Briefly, on Cinderella.

May 28, 2012 § 1 Comment

Because writing doesn’t exactly pay the bills, I work in a toy store.

Yesterday:

“My daughter wants to have a Cinderella themed birthday party, what do you suggest?”

Assuming that a pile of lentils and a severed toe aren’t what she’s after, I suggest the toy brooms we sell.

It would be funny, I say. You know, Cinderella. She cleans, and is rewarded with cake.

The woman stares blankly.

“I thought maybe you’d have headbands?”

Headbands? I think. Then I get it. THAT Cinderella. You know, the one who wears a headband. No other one exists.

I liked my idea better, but hey, it’s not my world.

I posted this anecdote on Facebook last night, and two of my cleverest friends immediately suggested I read Peggy Orenstein’s Cinderella Ate My Daughter, which is probably the best book recommendation/toy-store princess overdose antidote I can think of. Readers, I’ll get right on it. I will report back.

But what I already know of Orenstein’s book (and its concerns with ultra-feminine princess marketing towards young girls in what we might hope is a more progressive era) can be confirmed with a simple Google image search.

Go ahead, image search “Cinderella.” I’ll wait.

You may notice, there are no severed toes.

Nearly every single image on the first, oh, twenty pages of Google-sourced pictoral overload are of one version of Cinderella (guess which), and they all, interestingly enough, depict the proverbial After. The blue dress, the updo, the headband, the prince. Occasionally, as you skim, you’ll see Cindy in the pink rags of her mouse-crafted dress, the first one that the stepsisters tore to shreds before leaving in their carriage for the ball. But even these images show the Fairy Grandmother already present, ready to make everything shiny and well. There is no suffering in the most popular images of Cinderella–only the pretty pretty princess. One might wonder whether all those little girls out there having Cinderella themed parties, complete with headbands, would even recognize Cindy before her prime. Because the pre-marriage suffering in fairy tales is not what interests consumers at all–results are key, and the results must be pretty. What’s that quote from The Prestige? “No one cares about the man in the box,” they care about the one who comes out on the other side? Well, in Cinderella’s case, no one cares about the girl with the broom. They care about the girl in the blue dress who comes out on the other side.

I found only one image in ten pages of Google images that shows the Before–Cinderella at work, pre-makeover. And what I immediately noticed was that this was the only image not from the same version as all the others. It was this:

“Cinderella” by John Everett Millais

Nice broom.

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§ One Response to Briefly, on Cinderella.

  • Funny. I worked for years at Disney and watched the “marketing demo” for the princesses get younger and younger. (just like Mickey Mouse). I was part of a small initiative that targeted older girls in a sarcastic way. (e.g. The Cinderella T-shirt just said: “Breaks Curfew”). A good little run, but needless to say, the preschoolers and their ball gowns/tiaras won out in the end.

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