The new Cinderella, released on Amazon Prime Video on Friday, doesn’t even deserve to be numbered among the many great iterations of the beloved fairy tale. Starring Camila Cabello, the modern take on the classic was simply a lazy attempt to promote progressive ideals while simultaneously undoing every golden lesson from the original tale.
The film, written and directed by Kay Cannon of Pitch Perfect, lacks plot and character development and really just relies on its not-so-subtle pandering to progressivism and its very autotuned and rather jarring jukebox playlist. The movie is essentially Pitch Perfect superimposed on a twisted, “forward-thinking” Cinderella storyline. And the music in Pitch Perfect was far better (cringe).
Cinderella, the Feminist
The Cabello Cinderella wants to sell pretty dresses rather than wear pretty dresses, and she wants to succeed in this business endeavor far more than she wants to succumb to the nasty clutches of a man’s love (take that patriarchy!). No, it’s not a very creative attempt to alter the storyline into a rallying cry for feminism.
There’s also the underdeveloped character of the princess who wants to be queen so she can save the environment, the bumbling, oppressive king, and the drag queen fairy godmother. Honestly, it seemed like Cannon simultaneously tried too hard and not at all. She did succeed, however, in doing away with everything that made Cinderella such a timeless, cherished tale.
Victims, Victims Everywhere
Gone, from this adaptation, are real villains (unless you count the king). Most everyone else becomes a victim. Vivian, the stepmother (played by the talented – no denying that – Idina Menzel), is cruel because – take a guess – the patriarchy! She wanted to be a pianist, but her husband left her when she tried to pursue her dreams. So, can you even blame her for her wicked behavior? The prince (Nicholas Galitzine), who is everything but charming, doesn’t want to accept responsibility – he just wants to be free to hang around and travel the world and not be tied down by laws, man. The queen (Minnie Driver) doesn’t feel heard by her husband. Even the townspeople, as the opening voiceover proclaims, are “bound by tradition.”
The villains, unbeknownst to the makers of the film, thus become the idols of self-love and success that the characters all seem to be chasing. The “they’re gonna know my name” (shoutout to the horrid original song that’s embarrassingly evocative of Camp Rock) attitude keeps everyone stuck in a self-absorbed, whiny state. You can’t even feel empathy for Cinderella, as she’s more concerned with building her own dress-making empire than she is with caring about others (except for the caterpillar that eventually becomes her fairy god“mother”) and accepting a life of love.
What lesson does this impart to young girls? That one can find happiness when success and independence are placed as the paramount aims. Forget virtue – such an antiquated idea.
What’s So Wrong with Wanting Love and Goodness?
So disappointed by the silly song and dance of this Cinderella, I had to go back and watch clips of the 2015 adaptation starring Lily James. Beauty abounded in this film that promoted kindness, courage, and selflessness. Self-centered ambition was nowhere to be found.
James gracefully played the part of a peasant girl who, in bearing wrongs patiently and constantly calling to mind her dignity and worth, finds true love and a life of joy with a man who perfectly embodies masculinity and chivalry. “Have courage and be kind” is the memorable quote from this version (compared to Cabello’s “You’re gonna know my name”). Sigh. They just don’t make ‘em like that anymore.
A simplistic look at the original message of the fairy tale is this: Pursue goodness, and goodness will be added unto you; pursue wickedness, and your end will be wickedness. And a simplistic look at the message of the modern Cabello version is this: Pursue your dreams, and you’ll be successful. Love, happiness, goodness? Who cares.
It’s a shame that, given its potential (a classic story and a fairly decent cast), Cinderella was such a flop. Stripped of its villains, its chivalrous (and handsome) prince, its virtuous protagonist, and its powerful lesson, Cannon’s version did not inspire or delight whatsoever. It was cheap and contrived (like Cinderella’s ball gown – honestly, one of the biggest disappointments) and did not deserve the “and they lived happily ever after” summation.
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