CINDERELLA 2021 JUST PAYS LIP SERVICE TO FEMINISM

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Kay Cannon’s much-awaited musical adaptation of the Cinderella story was released last Friday. The movie raised expectations owing to its Cuban-Mexican American Cinderella and its feminist re-working of the story.

But contrary to this, the amazon studios’ jukebox musical is not doing well among its audience, as is evident from the negative reviews.

Cinderella 2021 opens with Billy Porter’s voiceover comment, “Little did they [the people of the country] know that their world was about to change”.

But sitting through the whole course of the movie raises doubts in the viewer’s mind about the superficiality of this statement.

Did their world change? Did they break the glass ceiling?

The answer is a simple ‘No’. Kannon’s Cinderella is not so interested in changing the world as finding fitting spaces within the already existing system.

PLOT

Camila Cabello’s Cinderella lives with her stepmother and step-sisters in their house’ basement in resonance with the fairy tale.

But what makes her different is her career aspirations. She does not want to attend balls or marry rich men or princes.

All she wants to do is become a fashion designer. She designs (un)attractive gowns out of scraps in the dingy basement and aspires to sell them.

But her “practical” stepmother Vivian (Idina Menzel) knows better. Women engaging in business is “blasphemous” and “insane”.

Vivian had learned this lesson the hard way from her past when she had aspired to become a musician and ended up disappointing her husband.

The movie attempts to humanize the stepmother by showing her thwarted aspirations but fails miserably.

The scene ends with her threatening Cinderella of marriage to a man she does not like.

Idina Menzel is one of the few elements that stand out in an otherwise annoying movie. She does an excellent job in terms of her acting and singing.

The movie then goes on to show us Cinderella, the career woman’s success story. She meets so many hurdles on her path, starting from her stepmother but not limited to it.

She does not have money to buy fabrics and faces the condescension of the townspeople while trying to sell her gowns.

MEETING A BUNCH OF RICH PEOPLE, AKA HER SUCCESS STORY

But Cinderella is “bad” and “hard” and “tough”. She is the ultimate girl boss.

Before sending her off to the ball, Fab-G (the genderless fairy godmother played by Billy Porter) asks her something, to which she answers in the affirmative.

That question is capable of explaining Cinderella’s success story.

“Do you want to go to that ball and meet a bunch of rich people who will change your life?” Fab-G asks her. Cinderella, the career woman, meets two rich people; crown Prince Robert (Nicholas Galitzine) and Queen Tatiana (Beverly Knight).

Let’s come to Prince Robert first. The movie attempts to use him to challenge established gender roles. Even though he is the crown prince, he is not interested in being the king. And honestly, Pierce Brosnan’s King Rowan does not provide an attractive or inspiring model to him or anyone.

Robert is interested only in “gallivanting with his merry bro’s”, but the king disagrees because, well, he is the king.

He gets obsessed with Cinderella on meeting her and chooses her as his princess.

Even though her ‘I choose me’ rhetoric seems to reject the idea of marriage as the ultimate achievement of a woman, her association with Robert grants her access to the palace as his “love”.
The second rich person who contributes to her success story is Queen Tatiana, whom she meets at the ball. She asks Cinderella to travel with her around the world as her fashion designer.

The movie attempts to depict Queen Tatiana as another girl boss icon who spills the blood of some king to take her crown.

But even this shallow rhetoric fails as she is just another plot device to offer Cinderella a ticket to high society.

PRINCESS GWEN

Princess Gwen (Tallulah Grieve) serves as another important female character. She tries hard to convince her father that she is a better alternative to her brother.

But her attempts to grab a seat at the table does not invoke sympathy in the audience because the character is underdeveloped.

She is a flat character without any sophistication. And except for her random welfare plans, we do not get to know much about her.

And this is precisely why her crowning as the queen fails to make any profound feminist statement in the movie.

NO CHALLENGE TO THE EXISTING STRUCTURE

Kay Cannon‘s characters fail to challenge the existing structure. They all try to accommodate themselves into the oppressive monarchical system, which is why they fail to impact.

And one cannot blame the director for that. Cinderella’s integration into the royal family through her marriage with the prince is the backbone of the fairy tale, and a feminist re-working of it is impossible.

In Fab-G’s words, they should not have tried to “ruin this incredibly magical moment with reason”.

Rating Cinderella 2021: 2.4/5

Seba Fathima
Seba Fathima
I am a student pursuing BA Hons English at Miranda House.

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