20th Anniversary of Ever After

Ever After Cinderella 1998 Breathe Dress Ball Gown Fairy Tale Drew Barrymore

Tomorrow is the twentieth anniversary of the premiere of Cinderella movie Ever After. Even though it’s from 1998, it’s still loved by many for its mix of pseudo-history, adventure, and a strong heroine. I was in college at the time, and still remember going to the cinema to see it.

Here’s the trailer:

And now you have an excuse to watch it again!

‘Beauty and the Beast’ is a lot creepier when it’s not a cartoon

‘Beauty and the Beast_ is a lot creepier when it_s not a cartoon

Review: ‘Beauty and the Beast’ is a lot creepier when it’s not a cartoon

This was an interesting take on the new live action movie version of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.

I have vague memories of going to see the animated version at the cinema, but stronger memories of the stage musical version that came afterwards, as I knew people in the original Australian cast (which included a pre-Hollywood Hugh Jackman as Gaston).

It seems it’s practically compulsory for book-lovers to list Beauty and the Beast as their favourite Disney movie, and Belle as their favourite Disney heroine, but I’ve always had some reservations.

The reason I don’t have huge love for Belle is exactly the same reason I get angry at so many Young Adult and New Adult books:

She suffers from the classic “I’m not like other girls; I’m better!” syndrome.

‘With live-action performers, it’s also easier to realize that everyone in Beauty and the Beast is kind of an asshole.

Emma Watson is less engaging as Belle, whose introductory song, “Bonjour” is the ultimate “I’m not like other girls” anthem. The remake expands on Belle’s status as the nerdy princess, giving her a side-gig as a budding engineer. It’s a smart, feminist update for an old-fashioned heroine, but the film undercuts it by pitting her against her peers. She enjoys reading, unlike the illiterate peasants from her village. She’s naturally beautiful, unlike the girls who wear makeup. She strolls past her neighbors while singing about how boring their lives are. It’s hard to tell if she’s an outsider heroine, or just a snob.’

And while she goes on and on about it, what does she go and do?

She styles her hair, puts on a big ball gown, and becomes your standard Disney princess!

Yes, Belle, you ARE just like other girls. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

I have no doubt I’ll see this movie at some point, and I’m sure I’ll love many aspects of it. But we need to drop certain ideas from out “feminist” characterisations.

Can Cinderella stories still work?

There are a million historical romances that could be considered Cinderella-ish. Everywhere you go in the genre you find governesses being swept off their feet by earls, and lowly serving girls who turn out to be secret daughters of dukes.

But how about actual Cinderella stories?

My main problem with Cinderella is that it basically relies on misogyny to get its point across. There are no bad men in Cinderella, only mean, jealous, and downright evil women who are countered by overly sweet and kind “good women”. It’s the women of the tale who try to ruin Cinderella’s life, and it’s women in the story who fight over a man.

01-lily-james-cinderella Richard Madden Prince

For all its criticisms of being outdated and the protagonist being too stereotypically feminine (shock, horror!), I think the recent Disney movie pulled off something a little deeper than that. Cate Blanchett’s stepmother was a more complex character than just being evil for no particular reason. But the movie still has the problems that come with packaging women into “good” and “bad” boxes.

Cate Blanchett in Cinderella

I recently had my hands on a review copy of The Cinderella Governess by Georgie Lee. The Cinderella name is right there in the title, and I was interested to see how the theme would be handled.

The Cinderella Governess (The Governess Tales #1) by Georgie Lee

I love the Harlequin/Mills and Boon historical line; it is probably the strongest line the publisher produces, and it easily outdoes most other publishers producing historical romance – despite the negative stereotypes too many readers attach to Harlequin books.

I thought that if anybody was going to produce a decent historical romance with a Cinderella theme, Harlequin Historical would.

Instead, I was treated to all the misogynistic stereotyping I would expect from Twilight fan fiction.

Harlequin usually gets their covers surprisingly correct. They take character descriptions into consideration. However, this heroine is a redhead, not blonde – and this is an important factor in the book.

Because the author trots out blonde woman after blonde teen after blonde girl – and demonises them. In true Twilight style, all blondes are beautiful, jealous, self-absorbed bitches – for no reason. In fact, one blonde teen is even referred to as a harlot!

Brunettes are downtrodden.

And our redhead heroine is special.

I’ll admit: I didn’t finish the book. I guess I’ve read one too many books like this recently.

I like the IDEA of the Cinderella theme in historical – or any – romance, but perhaps we could start tackling it without making all other women out to be enemies.

