One aspect of Charles Perrault’s “Cinderella” that is prevalent in our world today is the topic/theme of female empowerment. In Perrault’s version, Cinderella’s mother is deceased; her father has married an evil woman (Cinderella’s stepmother), and both she and her two daughters treat Cinderella horribly, making her do household chores like scrubbing the stairs, washing the dishes, and even cleaning their rooms. Although Cinderella’s father is present in the household, he does absolutely nothing to help out his daughter, and it seems like Cinderella’s stepmother has a large percentage of control in the household. For being put to paper in the late 1600s, Perrault’s “Cinderella” is truly ahead of its time – at that point in history, a woman being a leader in the household could only be dreamed of. Now, a little over three centuries later, it is amazing to see how much societal views have shifted – women can now vote, have many, many more job opportunities, and can even hold leading government positions. Women have a much stronger voice. Today, women have much more freedom than they did centuries ago, and it’s definitely something I, as well as most women I’m sure, am grateful for every day.
“Cinderella” is one of the many fairy tales that poses contemporary and timeless situations that can be seen within our lives to this day. A theme within “Cinderella” represents how an individual is able to overcome obstacles and difficult circumstances within their lives that may seem impossible. This theme can be represented in countless modern movies as well, such as “Pretty Woman”, “The King’s Speech”, “I, Tonya”, and more! A characteristic of all of these movies was how there is always an individual that undergoes heartache and faces adversity, however, they remain true to themselves and always get back up. Even within our own individual lives we are faced with challenges everyday, but it only makes us stronger and it’s what makes us appreciate the “happy ending” even more; whether it’s within a fairy tale/ movie, or within our own lives.
Most commonly known as “Beauty and the Beast”, this classic fairy tale with many different versions has sparked inspiration for many other popular titles. One well known book and Broadway musical is “Phantom of the Opera”, which has a very similar plot line to the the classic plotline of “Beauty and the Beast”. Aside from inspiring many famous works, “Beauty and the Beast” also plays into modern day beauty standards, especially in the media. The beast is portrayed as ugly, and is cursed. He needs to find a girl to kiss him to break the curse, and most women would not fall in love with him, even with knowing about the curse. This leads into modern day beauty standards, and how people and quick to judge solely on by a person’s physical appearance. By today’s standards, people are supposed to look a certain way and be a certain size. Belle challenges these ideas by giving Beast a chance, and he turns out to be a handsome prince, and lives a happy life in the end.
Disney’s version of “Beauty and the Beast”
The story of “Little Red Riding Hood” has been passed on to many generations, through many different versions and variations. This impactful story shares perception of children as naive and easily manipulated targets of predators such as older males, as represented through the wolf. These retellings serve to educate young women on the dangerous people in our environment, as well as depict how children and women are seen as weaker in society. This transcends to contemporary views as now more than ever are abductions, kidnapping, and sex trafficking that are consistently becoming more prevalent in the world. As the world continually advances, so are new ways of committing these horrible crimes to the most vulnerable groups: children and the elderly. The view of age as a dependent of whether or not you can defend and take care of yourself is also a common theme that is still relevant today, which many kids still experience today in being ridiculed for trying to participate in serious matters and for their ideas. There have been many strides for women since these versions have come out in legal abilities and social norms that have been constructed, however the dangers of sexual attacks are still ever present. Ultimately, while men and boys also can fall victim, women always need to take more precautions in their environment to avoid “wolfs” being the predators in our society today.
The fairytale “Cinderella” can be compared to contemporary times because of the presence of the theme vanity. In “Cinderella”, her two step-sisters dwell on their outside appearance. They want to be dressed in the most beautiful gowns, have their hair and makeup perfectly done, they try to cinch their waist with corsets, and want to be viewed as the most beautiful when they walk into a room. This can be compared to contemporary times with social media. By people posting their “picture perfect” lives, even when their life isn’t all that perfect, makes other people question their self worth and body image. When scrolling through your feed you come across people who you may think are prettier, skinnier, or someone who is just living a “better” life than you, which may make you think you need to change yourself to fit that standard of beauty. This is why so many people go through poor self image and body image because they are constantly comparing themselves to people online who’s posts make it seem as if their life is perfect, but in reality also have insecurities and going through their own struggles. The major lesson present both in “Cinderella” and in contemporary times is that we must not compare our appearances to others because we are all beautiful just being ourselves.
The story of Little Red Riding Hood has many connections to contemporary experiences. The idea of Little Red Riding Hood getting distracted by the wolf in the woods and being friendly to him has a direct correlation to the modern world of children being friendly to strangers, in which some strangers may have bad intentions. The mother had told Little Red Riding Hood not to “stray from the path” just as parents tell their kids not to “talk to strangers”’. We hear many times where kids are kidnapped because they are gullible and talk to people that they do not know just like Little Red Riding Hood had done. The wolf had taken advantage of Little Red Riding Hood’s kindness and how gullible she was, leading him to be able to distract her so that he could eventually eat her. He talks about enjoying the beautiful nature to distract her just like some strangers use candy or toys to distract the child. This leads them to being kidnapped or taken advantage of in which it is too late for the child to try to get help. In many instincts, we also see the older generation being just as gullible as children in which Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother graciously lets the wolf into her home. In many modern times, grandparents will believe anything that they hear and they always try to help and see the good in people. This is why many grandparents during this time are scammed for money because people know that they are the most gullible and are the easiest to trick. The last connection of Little Red Riding Hood to contemporary experiences is the idea that the mother trusted and felt comfortable enough to let her young daughter walk to her grandmother’s house in the middle of the woods alone. This relates to parents leaving their child home alone at a young age or not paying attention to them at a park in which it is very easy for them to be tricked by strangers leading to bad consequences. Some parents now worry a lot for their children and their safety, especially around boys who are more known to take advantage of their daughter. However, other parents seem to be easy going and trust that society is morally right meaning no one would ever do anything bad to their daughter. This shows the connection of the fairytale Little Red Riding Hood to contemporary experiences that we face today.
