“Once there was a gentleman who married, for his second wife, the proudest and most haughty woman that was ever seen. She had, by a former husband, two daughters of her own, who were, indeed, exactly like her in all things. He had likewise, by another wife, a young daughter, but of unparalleled goodness and sweetness of temper, which she took from her mother, who was the best creature in the world.
-Cinderella (Charles Perrault)
In this day and age of “strong female characters” and “girl power” and “being one of the boys”, characters like Cinderella get a lot of shame and hate.
After all, Cinderella was a pushover. She was weak, cowardly, never stood up for herself. Not someone little girls of this age should ever look up to or strive to be. Right?
I’m about to be a bit controversial. Are you ready? Here we go…
Cinderella is one of my favorite heroines.
“Say what now?” you’re probably exclaiming. “CINDERELLA? That weak little mouse? Why would you look up to her?” I’m glad you asked! *smile, smile* I’m here to tell you allll the reasons why I have, in fact, always saw Cinderella as a wonderful role model. *cracks knuckles*
It’s true, Cinderella is not your usual protagonist. She didn’t stand at the front lines and charge into battle to save a kingdom. She didn’t rescue a planet or bring down a corrupt government or battle a kraken or any of those things most female protagonists do these days. On the surface, it appeared as if all she did was let people push her around and then put on a pretty dress and got married. When you look at the story from that mindset, I can totally understand why people think it’s poison for their little girls.
But the story of Cinderella is SO much more.
So let’s debunk some of these problems people have with our girl Cinderella…
WAS SHE A WEAK PUSHOVER?
At first, Cinderella does seem like a pushover. I mean, she let these three crazy women come into her home and turn her into a scullery maid. But what other choice did she have? The stepmother ruled the house. And what was Cinderella going to do? Leave her home and go live on the streets? Poison her new stepmother and sisters? That certainly wouldn’t be very heroic. (Though I could see that happening with the protagonists we often get now, especially with TV shows…)
Let’s be real, most of us in that situation would be angry and bitter. I know *I* would. I’d be furious. I’d have turned into a bitter raincloud.
But what did Cinderella do? She didn’t stomp around and gripe about those horrible stepsisters and wicked stepmother. She didn’t seek revenge. She didn’t let anger fester and fester into her heart until she became a bitter, harsh woman.
No, sweet Cinderella did as her dying mother told her in Grimm’s version.
“Dear child, remain pious and good.”
Or Disney’s spin on it, if you’d rather.
Cinderella remained good.
Because that’s what Cinderella is. She’s good. Bitterness hardens the heart into something ugly and selfish and cruel. And so many of us could have fallen into that in that situation. But Cinderella chose goodness.
Even after all she had been through, and she married into the royal family and had all the power in the world, she did not seek revenge. In Perrault’s version of the tale, she forgave her stepsisters and showed them kindness.
“Cinderella, who was no less good than beautiful, gave her two sisters lodgings in the palace, and that very same day matched them with two great lords of the court.
And Disney nailed it at the end of their live action movie, when Cinderella told her stepmother she forgave her. That was one of the most powerful, poignant scenes I’ve seen in a movie in a long, long time.
Chills. It gets me every. single. time.
Cinderella chose to love over hate. And you know what?
That is strength.
Can you imagine the kind of strength it took to choose to love that stepmother and those stepsisters? To forgive them? To refuse to give way to bitterness and harden her heart?
Cinderella is strong. Just because she had a broom in her hand instead of a sword doesn’t mean she’s weak. She is one of the strongest female protagonists I have ever known.
Speaking of brooms…
WASN’T SHE A LITTLE TOO
OBSESSED WITH PRETTY DRESSES?
Cinderella? You mean the girl who slept in ashes every night and wore rags? No, I most certainly do not think she was too obsessed with pretty things.
Cinderella was not afraid to get her hands dirty. And she worked hard. In most of the movies, all the servants were let go, leaving Cinderella to take care of EVERYTHING. By herself. And she did. She kept that household going and didn’t give up when it got too hard. She didn’t whine about a broken nail or getting dirt on her skirts. She did what she had to do. No matter how horrible things became.
Yes, she liked pretty dresses. But who on earth wouldn’t be excited about getting dressed up nice for one night (or three, depending on which version we’re talkin’ here) after being in rags day after day after day?
I love Cinderella’s femininity. I love that she wasn’t afraid to get dirty but also enjoyed pretty things. You should never, ever, ever be ashamed of being girly.
My favorite color is pink. (It wasn’t that long ago that my blog theme was pink. You guys remember that?) And a lot of people would blanch at that. Apparently pink these days is an evil, forbidden color and is destroying girls everywhere???? Yeah, no, I don’t understand it either. God made pink, people. It’s a gorgeous color! And you think I’m going to be shamed in liking it? Do you think it’s wrong to enjoy dressing up pretty and being girly? Noooo. God made females to be feminine. He wants us to embrace that.
