Rather than giving her a strong work ethic and marketable skills by making Cinderella clean the house top to bottom, Stepmother tells Cinderella that she is so beautiful she doesn’t need to develop her sense of humor, bother with studying books or be kind to others. To keep her off balance, Stepmother showers her with back handed compliments about her looks and always makes sure to point others that are more beautiful, more thin, more “perfect”. She keeps Cinderella distracted with dresses and shoes instead of music or culture. Cinderella is failing Calculus because of all the dances and balls her stepmother MAKES her attend. The young girl’s self-worth is now based on what others think of her gorgeous, but fleeting, exterior appearance. And her value is based on her expensive name brand clothing and how well she can apply her make-up. The Prince attends the balls but only sees a beautiful but vapid woman who looks and dresses like everyone else. He isn’t looking for just a pretty face. He is looking for a soulmate. If our heroine continued on this path, she would be doomed for as she aged, she would panic as she looses what little self worth she had because you cannot control time. She would turn to plastic surgery and become bitter and mean as the external validation fades, so would her own self-perception. Because when you are told your entire life that your only value is your external beauty (something you have little control over and will inevitably go away with age), there is no way to be happy from the inside out.
Thankfully, her fairy-godmother intervenes. Godmother transforms Cinderella’s ball gowns into track outfits so Cinderella can exercise and keep healthy. She changes the mice into tutors of math, literature and science so Cinderella can challenge her mind. She reminds Cinderella to volunteer for those less fortunate and be kind to all she meets. At a math-letes event, Cinderella meets The Prince. She makes a math joke and he laughs. He makes a Shakespeare reference and she laughs (which an adorable gleeful snort). And the two begin to fall in love, a love based on similar interests and mutual respect.
Meanwhile, her poor, poor Stepmother has had too much plastic surgery and is miserable inside and out. She dreams of her younger days of youthful beauty and lashes out at everyone around her. As she feels her value is only how she looks, she has deemed herself obsolete and useless to society but blames everyone else.
But this is Cinderella’s story. She and her Prince marry. And yes, her wedding day is a highlight in her life, but it’s not the pinnacle of her existence, as her Stepmother has always said it should be. Cinderella’s story doesn’t end because she found her prince. This is just the beginning. Her wedding day is a lovely memory, but her life with her love, their children and her thought-provoking career gives her pleasure and pride for the rest of her life, long after the beauty of her youth evolved into a beauty of wisdom and dignity, silver hair and laugh line wrinkles.
Thankfully because of the Fairy Godmother, the true evil of her Stepmother’s attempts did not take hold. Cinderella is grateful that she has earned every silver hair and line in her face. And she continues to enrich her life with learning, art and kindness to all who she comes in contact with.
Now imagine if the story we told our children were a different version of Cinderella’s story, one in which the Prince CHOSE Cinderella for her social appearance at a ball, not her intelligence; her footwear, not her laughter…If Cinderella’s story ended with the Prince rescuing her from hard work, only to be his mindless arm candy for the rest of her days…A story in which Cinderella didn’t have a positive female role model to guide her to be the best person she could be but only surrounded by people, movies and magazines telling her how beautiful and skinny she needs to be in order to be loved.
What a horrible message to teach our children. Thank god this version of the story exists. Right?