The Little Mermaid demonstrates a theme of wanting something that you cannot have or is outside of your social status of obtaining. For example, Ariel is a mermaid who will do anything to get legs and be a human. Ariel has a beautiful singing voice that is praised that she takes for granted and trades for a pair of legs and to make the human prince fall in love with her. In real life, people often desire things they don’t have or fantasize about a different life and often neglect to be grateful for the things that they have or should be thankful for. Middle class families and children will dream about growing up and living in a mansion instead of appreciating the home they live in or the hard work that their parents went through to buy the things they have. We see little girls playing with barbies who often are sold with private jets, cruise ships, mansions, beach houses and luxury clothing. This allows children to put themselves in a world different than their own and possibly out of their reach. Ariel is able to change her social class from being a mermaid to a human which gives power to the underdog but is not as common in real life. Status change is not common, but not impossible either. Ariel is also found with a collection of items from the human world that she admires that further enhance her longing to be on land with a set of legs. This compares to contemporary times as people in lower status may have objects and material items that are more expensive or they get a bonus at work allowing them to partake in purchasing items of greater expense, but it is not permanent like Ariel’s initial engagement with the human world.
Hansel and Gretel shows a theme of child abandonment. In this story by the Brothers Grimm, the stepmother and the father abandons the two children in the forest, because they do not have enough money for food that will support the four of them. The father doesn’t want to leave his children, but he listens to his wife anyway. When the children are lost and abandoned in the forest, they have to stick together and find a way to survive. Another theme/comment about the story relates to siblings. In this story by the Brothers Grimm, Hansel is the one who is in charge of the situation and helps takes care of Gretel. However, Gretel is the one whosaves Hansel from the witch at the end.
This story kind of relates to the Hansel and Gretel episode of Abc’s Once Upon A Time. In the story of Hansel and Gretel (played as a flashback in the episode), Hansel andGretel get stranded in the woods after their father leaves them to get some wood, and he never comes back to them. After their father doesn’t return, Gretel is in charge of Hansel and uses her father’s compass to try and find him. At the part where they go to the blind witch’s house, both children are locked up by the witch. But, Gretel has a diversion of letting the witch take her out of the cage and using this distraction to take the key and save Hansel. When the episode switches back to reality, Hansel and Gretel represents two children who are orphans and they try to survive living on their own, so that the police doesn’t catch them and places them in foster care systems separated from each other.
Hansel and Gretel can be loosely compared to the 2006 film Nanny McPhee. In this movie, a father must remarry after his wife passes or else he loses his house and his children. Last minute, he finds one ugly woman who is willing to marry. In front him, she is kind, but once he’s gone she belittles the children telling them they are under her control. Nanny McPhee comes (representing an angel) to help the father with the children, while teaching the children to behave, make moral decisions, but also hints as to how to get rid of their future stepmother. At the wedding, the stepmother leaves at the alter because of something the kids did (I won’t spoil the movie because it is really good) and the father marries a beautiful lady who attended the wedding. In Hansel and Gretel, their evil stepmother brings the kids deep into the wood so her and her husband wouldn’t starve, despite the husband’s proposal to keep the kids and ration the food. Hansel and Gretel are starving and a white bird leads them to a candy house which belongs to a cannibalistic witch. Hansel and Gretel outsmart the witch by burning her to death, find tons of jewels, find their way home, reunite with their father, and find out their stepmother is dead. Both of these stories have a very happy ending. In Hansel and Gretel, we can argue that the white bird represent the kid’s mother who passed leading them to food so they wouldn’t starve; we can stretch this by saying although she knew the witch was dangerous, she knew her kids could outsmart her and survive. Similarly, we can argue that Nanny McPhee is an angel sent down by the children’s mother (or their mother herself in a different form) to protect her children from their future stepmother. In Hansel and Gretel, the witch dying represents the stepmother dying, which would ward off any future evil in the household. In Nanny McPhee when the children’s almost-stepmother leaves the alter, they are protected from any more abuse. Although the plots of both of these stories are quite different, they have very similar themes and symbols. For example, dead mother, evil stepmother, rags to riches, abuse, birds, angels, etc.
There have been many versions of Beauty and The Beast throughout the years, but one motif/theme that is constant is the idea of stereotypical beauty. In Maria Tartar’s version and in the Disney version, Belle/Beauty is a beautiful girl, who is also kind; beautiful on inside and out, and the beast is ugly and cruel and mean (in the beginning at least). The beast falls in love with Belle because she is beautiful (of course because of her kind heart as-well), but there is an emphasis on her beauty among the other characters in the story. This concept of stereotypical and ‘superficial’ beauty is prominent in modern times because of social media. In a modern aspect, social media is all about beauty and looks, and doesn’t take into account personality, and kindness. In relation to the fairy tale, the beast is depicted as very ugly, and social media would see him as such. And in a similar regard, Belle is beautiful, and would have been praised on social media, where as the beast would have been dismissed, and maybe even looked down upon. After further reading, of course, we learn that the beast actually does have a good heart, regardless of his looks, and Belle falls in love with his heart. Social media, in the modern world, would not have gotten to know the beast’s heart because his looks weren’t good to start with. In the fairy tale, when Belle falls in love with the beast, he turns into a handsome prince, to demonstrate the concept of beauty on the outside and the inside. Now with this idea, he would be accepted at first glance on social media because of his looks. Social media plays on this idea of beauty, just as the fairy tale does.