"These good fairies have gender only in a technical sense; to children,
they probably appear as women only in the sense that dwarfs and wizards
appear as men. They are not human beings, they are asexual, and many of
them are old. They are not examples of powerful women with whom
children can identify as role models; they do not provide meaningful
alternatives to the stereotype of the younger, passive heroine. A girl
may hope to become a princess, but can she ever become a fairy?"
In Cinderella, the heroine succeeds abiding by her stepmother's and
stepsisters' orders, never expecting any reward for her regular
assistance or resisting anything asked of her. She is quiet, pretty and
out of all the females, perceived as the most feminine, categorizing all
of her meek characteristics as feminine. This behavior can then be
regarded as the sort of behavior young girls should follow being that
becoming a princess through marriage rewards Cinderella. When her
godmother appears and makes it possible for Cinderella to attend the
ball, there is finally the introduction of a positive female figure who
does not give orders to Cinderella. Instead the fairy godmother cares
for Cinderella but unlike her, wants to improve the situation by taking
action. Nonetheless, the fairy godmother is not a human being and
although she is a critical factor in turning Cinderella's life around,
she serves as a figure of magic that cannot be rationalized in reality.
Magic in the movie works in very much the same way a myth does to "make
us forget that things were and are made," and "it naturalizes the way things
are" (97). It is not because Cinderella is proactive, passionate, and
confident that she makes it to the ball and lives happily ever after.
It is because she cries, does nothing and is lucky enough to have a
fairy godmother appear and assist her.
Cinderella's fairy godmother's magic gets her to the ball, but it is
this very magical makeover from tattered clothing to a beautiful gown
that ultimately wins her the prince's admiration. At first glance he
falls in love with her and then desperately seeks her out by searching
for the woman whose foot fits into the glass slipper Cinderella left
behind. Even the stepsisters are in awe of the beauty the mysterious
Cinderella possesses and do not recognize their own stepsister at the ball. It is
evident that Cinderella's beauty, not her actions, change her life.
Fetishistic scopophilia can then be used as a form of analysis for this
eternal concept of beauty seen in so many of Disney's princess movies.
Through her beauty, Cinderella becomes "a beautiful object of display,"
establishing patriarchal values in which the female's personality
matters little compared to her physical features. She is objectified by
the male and performs "as passive spectacle" (Rose 118-119). This view
of the female is found in Cinderella not simply because she is
beautiful, but because beauty is what improves her life and results in a
happy-ending. The prince is not interested in who she is as a person,
given that he does not even know her name. His attraction to her is
enough for him to fall in love with her the very instant they meet and
then have every woman in the kingdom try on the glass slipper so that he
can identify her. Once again, Cinderella waits. In the same way she
did nothing after her stepsisters had ruined her dress, she waits for
something to happen rather than seek out the prince she has apparently
fallen in love with. Just as the fairy godmother had appeared to assist
Cinderella, the prince arrives as well and sees that Cinderella owns the
matching slipper. Even though passivity is not necessarily considered
to be a trait of champions or success, it is what works in favor of
Cinderella and in the end makes her a princess. "Since the heroines are
chosen for their beauty (en soi), not for anything they do (pour soi),
they seem to exist passively until they are seen by the hero, or
described to him. They wait, are chosen, and are rewarded" (Lieberman
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