Academic journal article Marvels & Tales

Feminist Frauds on the Fairies? Didacticism and Liberation in Recent Retellings of "Cinderella"

Academic journal article Marvels & Tales

Feminist Frauds on the Fairies? Didacticism and Liberation in Recent Retellings of "Cinderella"

Article excerpt

Make your once-upon-a-time dreams come true and dine in the one and only Cinderella Castle. Cinderella invites you into the glorious private dining hall of her castle for a storybook meal. Meet characters from Disney's Royal Family at the all-you-care-to-eat Once Upon a Time Breakfast or the customized prix fixe menu offered at the Fairytale Lunch.

For the non-character side to this delicious dining experience, be sure to visit Cinderella's Royal Table.

-"Cinderella's Royal Table"

"Cinderella" continues to be tempting fare. Now we can literally feast with the fairy-tale heroine at Disney's Magic Kingdom, maybe even drinking orange juice from a glass slipper during the Once Upon a Time Breakfast or savoring "oranges and citrons" (Perrault 452) at the Fairytale Lunch. Cinderella's table is certainly "royal." And, of course, we can consume the variety of popular culture adaptations of her story that provides lucrative royalties to the Walt Disney Corporation, which also satiates our desire for products connected to faene: a Cinderella camera and scrapbook set, a Cinderella hair-styling play set, a Cinderella thermal henley, or a Cinderella snowglobe, just to mention a small selection. Cinderella has also been gracing the silver screen for many years, from the classic Cinderella (Disney 1950), the musical Cinderella (Rogers and Hammerstein 1964), to the live-action updated A Cinderella Story (2004). Disney, as one might expect, features the heroine prominently in its Disney Princess Series, most notably in Cinderella U: Dreams Come True and Cinderella III: A Twist in Time. Recently, Cinderella has spread her magic to the popular movie Enchanted (2007). Entertainment Weekly says of Princess Giselle, the movie's heroine, that "the resourceful heroine is soul sister to Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White" (Schwarzbaum). Manohla Dargis, writing in a New York Times review of Enchanted, which received a New York Times Critics' Pick, admits that fairy-tale "movies like to promise girls and women a happily ever after, but it's unusual that one delivers an ending that makes you feel unsullied and uncompromised, that doesn't make you want to reach for your Simone de Beauvoir or a Taser" ("Someday").

The reference to Simone de Beauvoir is significant, for fairy tales have been connected with women's issues, it seems, since they were first written down and published. "One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman," writes Simone de Beauvoir in The Second Sex (267). Cinderella's popularity could have led Beauvoir to modify her claim: "One is not born, but rather becomes, a princess." Maria Tatar suggests that Cinderella's character is so elastic that she "has been reinvented by so many different cultures that it is hardly surprising to find that she is sometimes cruel and vindictive, at other times compassionate and kind" and agrees, in spirit, with Jane Yolen's assessment that "the shrewd, resourceful heroine of folktales from earlier centuries has been supplanted by a 'passive princess' waiting for Prince Charming to rescue her" (Tatar 102). Cinderella's elasticity, however, has also led to more contemporary reinventions that rehabilitate her - that is, some have reinterpreted Cinderella as a strong, independent woman. Three recent and illustrative recastings of Cinderella include Barbara Walker's version in Feminist Fairy Tales (1996), Emma Donoghue's in Kissing the Witch (1997), and Francesca Lia Block's in The Rose and the Beast (2000). These versions attempt to counteract the image of Cinderella as a beautiful but passive, docile young woman that is often perpetuated in popular culture and, ironically, in the classic versions of the fairy tale that have been handed down through the ages, primarily those by Charles Perrault and the Brothers Grimm. Walker, Donoghue, and Block suggest that Cinderella was not born a passive woman, but rather became one. Indeed, she has been drawn that way throughout the ages and seems in need of gender refashioning. …

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