I have been wanting to write something about the new, beautiful film Cinderella that everyone and their stepmother's cat has been blogging about and writing profound and insightful posts about, but I wasn't sure what to say that hadn't already been said before. And then, I thought of something that I wanted to say, something that no one else to my knowledge has talked about yet. So here we go.
We talk all about the time of the stereotypes of men in films - how they are either a) immature and rude b) sleazy and creepy or c) apathetic. In any case they are all seen as never as good as the women they are paired with, and it is a step down for the leading lady to end up with them. That's been covered a lot, and it has also been talked about how Prince Charming/Kit is a beautiful example of the opposite of all of that. But that is not what I want to talk about here.
What I do want to bring attention to, is the fact that women in films have a stereotypes as well. The slutty, bottle blond stereotype yes, but that is typically reserved for supporting characters. Main actresses in films and television have a tendency, rather, to fall into the clumsy stereotype. You know - awkward, says the wrong thing at the wrong time, thinks she's alone and does something weird or embarrassing and then turns around to find the romantic interest/everyone she knows is watching her. She trips a lot, she falls, she is uncomfortable with herself. Usually by the end of the film she has achieved enough grace to fulfill whatever plot element is required, but she is still clumsy and awkward enough to remind the audience that she is "a real woman." This applies predominantly to romantic films, not adventure or thriller films, which is the reason I bring it up.
Cinderella is not that woman. It didn't hit me until almost the end of the film, that subconsciously I had been waiting for that stereotype to emerge in someway. I had been waiting for her to fall off her horse when she met the Prince, I had been expecting her to trip or make a fool of herself in front of her stepsisters, I had thought she would act the awkward, uncertain country girl dressed as a princess when she went to the ball. I was surprised when she never said anything odd or embarrassing to the prince in the garden.
Throughout the film, Cinderella was the picture of grace, and confidence. Once I realized it, it was so refreshing to see her step out of the carriage, utterly sure of herself and her belonging there. It was beautiful to see her enter the ballroom with as much grace as if she had been born to it, to see her pause on the staircase and curtsy to the crowd that was staring at her, and then walk with confidence right up to the Prince, without faltering or becoming flustered when she realized the man she thought was merely an apprentice was actually the heir to the throne.
She didn't murmur "Oh, but I don't know how to dance!" when the Prince asked her. She didn't trip, she didn't fall.... she didn't do any of the things that we have come to expect from the leading lady in a romantic film.
We are growing used to being told that a woman must be clumsy or awkward in order to be "real". We will probably mess up, or say the wrong thing at an important moment, or stutter, or generally look silly in the eyes of the person we are trying to make a good impression on. We are forgetting that a lady can be full of grace and class and confidence. We can walk into a room filled with people without having to feel apologetic for being there. We can dance with all the beauty of royalty without feeling ashamed of our more humble origins.
Being graceful does not make us any less of a "real woman." Yes, of course we'll all have our clumsy and awkward moments - after all, we are human. What we cannot do, however, is let our humanness give an us excuse to stay within the safety net of being clumsy and awkward and keep us from venturing into the risky area of maintaining an air of poise and class.
Cinderella is a fairy tale princess, you might argue. Of course she is going to be filled with elegance and grace. Yes, and no, is my answer. Look at Ana, from Frozen. Or Merida from Brave. I'm not saying that I don't love them, but they were princesses who were anything but pictures of grace. Princess does not equal being a lady, and a princess character being a lady does not mean it is an unrealistic goal for us "real women." Look at Audrey Hepburn, or Grace Kelly. We used to admire such elegance and beautiful confidence, we don't do so as much any more.
To have Cinderella possess all those qualities and not fall down into the stereotype of a clumsy and awkward girl was the element of the film that really captured my attention. The cinematography and design of the film was breathtaking, and the execution of the story and the character development was superb to be sure. But it was the depiction of Cinderella as a lady, as a woman of style and grace and such confidence that made me a fan, and is the reason I look forward to watching this film over and over again. Let us hope Hollywood takes note, and gives us more women like her in the future.