How many fairy tales have been made into movies? Too many to count, so we won’t. But let’s add to the list Disney’s new live-action version of Cinderella. Given that this is another in a very long line of Cinderella remakes, it surprised us with great reviews and opening numbers. Although maybe it shouldn’t considering it was directed by Kenneth Branagh (Academy Award nominated actor and director). It premiered mid-March outdoing Fifty Shades of Grey with a $135 million opening weekend. AND it scored 84% on rotten tomatoes. We guess there’s no denying fairy tales are a hit. But does anyone even remember where they came from?
Fairy tales started as short stories filled with folkloric characters portraying a certain legend or lore. They were found in all different cultures, each with its own take on particular life lessons, and they weren’t too kid-friendly. In one of the oldest tales of Cinderella for example, she is a slave girl from Thrace. And, well, it’s not the ‘fairy tale’ story we know today. In fact, some think it was the story of a real woman who was sought out by the Emperor and then, more-or-less, she was trafficked for sex and comfort. No folks, no pumpkin, handsome prince or glass slipper in this version. The story evolved, obviously. However, not before making a few more gruesome stops. At one point Cinderella’s story was about cannibalism. Yep. Cinderella and her sisters suffer a terrible famine, so they attempt to kill and then eat their mother. Apparently Cinderella wasn’t always so nice. Although, to be fair, she doesn’t go through with eating her mother, her sisters do. But she does wear her bones as an accessory to the ball. Up-beat, right?
Well, French author Charles Perrault gets ahold of Cinderella’s tale and his version creates the rags-to-riches story we’re all familiar with (we assume). Written in 1697, Perrault adds the pumpkin carriage, glass slipper, fairy godmother, and many other Disney-esque features so closely linked to Cinderella. And eventually this romanticized version of Cinderella’s story falls in the hands of Walt Disney. Disney did their version of Cinderella in the 50’s and brought it to the screen. Thanks to Walt, we now think of this fair tale, and many others, as a story of love, romance, ball gowns, magic wands, and helpful woodland creatures. Oh, and that some day our prince will come and rescue us from our domestic obligations. But only to perform the same chores, albeit in a castle. Let’s call it climbing the domestic ladder.
Once upon a time fairy tales were about conflict, gender politics, feminism, anti-feminism, survival, etc. Now, they’re princess tales and they’re being redone over, and over, and over, and over again. But whether or not this live-action Cinderella redux makes a good movie, have fairy tales strayed too far from the original books? Eh. Who’s to say one version’s better than the other? To each their own. BUT, what would a modern interpretation of the original Cinderella fairy tale look like? That, we’d like to know.