Why Modern Critics Hated Cinderella

They think it's a story about victimization and patriarchy. It isn't.

Is my masculinity threatened when I say Cinderella has the best scene in movie history that should move a real man to his knees? Anyone, for that matter.

Cinderella and Lady Tremaine

Critics hated Cinderella. I think I know why.

Before I tell you the scene, let me share with you some of the critical thoughts out there. They aren’t nicey-nice:

“If you’re looking for a fresh, modern take on your average fairy tale, don’t bother trying on this one.”Fort Worth Star Telegram

“There is a lot of dying early on and also quite a lot later on, when you will feel you are dying, of boredom, of ennui and, possibly, the full weight of the patriarchy, pressing down hard on your chest.”The Spectator

“Try as the filmmakers might to obscure her victimization, there’s no getting around that this Cinderella has to do time as the classic persecuted woman even if the Disney imperative means that she must also dust herself off, go to the ball and waltz into a happy ending.”The New York Times

And so on. They hated Cinderella. “Average fairy tale” bearing “the full weight of patriarchy” championing “her victimization”? Critics seem to think the movie harmful for children, a false narrative, a story of deception and oppression.

The exact opposite is true. I believe the Cinderella story is real — especially this most recent rendition.

But there is definitely an adversary, louder today than ever, who wants the story destroyed. And this adversary is trying to seduce us just as he seduced Cinderella’s stepmother.

When you understand the scene, the lie, and the truth of this evil seduction, you begin to see why modern critics hate this movie. But you should embrace it.

The Scene

Here’s the scene that welled up a lump in my grown-man throat. It was between Cinderella and her stepmother, Lady Tremaine, in the attic. The ball had ended and the prince had declared a kingdom-wide search for his mystery girl who ran from the party at midnight. He has one of the two glass slippers, and Cinderella goes to fetch the other, hid away in her attic.

But Lady Tremaine sits in the attic holding it. Holding her slave child’s freedom in her hand.

I love stories that refuse to straw-man the villain, making sure the adversary gets her word in edgewise. This is the Lady Tremaine’s chance to explain her side of the story.

I shall tell you a story. Once upon a time, there was a beautiful young girl who married for love. And she had two loving daughters. All was well. But, one day, her husband, the light of her life, died. The next time she married for the sake of her daughters. But that man, too, was taken from her. And she was doomed to look every day upon his beloved child. She had hoped to marry off one of her beautiful, stupid daughters to the prince. But his head was turned by a girl with glass slippers. And so, I lived unhappily ever after. My story would appear to be ended.

I was captivated with this scene. The story is intriguing, almost tantalizing. I know people — much like the movie critics above — who believe the Cinderella story ends “unhappily ever after.” They’re angry, knotted up and bitter. Maybe a tad jealous.

The Lie

But this narrative is both cowardly and cruel. The stepmother is manipulating a narrative that enslaves the life of the girl she was allowed to care for (as well as her own daughters and herself, for that matter). She refused to embrace the narrative of her life for what it was, instead whipping up a “modern take” of “the weight of patriarchy” and her own “victimization.”

The stepmother did what many of us do: she feared the truth, her true narrative. She held on to the cruel enslavement of a good story she refused to allow happen.

Consider for a moment what the stepmother’s narrative could have been. You see, this is the “magic” of the Fairy Godmother. The perspective could have been much, much different, but the stepmother refused to accept this narrative.

  • She could have brought Ella into the family.
  • She could have mourned the death of her husbands and their fathers together.
  • She could have rejoiced in having three times the chance (rather than two) to turn the eye of the prince.
  • But she held onto a much different narrative. A false one. A manipulative one.

Then the stepmother breaks the shoe before locking Cinderella in the attic. She then webs more manipulation with the Grand Duke in an attempt to secure advantageous marriages for her real daughters.

You know how it ends, even without watching the movie: Her plans are foiled, of course, her web of deceit being discovered. Her attempt to create her own narrative different from the narrative of her fate failed miserably.

The Truth

Pause. You and me both.

How many of us walk dangerously down this road attempting to manipulate the narrative of our life?

I suspect, if we are truly honest with ourselves, we attempt to manipulate much more than we accept. We tend to interpret twists of fate as misfortunes rather than riches of life. Like Cinderella’s critics, we imagine we have the “modern take,” we’re “victims” of the “weight” of our trials. In reality, we aren’t accepting the sweet and perhaps liberating narrative of our true life.

Living a lie is no life at all. It matters little how good our intentions are. Only truth, even unwanted or uncomfortable truth, will set us free.

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