Friday, May 30, 2014

Some off the cuff thoughts on Disney’s Cinderella (1950)

I do feel the need to preface these thoughts with a reminder to people that  a) I did no grow up with Disney the way that many Americans have, b) for some reason I am slightly biased against animated Disney movies. – I just don't seem to like/love/adore them as much as many or most of my students do. Part of this maybe because I simply do not care for feature-length animated movies in general. On the other hand I remember with fond affection many animated TV shows such as The Bugs Bunny Show (loved Sylvester and Tweety Bird), Rocky & Bullwinkle, the Hanna-Barbera shows like Top CatHuckleberry HoundThe FlintstonesThe Jetsons,The Wacky Races.
Anyway so here goes: my main issue with Disney's Cinderella was/is – who is its supposed audience? Is it a kid’s movie through and through? – or is it a movie geared towards slightly older girls? The large role played by the mice and birds (who I thought were charming in the beginning but got a bit boring as the movie progressed) plus the very broad and caricaturist depiction of the step-sisters and even the King and his faithful side-kick the Grand Duke (Who reminded me a bit of the Little Mermaid’s Sebastian except he wasn’t a crab of course…) all seemed more directed towards younger kids.
And then you get Cinderella herself – who again I thought was charming in the beginning but who began to grate on me as the film progressed—I couldn't help thinking she really did feel she was better than the sisters because how could she not? To me she came off more as a coquettish 1950’s teenager who was trying to be good than someone who was inherently good….And so -- who was or is the audience for the romance part of the movie? — Hubby Bill referred to this part of the plot/movie as “the girly stuff” – which of course he never really liked much. So I’m just wondering what little girls make of that part—does it make them want to be “belles of the ball”? Princesses? Is this where the “anti-Disney” twitter feeds get it right in their insistence on the fact that this part of the narrative frames young womens' expectations in a narrowly consumerist, shallow and heteronormative way? (Along the lines of  “my whole goal in life is to be thought of as pretty by men and nab a handsome prince-like fella?”)  Of course this is 1950 and I know that the Disney movies tweak their narratives to adapt to changing cultural norms and values. (Which is why I’m trying to watch these movies in the order of their release).  On the other hand I wonder how much things have changed. (I’m looking at you The Bachelor/the Bachelorette).

When we discuss the Perrault and Grimm versions of this tale in the fairy tale class (full disclosure—I’m somewhat biased towards the “romantic” yet dark/cruel Grimm version) we do dwell on notions of “inner” versus “outer” beauty—i.e. the fact that the step-sisters in the Grimm version are explicitly described as “schön” – beautiful on the outside but “garstig” on the inside — i.e. where it counts? In the Disney version they’re just silly…they’re not as explicitly cruel as they are in the Grimm. The step-mother takes on the role of the cruelly mean one in the Disney version which for me made her seem disconnected from her daughters.
I did like the opening song and of course bibbidi bobbodi boo is a great "earworm".....  
One last pet peeve--am I the only one who thought Cinderella looked better with her hair down - before she got all gussied up for the party? -I did not care for her up-do.
I’m excited to find out that Kenneth Branagh of all people is directing a new non-animated version of Cinderella, with Cate Blanchett as the evil step-mother—it is scheduled to be released in March 2015 and until then all we have is this total “teaser’ of a trailer for it…

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