Friday, March 20, 2015

Movie Review: 2015 Cinderella

I interrupt your Feminists Talking Books to bring you Feminist Talking Movies. I went to see the live action re-make of Cinderella last week and boy, was it a true re-make of the animated movie. There were only small, insignificant changes and nothing original or new about the movie which is not the point. What really troubles me is how problematic the movie message is.

The movie was beautiful to watch. Amazing costumes and simply beautiful colors. The whole movie flowed nicely and I thoroughly enjoyed it, to be honest. But. The movie's message is "have courage and be kind" which okay, this sounds like solid advice, right? However Cinderella doesn't show any courage when she's being abused by her stepmom and stepsisters. She remains kind. Cinderella is never the catalyst of change. A fairy godmother helps her go to the ball and then when she's locked up in the attic, she SINGS. That's how the prince saves her. Because when he stepmother locks her up, her response is to SING. Because it's good to be "courageous" but ultimately "kind".

During the entire movie, "be kind" is shoved down our throat again and again and again.  Yes, kindness is FINE but they should have had Cinderella actually DO SOMETHING or acknowledge that she's being abused. But alas, she's extremely accepting of what happens to her. The movie's message screams be passive in the face of abuse because that passivity is "kindness". Then your kindness will be rewarded with external outside help because a fairy godmother will recognize your "kindness". 

This is yet another thing that tells girls to be kind and nice over any other quality. Yes, the movie pushes Cinderella to have courage but they portray that courage as Cinderella accepting the way her stepmom and stepsisters treat her without complaint. And THAT IS courageous. That is outstandingly strong but it just seems that this acceptance of abuse is better than breaking away from abuse.

On top of all of this, the stepmom an stepsisters NEVER face consequences. They just leave and are never seen again. How about calling out their behavior as abuse? Some sort of consequences? This is where my main problem with the whole movie originates. It's why I think the movie message is problematic. It belittles Cinderella's abuse. 

Furthermore, Cinderella passes on her message to Prince Charming and guess who actually takes "have courage and be kind" and he actually puts it to use. The Prince stands up to his father and tells him he will marry for love because he learned that he must "have courage and be kind". So Cinderella remains passive while the Prince is actually able to make a stand. Hello, double standard.

I walked out of the movie happy because it was enjoyable but when I came home after thinking about it, I just became disgusted and tired that this is 2015 and we're pretty much regressing. I can't believe how awful the portrayal of women is in the movie. Cinderella, is touch with nature, she only wears light pastel colors, she loves animals, her hair is always done in natural ways. The stepmother and the stepsisters, on the other hand, always wear bold colors and their hair is never natural. They're shallow, vapid, stupid and evil. 

I already see this All. The. Time. in books. The evil women always like clothes and girly things and it makes me sad that this is another MAJOR portrayal that just further makes this distinction. Girly things just make you shallow. Nice girls aren't aware of their beauty. Got it!

I want to make it clear that I think Cinderella is strong and I know that breaking the cycle of abuse is hard. She got dressed to the ball and she ended going. Cinderella has BACKBONE. She did have courage in facing her situation and remaining positive. That is tough and it is amazing but it ultimately fell through for me. I'm not faulting the portrayal for that or that romance triumph or any of that (my favorite genre is romance!). I think Lily James did a good job of not making Cinderella a doormat. My problem was with the whole movie put together. The lack of consequences or acknowledgment that Cinderella faced abuse. Also, I'm just tired of being told to be kind. Over and over and over in every portrayal. I want variety.

Again, I want to make it clear that my problem is not with Cinderella -the character-, my problem is with the movie as a whole. My intrepration is that Cinderella should take her abuse and stay kind, that kindness is best and even if that means you'll stay in the abusive environment, kindness is ultimately what matters. I'm aware that breaking out of an abusive environment is hard and it takes help. The message that kindness triumphs just rubbed me the wrong way because they made it have more value than anything else, even at the price of staying in an abusive environment. All the elements of the movie put together didn't work for me.

I just hope to God that the live action remake of Beauty & the Beast does not receive the same treatment. I have hope because Emma Watson is Beauty and I'd like to think as a big feminist icon, the portrayal of Belle would be better.

I just wish this would have been a better portrayal of women with agency because at the end of the day, this movie DOES matter. Millions of young girls are going to watch this. This movie WILL make an impact and leave an impression. Yes, that impression will be that kindness is good and it does conquer and that is TRUE, but I would also like for girls to know that it's okay to be outspoken or more than just kind. I think princess movies ARE important, for girls to have those role models and I want more. 

For now, I recommend you watch Ever After with Drew Barrymore. It came out SEVENTEEN years ago but at least Cinderella is an agent in changing her situation. The stepmom and stepsister also face consequences. It's sad to see that a movie from 17 years ago does a better job of respecting women and portraying them better than a movie that came out last week. We still have a long way to go.


  1. Why must everything be a political statement? It's a fucking Fairy Tale for God's sake! I'm happy that Disney didn't bow down to the over-the-top feminists. You people are, without a doubt, part of what's wrong with the world.

