So, what does the current live-action version of Cinderella have to teach us about cultural values? In spite of the breathtaking shots, the beautiful cinematography, and some inside jokes, it was all for grownups. There is a growing trend in film to remake fairy tales into live-action movies for grownups. Being annual Disney pass holders, while at downtown Disney my family and I went to see the new Cinderella pic. Fun for the whole family, right? Well, it was enjoyable for everyone but our five-year old. Spoiler alert - there are no talking animals, but rather some facially expressive mice. Not a talking mouse on the lot, which is something I thought Disney was known for. Just a blond without a waist. The underdog tale of a beautiful blond girl. That’s something we can all get behind. I know, I know. How could I be so cynical about Cinderella? It’s Cinderella!
The evil stepmother is more self-centered than evil. Cinderella’s mom is a pantheist who chimes, “I believe in everything.” The root meaning of pantheism is “everything-ism.” If everything is divine, then nothing is divine. Disney should watch their own movies. It’s what Dash from The Incredibles complained about to his mom: “If everyone is special, that means no one is special.”
But the main thing I find personally disturbing about this lovely film is the narcissism of fairytales for grownups. The filmmakers didn’t have the whole family in mind. Clearly, John Lasseter needs to be involved in all storyline aspects of Disney films and not just animation. Maybe he is, but the animated Disney films are loved by the entire family whereas this new Cinderella is a kind of tale retold by adults who cut out all the parts of the classic Disney story that made kids love it along with their parents. The point is that the new Cinderella is movie that had the adults in mind first. The children came second, which is why your younger children won’t find this movie engaging. Won’t. They don’t. I lived through it with a five-year old girl... which I thought was the target demographic for Cinderella.
What harm would some talking animals bring? It’s a fairytale, people! Instead, we have a socially conscious Cinderella who’s concerned that a CGI moose will be shot. Have we become so narcissistic as adults that we can make family movies without the children in mind? Might it detract from the very grownup story about a couple who meet once and fall in love? The pumpkin turns into a coach! That in itself calls for talking animals.
I’m singling out Cinderella, because some of the past fairytales for grownups were clearly made for grownups, for instance the dismal Red Riding Hood or the laughable Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters. Those weren’t films for the entire family and the marketing made that clear. There’s an entire series on fairytales for grownups on television right now, Once Upon a Time, where all the fairies are Playboy bunnies. But Cinderella with Disney above the title and you expect that younger children might find something to like in it. We loved the fairytales as kids, but now that we’re grownup... well, it’s still about us.