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The story of Cinderella

It is fair to say that most people are familiar with the story of Cinderella. In fact, the fairytale is so popular and loved that its theme of the triumph of the underdog has become a myth unto itself. This so-called “Cinderella effect” is pervasive in our media—many popular movies and best-selling books feature a heroine who conquers all to find true love. Cinderella appeals to the underdog dreamers in all of us. Clothed as a fairy tale, its under-lying message is presented as altogether real: it is the most beautiful girl who gets her Prince.

Although many versions of Cinderella have been written, the most well known version, written in 1697 by French Author by Charles Perrault, is most commonly read. Standards of beauty have morphed over the years, but in modern times, with the advent of TV, celebrity magazines and movies, young girls are bombarded with images of what society considers beautiful. When Perrault wrote his fairytale, there was less of a pervasive influence on young girls. It was a healthy distraction to dream of a Prince, more easily able to see yourself as the beautiful one.

Today, however, young girls are told at an early age that beauty is very distinctive: model thin, long blonde hair, etc. etc. etc… Sadly, Perrault’s version of Cinderella only implies that inner beauty is important. Yes, Cinderella is kind, forgiving and sweet, but there are only two direct references to these qualities. On the other hand, there are no less than eleven direct references to her physical beauty. Admittedly, physical beauty has always been important in first attraction; it was as so in days past as it is today.

And it is only because of her exceptional beauty that the Prince first notices Cinderella and quickly decides that he will marry her. Furthering the stereotype that all you need is beauty to succeed is the fact that Cinderella triumphs not through any effort of her own, but because of the intervention of her Fairy Godmother. Cinderella’s hard work in caring for her stepmother and stepsisters is not a means to an end, but rather necessary chores she must do to survive. Her kindness is underscored by her submissiveness.

Many discussions have taken place on the message Perrault’s Cinderella sends to impressionable children. Perhaps wisely, most modern versions of the story emphasize that Cinderella’s inner beauty is as important as her outer beauty. Yet still, to young girls—the target audience–, it is easy to ignore this message as one gets swept up in the fanciful tale of her transformation. It is easy to ignore that for whatever the reason, Cinderella did indeed work hard to complete her chores and sew her own dress, determined as she was to attend the ball.

Instead, even in the modern versions, it is the dramatic and glorious intervention of her Fairy Godmother that we remember the most. In a sense, Cinderella won the lottery, and got “something for nothing. ” How sweet life would be were it so easy. Doesn’t this appeal to the dreamer in all of us? A common suggestion in all versions, however, is that despite her determination, Cinderella was in fact submissive and obedient. It is easy to assume that after getting her Prince, she was able to keep him by being obsequious and respectful of his every wish. Her own feelings matter little; satisfying her man matters most.

A controversial theory proposed in 2005 by psychotherapist Susan Darker-Smith suggests that women who have identified with Cinderella are more likely, as adults, to be in abusive relationships. By interviewing abuse survivors, Darker-Smith concluded that “…abused women were much more likely to identify with Cinderella…who [was] later rescued by a strong prince. ”(Carvel) Referring back to the “Cinderella Effect,” we can easily spot our Cinderella in many of today’s fictional heroines. The 1990 release of the movie “Pretty Woman”, for example, has been described as a Cinderella story for adults.

Julia Roberts plays our heroine, Vivian Ward, an uneducated but beautiful woman who makes her living as a prostitute. Under her crude exterior, of course, lies a heart of gold. She is transformed by a client (here fulfilling the role of Fairy Godmother) and in the end, gets her prince. The fact can not be lost that both Vivian and Cinderella’s life-long ambition was to catch the prince, a man who would then take care of them, and not one that would provide them a means of being successful in their own right. Girls today are under enough pressure as it is to compete with societal expectations of physical beauty.

Statistics show that up to 5% of all adolescent females suffer from anorexia, and that 40% of 9-year-old girls diet. (Mirror-mirror). Elective plastic surgery is becoming more and more common in teenagers. Surrounded by advertisements, movies and television shows that tell them what they should look like is inescapable in today’s world. Losing oneself in a fairytale would seem to be the safest place to avoid these influences. But however miniscule a part that Cinderella influences these statistics can’t be denied. Cinderella provides some wonderful moments to dreamily lose yourself in.

There is nothing wrong with daydreaming of a better life. There is nothing wrong in losing yourself in fantasies of true love, of finding your prince. But to suggest that all you need is beauty and a generous Fairy Godmother is a disservice to young girls everywhere. Works Cited Carvel, John. “Cinderella Said to be Poor Role Model. “ Guardian News . 23 April 2005. 07 April 2009 http://www. guardian. co. uk/uk/2005/apr/23/books. booksnews Mirror-Mirror. “Anorexia Statistics. ” 06 April 2009 http://www. mirror-mirror. org/anorexiastatistics. htm

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