Victorian Fairy Tales (edited by Michael Newton)

Victorian Fairy Tales (edited by Michael Newton)

The Victorian fascination with fairyland is reflected in the literature of the period, which includes some of the most imaginative fairy tales ever written. They offer the shortest path to the age’s dreams, desires, and wishes. Authors central to the nineteenth-century canon such as Thackeray, Oscar Wilde, Ford Madox Ford, and Rudyard Kipling wrote fairy tales, and authors primarily famous for their work in the genre include George MacDonald, Juliana Ewing, Mary De Morgan, and Andrew Lang. This anthology brings together fourteen of the best stories, by these and other outstanding practitioners, to show the vibrancy and variety of the form and its ability to reflect our deepest concerns.

The stories in this selection range from pure whimsy and romance to witty satire and darker, uncanny mystery. Paradox proves central to a form offered equally to children and adults. Fairyland is a dynamic and beguiling place, one that permits the most striking explorations of gender, suffering, love, family, and the travails of identity. Michael Newton’s introduction and notes explore the literary marketplace in which these tales appeared, as well as the role they played in contemporary debates on scepticism and belief. The book also includes a selection of original illustrations by some of the masters of the field such as Richard Doyle, Arthur Hughes, and Walter Crane.

Victorian Fairy Tales (edited by Michael Newton)

This book has a varied collection of fairy tales popular during the Victorian era, told in a way Disney definitely wouldn’t approve of!

Victorian Fairy Tales begins with a lengthy and detailed introduction, explaining some of the history and purpose of these stories. I knew a bit about this topic already, but it makes for fairly interesting reading.

As for the fairy tales themselves, some are only a couple of pages long (The Princess and the Peas), while other run for many chapters. I was not familiar with all of them, and others, such as The Three Bears were distinctly different to the version I see everywhere. No Goldilocks in sight, but a mean old woman in her place!

This was a time when morals were taught through stories but the characters themselves were rarely developed. For example, a princess was a princess and very delicate, but she often had no name and rarely anything resembling a personality.

One thing I did like was all the references to the ‘Crim Tatars’ and their suffering in the story The Rose and the Ring. Now, in 2015, the Crimean Tatars are back to suffering all over again under Russian occupation!

This is an easy read. You can sit down and read a couple of stories at a time, some of them old favourites and some of them probably brand new to you.

 

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

Cinderella by Walt Disney Company

Cinderella Junior Novel (Junior Novelisation) by Walt Disney Company

Ella’s childhood is a happy one: she has loving parents, plenty of fields and meadows to explore, and lots of kind animal friends to play with. A sweet child, Ella warms the hearts of all who meet her. And her home is a wonderful place, the perfect little kingdom for a joyful family. But when tragedy strikes, Ella’s happy home turns into one filled with sadness and cruelty. Will Ella be able to hold onto her kindness and courage through it all?

Cinderella Junior Novel (Junior Novelisation) by Walt Disney Company

After I read this book, I read the more ‘grown-up’ version, and it was much, much better. If you want to read one of these, read the Illustrated Novelisation, not this one!

Plenty of people are excited about the new live action movie version of Disney’s Cinderella, and so I figured I might as well read the novelisation and see what they’d done with the (admittedly pretty anaemic) romance this time round. The 1950 animated version is entertaining enough, but there’s a lot more time devoted to singing and mice than there is to character development or any of the actually interesting parts of the Cinderella story.

There are a lot of people who start worrying every time a new fairy tale movie comes out. They don’t want the story “ruined” by a “feminist agenda”. Now, I find that really offensive and misogynistic, but I also understand people wanting to see the original story without too many changes.

And this is exactly what we get here.

The movie trailers promised a longer and more meaningful connection between Ella and her prince (Kit in this book). However, those few seconds in the trailer where they meet on horseback in the forest? That’s all there is!

The character of the prince IS more fleshed out, but he is off in the palace doing his own thing while Cinderella is busy ‘having courage and being kind’ while being literature’s greatest doormat.

Something about this book I thought was hilarious was that the author had a character using bloody as a swear word. Um… this is a children’s book!

And because it is a children’s book, I won’t even get started on all the incorrect forms of address for royalty. Surely even a Disney author has access to Wikipedia!

If you’re expecting an alpha hero in the shape of a prince, you’ll be disappointed. He’s a shy sort of fellow whose plan for ruling the kingdom is not for international alliances (he doesn’t want any!), but to rule with kindness, courage and love. Ho-kay then. That sounds smart!

I do really like softer, kinder, less assertive heroines, as backwards as that may sound. I was a very shy thing at Cinderella’s age. However, there’s kind and then there’s THIS! It was a little painful to see what a weak and useless creature Cinderella was – even more so than in the animated version.

This is exactly what you’d expect: a fairy tale movie put on the page. Expect nothing more.