And hey, I can wear a frilly pink skirt and watch a Marvel movie at the same time. So there.
And yes, I know I was talking about Cinderella here. I am actually getting to a point! And it is this: People are hating on Cinderella and the whole “princess culture” in general because I guess liking sparkly ball gowns is wrong?
Being feminine is not wrong.
And guess what? Princesses aren’t all about sparkly ball gowns. (In fact, Hayden Wand did a spectacular post on this very subject of the “princess mentality” and you should all go read it.) The majority of Cinderella isn’t centered around the glitz and glamor. Its true focus is on the grit and grime, the cruelty of humans, and the strength to rise above it and choose goodness.
The stepsisters were too obsessed with pretty gowns and the shallow things in life. Cinderella was not.
Which brings me to…
ALL HER DREAMS CAME
TRUE ‘CAUSE SHE WAS PRETTY?
Is that the message of Cinderella? Because, after all, she arrived at the ball all decked out and beautiful, caught the Prince’s eye, and lived happily ever after. So the message is you only get things you want if you’re gorgeous?
In Grimm’s version, it states the stepsisters were very beautiful girls. But Cinderella got the Prince, not them. Because, sure, Cinderella was beautiful on the outside, but she was even more beautiful because of her beauty within. (I know that’s cliché, but it’s true.)
Now, I’ll be the first to admit, the Prince’s character needed development…a lot. (Another thing Disney fixed so wonderfully in their live action movie. Kit was perfection.) But fairytales aren’t big on details. They’re very short stories after all. But still, I personally believe what really drew the Prince to Cinderella was the goodness shining out of her. She wasn’t like the other girls. She was different. Not focused on the glitz and glamor. Not shallow and conceited.
The very core of the Cinderella story is that true beauty is found through kindness, goodness. Through gentleness, patience, love.
No, Cinderella’s dreams did not come true because she happened to have a pretty face. Think about it, I highly doubt a fairy godmother would have helped a girl who sought to poison her stepfamily. And would the Prince have been drawn to her if she had chosen anger and bitterness, and harshness oozed from her being?
It was because Cinderella chose love over hate that she got her happy ending. The story of Cinderella is much like the Christian walk should be. Where we choose to reflect Christ-like behavior, and though it’s not easy, and there is much suffering through the journey, it’s so worth it. Because, in the end, as Cinderella got her Prince, we receive our Prince of Peace.
I’m not saying the Cinderella story is perfect. The plot holes. Oooh, the plot holes. (Why did the glass slippers not disappear at midnight when everything else did?) And in the Grimm’s version the stepsisters cut off their toes and heels to try to fit the glass slipper on their feet. (I personally like Perrault’s version much better.) Fairytales can be messed up, guys! They’re too short and illogical and seriously morbid a lot of the time. But they also have hidden gems of wisdom within their words. Because that’s the original point of fairytales, to teach children lessons about life. To teach wisdom and truth and good vs. evil.
To me, the character of Cinderella reflects all the qualities we are called to be in Ephesians 4:1-3:
“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, 2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, 3 endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
I have admired Cinderella since I was very, very young. Because I am prone to anger, I can get bitter. I speak my mind during times when I really, really should have just stayed quiet. And I can be horribly selfish and shallow. And so I always looked up to Cinderella’s patience, gentleness, and grace. Because of her I strive to be a better person. And isn’t that what all our heroes and heroines should accomplish?
I was so, so proud of Disney for choosing to keep the gentle essence that has always been Cinderella instead of turning her into this tough girl female protagonist that is typical for modern day media. Her quiet strength is refreshing.
Now, don’t get me wrong, female warriors are perfectly fine. And I love the feisty ones. I literally just a few weeks ago talked about my favorite types of characters and listed the feisty girls as one of my top favorites.
BUT. I really, really don’t like how the sweet, gentle characters are disappearing. How femininity is looked down upon, and how kindness is considered “weak”. Hating someone is easy, but choosing to love…that’s where true strength comes in.
I want more characters like Cinderella. I want characters who inspire me to rise up and live in “gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love.”
And that’s why I believe Cinderella is a good heroine.
~ ~ ~
ALL RIGHT, GUYS. This was probably my most opinionated post to date. (I hope you didn’t mind. But Cinderella and this issue has been on mind since I was like…5 or something, so. This post was bound to explode out of me eventually.) Which means I’m now dying to hear YOUR opinion. (I don’t bite, I promise.) What do you think about Cinderella and heroines and this day and age of not having Cinderella-like protagonists anymore? I WANT TO HEAR ALL YOUR THOUGHTS. (Also, important here, who else thought the live action Cinderella movie was complete and utter perfection???)
P.S. If you did actually like this post, back in April I did a post about my thoughts on the Beauty and the Beast story. Who knows? Maybe I’ll turn this into a whole Christine’s-opinions-on-fairytales blog series. Because…I really love fairytales and have a lot of opinions apparently.