"An eleven-year-old told me, 'I thought I'd just sit around and get all this money. I used to think Cinderella should be my story'" (Stone 48).
|Disney's animated feature film Cinderella debuted in 1950 and the classic story has been adopted, restructured and modernized numerous times to appeal to children all over the world. Disney's version of the Cinderella story is about a young girl whose widowed father remarries but soon dies, leaving his daughter with Cinderella's evil stepmother and her two daughters. The evil stepmother prefers her own daughters over Cinderella and has Cinderella cater to them and perform all of the house chores. The opposition between Cinderella and her two stepsisters is clear. While Cinderella is kind, patient, and sweet, her stepsisters are cruel and selfish. What is presented through these female characters, Cinderella being the central character, is a conflict between what personal traits are associated with physical traits. Although Cinderella is dressed in rags she is the more beautiful female and her sisters are stout and unattractive. These representations are then capable of teaching young girls what characteristics they should associate with specific physical attributes. Marcia R. Lieberman argues, "If a child identifies with the beauty, she may learn to be suspicious of ugly girls, who are portrayed as cruel, sly, and unscrupulous in these stories; if she identifies with the plain girls, she may learn to be suspicious and jealous of pretty girls, beauty being a gift of fate, not something that can be attained" (385). In this fashion, Disney's representations of these two female counterparts can be a form of appellation, calling young girls to identify with the either the beautiful female or the unattractive females. Not surprisingly, most would probably want to be Cinderella because she lives happily in the end and it is difficult to approve of the cruelty of the stepsisters while it is almost instinctive to feel sorry for Cinderella.||
In many ways, Disney's Cinderella manages to preserve ideological
concepts. For example, the idea that a girl of Cinderella's social
class could end up marrying a prince seems unlikely, especially when all
of the odds are against her. Her stepmother and stepsisters lock
Cinderella away after shredding her dress for the ball to pieces and yet
she manages to make it to the ball with the help of her fairy godmother.
It is the inconveniences and difficulties of social mobility that are
underestimated in this movie and though progressing up the social ladder
is certainly possible, Cinderella does it effortlessly. After she weeps
and the other females leave, her fairy godmother appears and, through
her magic, Cinderella's circumstances change from one moment to the next
as mice are converted into horses, a pumpkin becomes a carriage, etc.
By transforming social status into something that can be easily
maneuvered, the interests of those in power are conserved. Social
inequalities do not appear as a tough setback and Cinderella teaches us
that we are all in the same position and can easily belong to any social
group we wish to be a part of. Disney creates a story in which social
inequalities seem virtually nonexistent since Cinderella's life changes
quickly and dramatically by her obedient behavior.
Psychoanalysis is a valuable approach to explore the influence of Disney princesses like Cinderella since it refers to individuals as subjective beings. Gillian Rose defines what subjectivity is saying, "we make sense of our selves and our worlds through a whole range of complex and often non-rational ways of understanding" (110). Because psychoanalysis "often focuses on the emotional effects of visual images," Disney princesses are a perfect example of images that have become iconic and, for many, a part of female youth. Many of us may have watched Disney princess movies growing up, never thinking about what exactly they meant to us, only knowing that we liked watching them. Still, our understanding of what it meant to be a Disney princess may have likely been one of the first sources that made us subject to the regulation of cultural values. It is the idea of the unconscious as a "forbidden zone" that implicates unconscious reactions to everyday matters (110). "It is forbidden because the conscious mind cannot access it. And it is forbidden because it is full of outlawed drives and energies and logics" (110). Therefore, although Cinderella, along with other Disney princesses, may be identified as a part of an individual's childhood, the values and ideas conveyed can still be reflected in our decisions and behavior as adults. As a part of the early years of a young girl's life, Disney shapes the unconscious with what we are exposed to, always making us subjective to what we are surrounded by. In the level of the unconscious, "created when a very young child's drives and instincts start to be disciplined by cultural rules and values," many young girls perceive Cinderella as a role model and create expectations and beliefs based on what is portrayed through her (110). Unfortunately, many of these expectations are not fulfilled and end in disappointment if they are not disrupted by other influences and ideals, which can be expected since "subjectivity is always in process" (111).