“Cinderella is a 1950 American animated film produced by Walt Disney … based on the fairy tale “Cinderella” by Charles Perrault” (Cinderella (1950 film), n.d., para. 1). Even though Cinderella was created in the 1950s and the ideas and the story behind the fairytale movie came from that time it is still reproduced nowadays with the latest replica made in 2015. This shows that although the world has changed and it has become more open, the stereotypical ideas shown still exist.
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Cinderella’s mother died when she was young. She lived with her father who later got married to a widow because he thought that Cinderella needed a mother. After his death, a girl was treated badly by her stepmother and stepsisters. She was forced to do all the housework. One day every maiden in the village was invited to attend a ball held at the king’s castle aimed at winning the prince’s heart and getting married to him. Because of the jealousy her stepmother had to Cinderella’s beauty and her desire to marry one of her daughters to the Prince, she did not allow Cinderella to attend the ball. However, Cinderella’s fairy godmother helped her to attend the ball making her look stunning. As soon as she made it to the castle and entered the ballroom, the prince went directly to her and asked her for a dance. When the clock struck twelve, Cinderella had to leave because the spell was about to break. In a hurry, she lost her glass slipper. The prince searched the whole town for the lady who would fit the shoe. He finally found Cinderella, they got married and lived happily ever after.
In Cinderella the cartoon, cultural values of that epoch are portrayed, namely beauty, marriage, romantic love, social status, and prestige. First of all, throughout the story one can trace strong presence of the so-called beauty myth. According to it, women should be judged “in terms of physical appearances” (Macionis, 2011, p. 300) rather than inner beauty. As seen in the movie, when Cinderella’s look is ruined by her stepsisters, her stepmother states, “Good heavens, child, you can’t go in that” (Walt Disney, 1950).
This phrase emphasizes how girls are obliged to look good. More emphasis on beauty is portrayed when Cinderella’s fairy godmother transformed her into a princess, and Cinderella mentioned, “It is more than what I have ever hoped for” (Walt Disney, 1950). That shows that looking good is the only thing that matters to girls, and nothing else is important. Another example is when Cinderella entered the castle and the guards stared at her showing that even the unimportant characters with low status admired Cinderella’s beauty.
Furthermore, beauty is exaggerated when the prince goes directly to Cinderella as soon as she sets foot in the ballroom and asks her for a dance and falls in love with her and wants to marry her, although he does not know her neither does he know her name. Hence, this depicts that one’s inner self is not as important as their appearances. The main aspect of why Cinderella is hated by her stepmother and stepsisters is because of her beauty.
What is also portrayed in the movie is the cultural value of marriage that is considered to be a crucial factor and without it girls do for nothing. What is also shown is the interdependency of gender and socialization. Women are expected to act in a certain way that is to carry out certain “gender role” (Macionis, 2011, p. 298). In a cartoon, women are portrayed as lifeless creatures thinking only about beauty and marriage emphasizing that a woman’s only job is to be a housewife that is supposed to clean and raise her children. For instance, during the ball the king says: “I can’t understand it there must be at least one that would be a suitable mother… Wife” (Walt Disney, 1950).
This shows that women are seen only as mothers, and a task and role they should fulfill is give birth to children and raise them. That is their only job and nothing else. Close to the value of marriage is romantic love – “affection and passion for another person” (Macionis, 2011, p. 425) – that is seen as the basis of Cinderella and Prince Charming’s happy marriage as they fall in love with each other at the first sight.
What is more on gender role is that as women are always stereotyped to show emotions immediately, they also should act elegantly when displaying emotions. This is shown in the movie when Cinderella’s stepsisters start to fight, and their mother says, “Girls, your manners” (Walt Disney, 1950). Hence, this resembles that girls directly display emotions however they should show it in a way that is socially acceptable.
Social status and prestige are other cultural values shown in the movie, namely social stratification based on status. In general, according to Max Weber, social stratification is based on class position, status, and power (Macionis, 2011). In the cartoon, it is shown through the clothes, houses, names, and appearances. First, Cinderella’s clothing in comparison to her stepsisters’ is that of a maid consisting of an apron to show that her role is to clean and obey orders. Second, Cinderella’s room located in the attic was not nice and luxurious compared to the ones her stepmother and stepsisters slept in.
Third, the castle the king lives in indicates his status as a king who is strong, powerful and rich. Fourth, appearances and clothing characters with low status have all look the same indicating their roles as guards or servants. Moreover, the look of Cinderella as a princess made everyone question who she was portraying her as the high-status girl. Finally, the representation of the girls when introduced to the prince and their names were called following the name of their fathers, “Daughter of” (Walt Disney, 1950) indicating that each girl ascribed status.
Furthermore, education is the aspect that is neglected throughout the movie. In the past there was a stereotype that women did not have to be well-educated; education was for men (Macionis, 2011). It is shown in the movie that it is not required that girls pursue their dreams in educating themselves but rather in dreaming about marriage, love, and children.
So, Cinderella the movie reflects social conditions of the time portrayed though with some distortions. First of all, being a prince, Prince Charming would not be allowed to marry a girl from different social class, plainly speaking the one who is not a princess, i.e. in the movie the concept of endogamy – “marriage between people of the same social category” (Macionis, 2011, p. 419) – is neglected. The development of characters in society as the whole is shown through social-conflict approach portraying women as those who are to give birth to children, raise them and run the house.
On the other hand, face-to-face relationships between the characters are portrayed through symbolic-interaction approach showing that women should behave themselves in a certain way. The movie portrays such cultural values as beauty, marriage, romantic love, social status, and prestige and shows that education is what was neglected by the women of that epoch. It also sheds light on the problem of a woman in society who is seen exclusively as a mother and housekeeper and should carry out this gender role.
Cinderella (1950 film). (n.d.). Web.
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Macionis, J. J. (2011). Sociology (14th ed.). New York, NY: Pearson Education.
Walt Disney (Producer). (1950). Disney’s Cinderella Full Movie [Video file]. Web.