Keep your Courage and Kindness, Cinderella, I’ll take Dignity and Self-Respect Instead!

For the past week and a half or so, I’ve been trying to figure out just why so many people are raving about Disney’s new movie, Cinderella. Not just trying to figure it out, per say, but actually angry and irritated that so many people have only good things to say about this movie. Am I really the only one who wants to take Chris Weitz and Kenneth Branagh (writer and director, respectively) along with all those involved and shake some sense into them? Was I the only one gagging when Lily James was coming down the palace steps with her head out to the side, flipping it about in some suggestion of grace and loveliness?

Now, before I continue, let me be clear. I like Lily James. I like Cate Blanchett. I like Kenneth Branagh and practically everyone else who was involved in this movie. This is not some slight at them, this is more….how shall I say it…disappointment? Yes. I am disappointed in everyone involved in this movie.

Yes, this is a Disney princess movie so I shouldn’t have expected better. But I watched Maleficent, and it was awesome, so I stupidly thought they would have done something awesome like that with this one. But they didn’t. Instead they bought into all the typical weak girly shit involved in princess movies.

Oh, they pushed Courage and Kindness you say instead of beauty and loveliness? Yeah, they pushed it so hard they pretty much choked us with it, repeating that damn theme over and over again like they were teaching children to recite the Lord’s Prayer. And why did they have to repeat the theme over and over and over and over again (because, really, repeating the movie’s message isn’t just lame, but it’s insulting to the audience)? Because they were trying to blind us from the real theme of the movie: self-denial and repression. Have courage and kindness my beautiful child while allowing others to treat you like shit and destroy your life. Gag me, please.

Yes, I noticed in the movie that they tried to improve on the age-old Cinderella story (at least from Disney) where love came from a single dance/glance and beauty could save you from ugliness. But, creating a character that denies her own self in the guise of kindness is not an improvement. No matter what, that is still suggesting that the heroine is nothing but a useless twit waiting to be rescued.

Not one thing that she does in this movie is in her own self-interest nor to help herself out of her shitty situation. If anything, everything about it is her embracing her shitty treatment and her increasingly shitty life without once sticking up for herself. (Yeah, I use shit a lot in this post, because that’s what it is. Shit. They treat her like shit and her reaction to the shit is total shit. You can’t paint a cow pink and call it a pig and all that…so shit it is.)

Is this what we want for our daughters? Is this what we call courage?

Oh, wait a minute, she had the courage to go to the ball after a fairy godmother gave her a fancy butterfly dress and golden carriage and made her all up to be beautiful. Hell, yeah, sure, that’s courage…my ass. I would say courage would be telling the step-mother to fuck off and not touch her when she tried to rip her dress and still go to the ball despite the destroyed dress. Would that not be courage? Or, better yet, even before the ball, when the mother is telling her to go get their dresses made, ordering a dress for herself and then asking the step-mother just what she plans on doing about it, would be courage. Not simply frowning when her hopes and dreams are crushed and walking away, silently…kindly.

I mean, I’m sorry, but I can’t respect someone who is completely incapable of sticking up for herself!

Now, maybe I am not up on the rules of the fairy tale world, but wasn’t the step-mother married to Cinderella’s father? Isn’t that Ella’s house? Could she not just tell her, “I’m a self-respecting member of this household and deserve to be treated justly?” How is that such a difficult thing to do? And when the evil stepmother and her shitty daughters refuse to respect her, is the solution to serve them and look after them and not even eat the food her own household pays for?

There is a scene in the movie when Cinderella (or, she is still Ella at this time) sits down to have breakfast with them and the stepmother, Cate Blanchett, is disgusted and tells her, “wouldn’t you rather eat after all the work is done?” (Or something like that. Essentially, she’s telling her to stop stinking up the table with her presence.) Now, why can’t Ella simply say, “No, bitch, my feet hurt and I’m tired and I’ve been slaving away all morning making your goddamn breakfast and this was my house before it was yours so I have a right to sit and eat my breakfast when I damn well want to!” Or, I’m sure the writer could have come up with a much kinder way to assert herself, but could she not have at least argued? Perhaps just said, “Oh please, stepmother, I’d love to sit down and eat first.” Or, as a young woman who should supposedly know her own mind and have her own feelings she could have simply said, “No, I’d rather not wait to eat. I’d like to eat now, with you.” Because that was obviously what she was feeling! But no, her dying mother told her to have courage and be kind so why the hell would she stick up for herself? Having courage and being kind is synonymous with letting people treat you like shit, isn’t it?

Okay, sure, they do try to show some tiny glimpse of Ella making her own decisions when an old servant asks her why she stays in that house. She replies by saying that her parents aren’t around to love that house any more so it is now up to her.

So, that’s why she lets them treat her so badly? Because she must stay and love the house? Can’t she simply love the house and still live in it like a proper member of the family? Or, is it not possibly to sill love and care for the house without taking it in the ass from her stepmother and step-sisters? I mean, she could have kept her room at least, or demanded another one that wasn’t dirty and unfurnished.

Oh, yeah, did you catch the part when, out of her Cinderelly kindness, she offered up her bedroom for her stepsisters? Then when she was not given another room but the attic, did she argue? Did she open up her goddamn mouth for one second to defend herself and say, “No, I’ll stay in the other bedroom!” No. Because that wouldn’t be kind, would it? Nor would it be courageous. No, being kind and courageous means living like a prisoner in a shitty room in the attic without a single word of protest (although, I do admit, I’d rather a big room in the attic than a room with those fighting sisters).

