After watching Camila Cabello’s Cinderella a few days ago, certain questions and concerns arose in my mind. Directed by Kay Cannon, the movie is a modern retelling of the fairy-tale we all grew up reading and watching on TV — Cinderella itself. In many ways, the musical and quirky humor caught my attention. Some songs are really beautiful in the movie and were instantly a part of my music library.
However, some aspects of the story seemed a bit off and felt explicitly didactic. The fantasy elements I was expecting as a part of a fairy-tale seemed missing from the movie. The movie felt a little overwhelmed with the whole idea of sharing a social message — empowering women. Now, again a social issue like this being addressed on a large screen made me feel really good. However, the repeated explicitness with which the message was being delivered soon overshadowed the original fairy-tale that we heard as a kid.
What’s the retelling like?
We see Ella trying to start her own business of selling gowns/dresses she designs in the basement of her step-mother’s house (of which the step-mother does not approve). When the prince himself advises Ella to be at the royal ball inciting that there would be many rich people with who she could share her work and find customers, Ella decides to go for it. Upon being proposed later that night by the prince, she refuses for the reason of focusing on her business. This retelling however decided to go down a path where every aspect of Ella’s life had a reason linked with her business.
While most people (like me) saw this as empowering, it was only later that I realized that in the original fairy-tale, the real reason why Cinderella wanted to go to the ball was that she wanted a night just for herself — without her rude step-mother and step-sisters passing snarky comments at her, which itself is empowering in its own way. Meeting the prince who fell in love was more of a happenstance.
“Proud that my kid is watching this retelling rather than the original”
I get it. Some people do like this retelling because Ella is not shown as a helpless girl anymore. Also, some logical reasons do make sense in the recent retelling. We get a reason why Ella wants to go to the ball, why her stepmother was rude to her (and not just because she was jealous of her beauty), and why the prince fell in love with Ella (for reasons more than beauty).
However, with all this, we do miss out on the fantasy element we expected from a musical drama like this one. I felt there could be a way to blend social messages related to patriarchy and women empowerment without hurting the original story’s awe.
[SPOILER ALERT AHEAD]
For example, in the movie Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 2), we didn’t have Harry going crazy after realizing how Professor Severus Snape was a double agent who always had his back. Instead, we see Harry’s expression change as he is more confident with his decision of going into the forest to take Voldemort on his own and thus stop others from sacrificing more lives for him as Snape had. The whole climax felt subtle but the audience felt the inner turmoil inside Harry as he headed towards the forest after the revelation (Still gives me chills).
Also in Disney-Pixar movies like Toy Story and Finding Nemo, we always find a hidden social message that does not have to be drilled into our conscience. Instead, we watch the movie for entertainment, leaving the theatre with a smile but realizing a change of heart about the way we look at our toys or how human activities have spoiled both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Toys can be family and even fishes can have families.
In short, I feel there could have been a better way of portraying the scene while giving a message and preserving the fantasy element that kids could have enjoyed (especially those who grew up reading and watching this tale). But again this is a personal opinion. What do you think of this new Cinderella movie? Let me know in the comments below.