  2. This is really interesting! I haven't seen the movie, but that's disappointing, if it's just the same stuff all over again. I've been reading a rewrite in my Spanish class in which Cinderella has a lot more agency and that is focused a lot more on her personal growth, which had made me hopeful the new movie would be a little more like that... But I guess not :(

    Just want to point out, though, that bashing on Cinderella for not escaping her abusive family isn't really okay either. Yes, it sends a problematic message, but complaining about her for not escaping her abusers is also problematic because it invites victim-blaming. Like I said, I haven't seen the movie so I can't really judge how the movie balances that (or doesn't, as it seems), but I just wanted to point that out :)

    Also, thanks Anonymous, for our first feminist-hating comment! No feminist blog is complete without them, so thanks for making us official <3

    1. I'm not complaining that she didn't escape her family! I do view her as strong and I should have made it more clear that I'm not victim blaming. I'm not blaming Cinderella *the character*, I'm faulting the movie for never acknowledging that Cinderella is being abused or that she's in a bad place. They handled her abuse by making her accept it as okay. That she should be "kind" and take it. Or at least, that's my interpretation. "be kind" was said so many times, it just seemed like it.

  3. I haven't seen the movie, so I can't really speak to how certain themes are represented. That said, I think that not responding to abuse is actually a realistic and unfortunately common response to abuse. (Maybe not singing. But I guess I could see singing as a way to cheer oneself up in an abusive situation?) My point is: If you're like Cinderella, you're poor and have no family or connections, no place to go if you run away and no guaranteed means of supporting yourself if you stay in an abusive household. To you, it looks as if your options are staying in an abusive house where at least you have a bed and some food, or leaving to live on the streets.

    As to the movie not really pointing out or signaling that she's being abused, I could imagine the creators think that this is something the audience already knows and doesn't need to be hit over the head with. The evil stepmother is, well, known as the "evil stepmother."

  4. Please - watch the film. Watch it with no bias, then think about it.
    This review is extraordinarily biased and spiteful - I do not know whether whoever wrote this has some unconquerable fear or grudge against Cinderella - but it is astounding how many problems can be found in this article, it almost makes me wonder how much of the film the author has watched objectively after the defense tomboy = strong woman defense switch was flipped. She shouldn't have punched her stepmother, or run away given the situation she was in. She would have been kicked out, and at the very least, in periods like that had to rely on someones good natured help in town. Unmarried, unsupported woman lived quite differently back then... Need I bring up facts or statistics on that?

    More importantly, Cinderella sees the world the way it *could* be - not the way she wants it to be - she tries to see the best in people. She understands that human beings have flaws and that all deserve a second chance. She sees potential, as we all should.
    Unlike other Disney princesses, she does not whine or get all stroppy when she doesn't get her way. When told that she cannot go to the ball, she is heartbroken, yet almost immediately after is asked for some milk by an old beggar woman. Does she scream and say that she hasn't got the time to care for an old lady? No. Does she whine about it? No. She helps her, she acknowledges that there are others in more pain than her. She puts other people's needs in front of her own, because she understands that the weariness of an old woman is far more important than her disappointment at a ripped ballgown.
    She pities her stepsisters - their lives are frivolous, they have no love for each other, they are extremely vain. Yet she doesn't shout at them or belittle them. When she is belittled by them or insulted, she does not waste her time on her stepfamily, but she leaves the house. Is she 'passive'? - perhaps, yes. But not in a 'negative way' - she knows not to sink down to her stepfamily's scheming level.
    She stays with them because she wants to stay with the house, it is the last memory of her family.
    When she stands up for herself, she does not do so by throwing a tantrum, she does so subtly - for example, at one point her stepmother questions her and her choices in French, a pathetic attempt to show her superiority with the few words she knows - Ella replies in perfect French - bam! There is nothing more to be said.
    Her heart of gold is what wins her over to the prince - of course she doesn't scheme. She doesn't 'wait about' to be saved - she just wants to stay with the house, with its memories, all the artefacts her father has gathered from all over the world. She doesn't scheme because in a strange way, she doesn't want to leave - she sees the best in people and knows that it is only through kindness that you may really touch a person. Not through a tantrum. She doesn't 'want' to be 'saved' - she just wanted to go to the ball to see this kind apprentice whom she'd met once in a forest, she wants to make sure that her stepfamily does not destroy the remnants of all that is dear to her, and most especially, she wants to make as many lives as she can breathe a little easier. Not through taking over the world or becoming some politics driven mad woman, but through being the best she can to others.
    Which is why, in the end, after all she's been through, once she has genuinely won and should be gloating about her victory, she looks her stepmother in the eye, the woman who has always hated her, and tells her firmly:

    "I forgive you."

    And that is why you should watch it.
    Kit and Ella have a partnership - based on kindness. Not on trickery, not on 'who can be the best at x or y' but based on making others happy. They treasure humanity and all it can give. Because when you give, and you persevere in giving, you get far, far more in return..

    1. This is late but this Cinderella has the most backhanded forgiveness I have seen in my life, her whole forgiveness thing is laughable by a degree and I'm baffled nobody sees how backhanded it is, she forgives her Stepmother and then what? She throws them out of the country along with her dumb stepsisters that she knows will never survive unless they sell themselves, how can Cinderella even live with herself like this? The supposed kind and brave Ella, who can sleep at night knowing what will happen to her step family if they were thrown out, I can't even watch my bullies get scolded and cries during middle school and I'm certainly not the kindest people out there, with Danielle you get she is flawed and more human like thus having trouble to forgive a person who torments her for many years thus she sentenced a punishment that-is-not-so-bad considering the time period they were in, and Danielle looks far more humble than ever when she delivers her punishment, while the supposedly sweet and kind Ella of 2015 looks like the most snobbish British girl I have ever seen with her nose pointing up high


Leave a comment below and let us know what you think!