Cinderella hits UK cinemas today – are you excited for the palace doors to open up to all eligible maidens in the land?
But in an age in which Disney is reinventing the idea of the ‘Disney Princess’ – how does this classic fairytale step up to the mark and what does it say to young girls today?
That is the question I challenged director Kenneth Branagh and the film’s star, Lily James with at the Cinderella press conference last week. As a child Disney did me no harm, I’d sing along to the songs, throw a silent strop if I wasn’t in a pretty dress as ‘I wanted to be a princess and trousers were for boys’ I’d talk to animals (visible or not) was scared of evil queens and strongly believed that one day my prince would come. But weren’t all young girls like that? At aged five whenever I drew pictures of myself in my school books, instead of crayoning a green and grey school uniform I’d draw these elaborate puffy pink dresses with roses in my hair- yes forget scunchies in Little Laura land no picture was complete without a giant flower on top of your head, fit for a princess… Besides giving me a false sense of reality in which I truly believed I could grow up to sprout wings and become a fairy, not to mention a warped view of physics, I was genuinely of the view that by sixteen I would meet a magical man have a zillion gorgeous children and that would be it. Obviously we grow out of such ideals and that respect should consider is it really that harmful for little girls to believe such things. All until Disney upped their game – with the likes of Brave and Frozen stepping away from the cliched love will conquer all fairytale there is a new Disenty era in which little girls, and boys in fact are empowered to believe that they don’t have to fit the stereotypes of the classic fairytale. That true love isn’t with a man you met once at a lavish party and has nice hair… and the adventure of the story is through saving the loved ones we start off with, the love of siblings, the love of mothers. If it’s anything to rival the iconic Cinderella ball scene it’s the premise of Merida in brave with her feisty red hair refusing to marry from a selection of suitors and holding her own.
So with all this in the modern mix how is Cinderella to contend? Well, Branagh and James tell us that Cinderella is a tale of truth, friendship and kindness morals which despite coming from the body of a miniature corset, are a relevant role model across the bored. Something that doesn’t need to be spelt out to a five year old and something that if you replicate, good things can only follow. So with that in mind should we be analysing films for their gender message or should we just praise them for the imagination and enjoyment they give to children and adults alike weather or not the heroine is squeezed into an elaborately beautiful dress.
Catch our question time on this debate below – complete with Gandhi themed response (footage courtesy of Red Carpet TV News)