'Cinderella' Comes Back to the Ball in Live Action: Should Your Kids See It?

CinderellaIs Cinderella one of those fairy tales that should be permanently retired? Disney doesn't think so and has decided to update its animated classic with a live-action version of the age-old tale of an orphan who, abused by her stepmother, is turned into a princess by her fairy godmother, and eventually becomes a real princess after she bags her prince. The story is still retold today with modern twists -- what is The Bachelor if not Cinderella with multiple, much more neurotic, candidates?

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But Disney didn't "modernize" or "update" or "feminize" the folktale, sticking close to the Charles Perrault version, written in the late 1600s, from which the 1950 classic was drawn.

The 2015 version, directed by Kenneth Branagh and in theaters today, may well have been told in 1950, or much earlier than that. At no point does Cinderella cast off her rags and tell off her stepmother, nor does she shrug off the prince's advances in favor of her freshman year at Harvard (like, say, Elle Woods did). There are no winks, no sly jokes, no upending.

It's kind of refreshing, actually. But is it a tale we want our daughters to have embedded in their blossoming brains?

Lily James, who plays Cinderella, has no problem with it. She told The Stir, "This is a girl that's not sitting around waiting for a prince to come and save her. She's got this unbelievable strength, and it doesn't come from fighting or from what happens, it comes from within ... with such an open heart, when she does meet the prince and not knowing who he is ... he falls for her because she's strong and powerful .. a beautiful-from-within woman."

Well, yes and no.

"Ella," as she is called before she transforms into Cinderella, does seem to have a radiance and happiness that comes from within -- she good-naturedly puts up with her stepmom's hostility ("This is all your issue," her smile in the face of yet more debasement seems to imply). However, she's not above having a crying fit when her stepmother refuses her request to attend the prince's party.

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After the evil stepmom (archly embodied by Cate Blanchett) forbids her to go to the ball, saying she will embarrass the family, Cindrella is given a surprise visit by her magical fairy godmother, played by Helena Bonham Carter. Transformed with a shimmering ball gown, a golden carriage, and new bosoms (yes, her boobs clearly grow with the wave of a wand), Cinderella finds herself the most alluring chick at the palace -- and duh, she's soon the sole object of the prince's attention.

For sure, without the help of her fairy godmother, Cinderella would have found a way to pleasantly amuse herself at home. And OK, the prince first meets Ella when she's was riding about the woods, still in her peasant garb. Hey, he liked her then too!

But that's not the lesson any young girl will absorb. The much more boldly delivered advertisement is this: Be the hottest chick in the room, and you too can find a man to save you from your dreary life!

If, however, you are fine with that message, as most of the moms I talked to were, then you shouldn't have a problem with Cinderella.

But what of the mom who might have a bit of a problem with that message but whose kid is dying to see it anyway? 

For those moms, I'd recommend using Cinderella as a learning moment: Explain to your daughters that "back in the day" girls didn't have the option of supporting themselves. In fact, if they didn't manage to make a good marriage, they were considered "old maids," and totally reliant on whatever family they might have to financially support them. Women without supportive (and well-off) family could easily find themselves earning their keep by being chambermaids or prostitutes. Aren't you glad those days are gone, kids? Why, now you can be an astronaut, a brain surgeon, or President of the United States! Do your homework!

More from The Stir: Cate Blanchett on Why Cinderella's Stepmother Isn't All That Bad

But once you've gotten that out of the way, I think it's OK to relax into the idea that a man and a woman falling madly in love and getting married (before they have sex!) is just dandy -- though like most fairy tales, the couple in question hardly know each other before they decide to pledge their troth. One can only imagine how it goes once the honeymoon period is over. Cinderella has plenty of practice keeping a good house, and the prince (Richard Madden) seems like a good guy, so it probably all works out, but ... (you can show your kids Blue Valentine when they're a bit older).

That said, Cinderella is filled with sparkling acting, sweeping sets, swoon-inducing costumes, and CGI that's charming, not overbearing.

So if you're onboard with the Cinderella message, or able to suck it up for a couple of hours for your kids' sake, then you'll be onboard with the Cinderella movie.

Will you take your daughter to see Cinderella?


Image via Disney

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