Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A Cinderella Moment

I'm not a big fan of fairy tales. Mainly, I'm not a fan of the Disney fairy tales. I don't like passive women who meekly accept whatever atrocious position they're in, waiting and pining for the day that a man will come along and save them. I don't like those kinds of women in the stories I read; I don't like them in real life. I'm not passive. I don't expect others to hand me my dreams. My mind doesn't work that way.

Which is why my Cinderella moment has nothing to do with glass slippers and carriages whisking me away to balls. No, the moment came while I was sweating over the soap scum in my tub, scrubbing in those awkward angles that are not comfortable kneeling or bending over. It was at this moment, when Comet covered my hands and straggles of hair were tickling my nose and the pink mold was making a valiant sally against my second charge that I thought of Cinderella.

I wondered, for the first time, if the entire of the fairy tale is actually told within the limits of the story. As in, no happily ever after. Perhaps shortly after the curtains close and the spine is shut and the rosy glow of the honeymoon is over Cinderella finds herself right back where she was before, only now she's scrubbing floors in her own home instead of her stepmothers. Perhaps the only thing that changed was location.

Right, right, I know there was love and marriage, so she's got a sex life now and a glow in her heart, but when she's bent over a porcelain surface, is that what she's thinking about?

It was a thought made bleaker by my tired arms. Now I'm happy to have a shiny bathroom. Still, my take on fairy tales remains the same. Save the white knights for someone else. I'd rather have a man come along who wanted to work at my side, even if we stayed at my stepmother's house. Someone who would support my dreams, not expect me to change my life to fit his and be ecstatic about it. Actually, that's what I have, so maybe I've achieved my own fairy tale. And I never had to have a wicked stepmother, either.


TikiBird said...

"She believed in dreams, all right, but she also believed in doing something about them. When Prince Charming didn't come along, she went over to the palace and got him." -- Walt Disney, talking about Cinderella, in 1949

Besides, I'm pretty sure part of the dream is that if you're going to marry a prince, you're also going to have other people scrubbing your tubs. Hopefully she'll be nice to them since she's been there, done that. :)

Rebecca Chastain said...

You know, while I was scrubbing the tub and thinking of Cinderella, I also began to wonder about her possible servant in the castle. Would she be good to them? Would she treat them cruely and perpetuate the cycle? Would a story from the perspective of Cinderella's maid be interesting? Could I write that novel?

It's interesting that Walt said she went to get Prince Charming when that's not at all how I remember the movie going. Perhaps he was more progressive than he/the writers thought the general American public was.

TikiBird said...

I have to admit here I haven't read many versions of Cinderella, so other than seeing the Disney movie, it's hard to say how "the story goes" (as with probably all fairy tales, I'd bet it changes a little over the centuries).

But, in the Disney version, to get to the party at the castle where she first meets the prince, she gets there with the help of her friends. First she wants to revamp her mom's old dress, but doesn't have time to make it before the party. But there's a houseful of animals she's nice to, and they want to help her out, so they make her a dress to wear. Then of course her stepmom sees how nice she looks and incites the stepsisters tear up the dress. Now that sucks.

Her godmother appears to turn her animal friends (and a pumpkin) into her way to get to the ball--and makes her a new dress, of course. (In other versions, I think her mother's ghost is the one who magically helps her out here...or something like that.)

So she does get herself there--with a lot of help from her friends and a supernatural female relative.

I still see that as partly her own doing, though; she's the only one in the house who's kind to the animals, the "lowly" ones, and they're glad to help her out. (I'm taking that as a sign she'd be nice to her own servant, also, but I suppose power could corrupt anyone. If you're not a believer in "happily ever after.")

Anyway, I think it's only fair that the prince seeks her out for their next meeting--by way of his own servant, who's looking for the mystery woman everywhere on his behalf. Once again, thanks to her friends, she's able to get out of the locked room her stepmom put her in to go and meet the servant just in time to confirm that she was the girl the prince fell in love with at the party, without knowing who she really was.

(Incidentally, at least in the Disney movie, she falls in love with the prince at the party not knowing he's the prince. I see this as a little obtuse on her part, but then again, I guess everyone WAS very dressed up and probably all the guys looked like princes....But it's a nice way of showing she's pure of heart and not a gold-digger. Ditto for him, for loving someone way outside his class, by profession, anyway.)

Also in the Disney version, both of her parents aren't alive; her dad died after marrying her stepmom, so she's kind of screwed. In the original, I think her dad is still alive, so it beats me why her dad would let his new wife treat her so badly. At least in the movie version, her parents are blameless in her treatment.

In either case, I like that her own kindness to others is what ultimately wins her true love and her freedom. And hopefully a life free of scrubbing toilets, too.

I'd bet most any Cinderella story of today (Ella Enchanted, for example) would feature more ass-kicking action by the heroine herself. I always think it's interesting to watch older movies to see how different our expectations are now vs. then (the Disney Cinderella movie was made in 1950)--and what stays the same for centuries...the hope that optimism, gratitude, and a kind heart will save you, along with love; and that you might someday not have to clean your own house. :) Now that is a great story to hear before drifting off to sleep!

TikiBird said...

P.S.--I would like to read your version of Cinderella's story, from her new servants' POV!

The description for this story about the fairy godmother cracked me up: http://www.amazon.com/Godmother-Secret-Cinderella-Carolyn-Turgeon/dp/0307407993/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1263331800&sr=8-1.

P.P.S.--Thanks to Wikipedia, I have learned that in some version of the story, the stepsisters are demoted to being the servants in the prince's castle! I'm sure Cindy is too kind-hearted to treat them poorly...but the thought does make me smile. Clearly, I would be a vengeful princess.