Yes, she did try and run away just once. Where she met the prince. And there she had an opinion for about six seconds when she told him not to kill the elk or deer or whatever it was. You see, Cinderella has no problem sticking up for other people, just not herself. She has an opinion when it concerns other people’s well being, just not her own. Because that’s what’s important for girls to learn these days, isn’t it? Don’t stand up for yourself but definitely do it for everyone else, because they are more deserving than you.

Oh, you don’t believe me? Really? Because the only other time in this movie that Ella actually had the “courage” to stand up to her stepmother was in defense of the prince. “Do what you want to me,” she said (or something like it), “but I won’t let you hurt him.”

Why? Why should she let the stepmother do mean things to her just not the prince, who obviously has all the power.

Because Cinderelly must give herself up for others. Right? Because constant self sacrifice must eventually pay off, shouldn’t it? Oh, and it does, when they hear her beautiful voice singing a song as she prepares for an unhappy life as a prisoner in her attic, alone, as a spinster, toiling away for her stepmother until she dies. Because she couldn’t possibly have punched her stepmother in the nose and gone to the prince herself! Oh no! That would be unladylike and uncourageous! No, better to sit in a tower and sing until someone comes to save you.

And when that person comes to save you, what do you do? Jump into his arms and wave goodbye to the home you were putting up with such ill-treatment for in the first place.

Wait…what? You didn’t notice that?

Yeah, remember the servant part, where they attempted to give her some good reason to put up with such bullshit? She was staying because she was the only one left to love the house. And yet, when the prince came, she skipped away out of it, but not before doing the kind thing and forgiving her stepmother. Because that’s what Cinderelly does, she leaves it all behind, what she loves, for the prince. Because he is more important than her and we’ve already established that her needs, her opinions and her desires don’t matter.

You don’t believe me?

Well, when people call you names, what do you do? Embrace it? Of course not! As a child/teenager I was called many, many names. Jo Blow, Horn Dog, Horny-C, Horny (yes, my name is Randi. And Austin Powers had just come out and everyone thought it was hilarious what Randy meant in England, therefore, my name became a wonderful word game for which people to play)…the list goes on. But, did I decide that that was who I was? Did I go on to be a porn star or a prostitute? NO! When people asked me my name did I tell them, “My name’s Horny Privates, nice to meet you Reverend.”

Hell no! Because I had enough self-respect to know that the names they called me wasn’t me. What person in their right mind allows themselves to be called by the mean names given to them by bullies?

Oh yes, the wonderful, kind and courageous princess, Ella. Or should I say, Cinderella. Remember, at the beginning of the movie, they called her Ella? Because that is her name, isn’t it? Until her shitty stepsisters decide to come up with a mean name by which to call her when she wakes up dirty after sleeping by the fireplace. So, in lieu of her filth (because, her new bedroom is just too cold and far away to sleep in…again, girl, get yourself a new room!) they call her Cinderella, then titter and snicker like a bunch of brilliant nitwits.

And what does Ella do? Oh, again, nothing, because that wouldn’t be kind or courageous. No…wait a minute…she does worse than nothing. When the prince asks her for her real name what does she tell him? Ella? Fuck no, of course not, because she doesn’t have the balls to actually do that. No, she gives him the mean nickname her sisters gave her, because that makes sense, doesn’t it? “Cinderella,” she says to him. What kind of weak, victim mentality is that encouraging?

If you want a Cinderella story, one you can actually be proud to show your daughters, that has a strong character who doesn’t wave her head about and take shit from everybody just because she’s kind, then watch Ever After. It’s a retelling in which Cinderella (or, Danielle they call her….throughout the entire movie) actually has a brain, and an opinion, and some goddamn self respect, oh, and did I mention a personality? Because, I’m not sure if you know this, but kindness doth not a personality make…sorry people! She doesn’t wait for the prince to come save her, she does it herself. Why? Because she knows who she is and what she’s fighting for. Unlike this pathetic, weak, but kind and courageous version Disney cooked up.

I am so ashamed of this movie. Yes, the visuals were great and the actors were big and it could have been amazing…if they’d actually tried. I won’t say a woman needed to write this because many men out there have written strong female characters with a voice and a brain and…well, you get where I’m going here. But Chris Weitz didn’t do that. He tried to remake a sexist, chauvinistic fairy tale into another sexist, visually appealing, fairy tale. Now, I don’t know if that’s his fault or Disney’s fault, but with the kind of budget and talent Disney has access to, couldn’t someone have said, “Hey! A little Kindness does not make years of ill treatment okay!” Because, as far as I know, in the real world, you deny who you are in the face of mean people, you get crushed. And you sure as hell aren’t getting saved by some prince, and even if you are saved by some hot guy, well, I’ve got news for you girls out there: HE’S NOT GOING TO RESPECT YOU IF YOU DON’T RESPECT YOURSELF!

So…go…watch this shitty movie if you want because they spent a lot of money on it and there are some good actors and the costumes and sets are pretty lovely. But then, sit your kids down and have a big, big talk with them in which they understand the rules: You determine how people treat you, and letting people walk all over you, call you names, and take away your self-dignity sure as hell isn’t courage. And there is no point being kind to anyone if you can’t be kind to yourself.

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