Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Need More Femininity! Thoughts on Heroines After Watching Cinderella

This past week I watched Cinderella in the theater. I had heard only good things about it, but still went in skeptical. How would our mouthy 21st century film industry recreate a 1950s ideal that was little more than a shell of a character?

I was more than pleasantly surprised. I was shocked.

Here was a sweethearted, feminine, forgiving heroine like someone out of a Jane Austen novel. Mannerly, patient, and emotionally strong. They credited her for being domestic, without chauvinism or with rabid feminism. I haven't heard that off a screen post-60s except maybe in cheesy, poorly-done "Christian" movies.

And this led to a resurrection of one of my personal pet peeves. The modern entertainment world lacks badly in this sort of heroine. Leading ladies with class and kindness and emotional strength that know to make the right choices and don't swing the pendulum into helplessness, nor into the sassy/clumsy/cutesy/obnoxious Princess Anna type.

Immediately after the movie, I tweeted:

It's interesting to me how Elizabeth Bennett is considered the epitome of the developed female character, and yet there are so few leading ladies in the current market that follow her footsteps.

In a world full of Elsa and Katniss and Tris and general kickbutt eyecandy (interesting how these "empowered" women usually end up emotionally crashing or going insane... so much for empowered *ducks things thrown at her by fans*), we need more Cinderellas. More fictional girls and women who model grace in both senses of the word, who have an open hand, an open heart, and a smile on their face despite circumstances. Not the idealism of the old Disney Cinderella or Cosette, or the helpless boyfriend hanging of Bella Swann, nor the muscles but no inward stability of action heroines. Like I said in my most popular article (update, this article is now my most popular!), The Rise of the Dude in Distress,  write real people, because that is reality. And that includes all sorts of people, but there is a shortage of Lizzie Bennetts and Lucie Manettes and Sabrina Fairchilds. We need more of Cinderella's mantra: have courage, and be kind.


  1. While I agree we need more Elizabeth Bennets in literature, I wouldn't knock Katniss either. (Go ahead and say what you want about Tris.) We do need all types, but there's room for all. Katniss is strong in her own right, and showing the emotional toll of war is far better than the tough hero who gets through and never cracks. I haven't seen Cinderella, and had no intention of going. I don't know how many times we have to re-make this story before we move onto something else, but I am beginning to have interest. Several people have said good things, and your post especially has inspired me to give it a chance. Lets see more characters who can both kick-ass and do so with manners and grace. A little of everything sounds great to me.

    1. The Cinderella of the 1970s Czechoslovak "Three Hazelnuts for Cinderella" is exactly the kind of lady who kicks ass and has grace and emotional strength, and the main reason I did not and do not feel all that interested in this newest version of the story.

  2. Finding that middle ground is so difficult. I wrote my manuscript with a very weak main female character--because I wanted to show her as someone who changed for the better by the end of the book. However, it became my own pet peeve as I read other similar YA novels that I revised her completely. Give the ladies some talents and let her be happy about them.
    Also, a thing that makes women emotionally strong is that they are not only confident in themselves and where they are, but they encourage others to be their best. They don't compete or compare another woman's strengths with her weaknesses. Someone who encourages everyone to "have courage and be kind" is a lady I can admire.

  3. I agree wholeheartedly! We don't have enough "women of integrity" in literature and films, and Cinderella is the perfect embodiment of a strong, pure, feminine character.

  4. I think that more characters of integrity are needed in all forms of fiction and screen-writing. I'm tired of one-dimensional characters and I know how hard it is to get the fullness of the characters I daydream onto the page, but I want to keep trying because someday I would like to write a heroine who has inner strength no matter her role in society: fighter, debutante, mother, daughter, seamstress, queen - maybe even someone who could be a little of all of those things and yet still understand the need for courageous kindness.