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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Where Are the Women? Cinderella

WATWcinderella

Subsume your individuality and your desires in the hopes that other people will like you? How come we never tell stories about men that sound like this?

BASIC REPRESENTATION SCORE: +25

+25
Is there a female protagonist? [why this matters]

FEMALE AGENCY/POWER/AUTHORITY SCORE: -10

+10
Is there a female villain or antagonist? [why this matters]
-20
Is her villainy/badness defined primarily by her gender (ie, is it related to motherhood, or is it of a sexual nature)? [why this matters]

THE MALE GAZE SCORE: 0

[no issues]

GENDER/SEXUALITY SCORE: -30

-5
Is femininity used as a joke (ie, a man crossdressing for humorous intent) in passing? [why this matters]
-20
In a way essential to the movie? [why this matters]


-5
Is there a female character who is primarily defined by her emotional or biological relationship with a child or children*? [why this matters] (*in this case, adult children)


-3
Is a dead mother mentioned? [why this matters]
+3
Is a dead father also mentioned? [why this matters]

WILDCARD SCORE: -10

Is there anything either positive or negative in the film’s representation of women not already accounted for here? (points will vary)

-5
It is debatable whether Cinderella realizes that the handsome “apprentice” she encounters in the forest is the Prince, and hence it is a desire to meet him again that drives her to want to attend the ball (rather than just a general “Balls at the palace are awesome” motivation). Either way is problematic for the female protagonist. If her goal is primarily romantic (to enter into a relationship with him), that is typically not a great thing for women’s representation. If she doesn’t realize who he is, then the only purpose to this story at all is for her to suffer years of torment and abuse with a smile in the hope that cruelty will eventually be won over by kindness (see below).


-5
Cinderella is, as if often the case in traditional fairy tales, a very passive protagonist who is more the object of other people’s actions than someone with agency in her own right. Much of her story is about her maintaining her kindness in the face of years of torment and abuse, which renders her a doormat and even a willing victim; she could, to all appearances, have easily escaped her tormentors, which is not true of real-life similiar situations. Such a simplistic depiction of an abusive relationship reinforces notions that women willingly stay in such relationships.

TOTAL SCORE: -25

IS THE FILM’S DIRECTOR FEMALE? No (does not impact scoring)

IS THE FILM’S SCREENWRITER FEMALE? No (does not impact scoring)

BOTTOM LINE: Face abuse with cheeriness? Subsume your individuality and your desires in the hopes that other people will like you? Yearn for nothing at all… unless, maybe, it’s for someone to come and take you away from it all, rather than rescuing yourself? How come we never tell stories about men that sound like this?


Click here for the ongoing ranking of 2015’s films for female representation.

Click here for the ranking of 2015’s Oscar-nominated films for female representation.

NOTE: This is not a “review” of Cinderella! It is simply an examination of how well or how poorly it represents women. (A movie that represents women well can still be a terrible film; a movie that represents women poorly can still be a great film.) Read my review of Cinderella.

See the full rating criteria. (Criteria that do not apply to this film have been deleted in this rating for maximum readability.)


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  • I thought Cinderella wanted to go to the ball because she believed “her friend Kit” was an apprentice at the castle, so she would probably see him at the ball since that was where he worked.

  • If that’s true, it slipped by me so fast that I missed it. Which means she cannot have been very vehement about it.

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