks it wants and the public will drink it up, because it’s Disney. Read the rest of this entry

Feminism for Early Starters: Fairy tales and folk stories retold

Fairy tales are important. They’re a  massive  part of our cultural history and they’re part of curicula in schools world-wide. Children are introduced to fairy- and folk tales in the cradle, and they’re seen as an important part of childhood. Fairy tales are also, on the whole, deeply misogynistic. The traditional versions we know today were written down in cultures that actively sought to suppress women: Perrault wrote down stories told in the salons of France in 1697 in his Histoires ou Contes du Temps passé: Les Contes de ma Mère l’Oie; the Grimm brothers collected tales from German oral traditions in their Kinder- und Hausmärchen of 1812 and Hans Christian Andersen produced his first volume of fairy takes, Eventyr, in 1835.  The first of these works is almost a century before A Vindication of the Rights of Women, the last around 60 years before the first wave of feminism really got going. 

One of the joys of fairy tales is  that they are part of a strong tradition of oral storytelling. They mutate, fudge and grow, transcending arbitrary boundaries to fit the societies and cultures in which they are told. Take Cinderella. There are dozens of tales across cultures:

For many of us twenty-first century dwellers, this oral tradition means traditional tales can easily take on the foibles and sensitivities of modern living, which in turn mean that published fractured fairy tales, political in nature or otherwise, are common.

I’ll be moving on to folk tales from antiquity with a strong feminist message at a later date, but for now, here are my favourite feminist reworkings of some traditional tales.

Read the rest of this entry

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