Millions are watching anti-Cinderella spoofs online and child psychologists say these critics are on to something. Lily James plays the heroine in Disney’s new flick. (Photo: Jonathan Olley/Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/Everett Collection)
Who doesn’t love Cinderella? Millions, it turns out. Though Disney’s 1950 animated hit based on Charles Perrault’s 17th-century version of the fairy tale Cendrillon has spawned more than a dozen retools — including director Kenneth Branagh’s 2015 incarnation which earned $68 million at the box office this past weekend — hating on Cinderella is getting popular.
A spoof of the trailer for the original rags-to-riches fantasy in the “Honest Trailers” series on YouTube’s Screen Junkies channel has been viewed more than 3 million times since it was posted on March 10.
Calling out the sexism and abuse depicted in the cartoon, the mock mini-movie sarcastically cautions parents about the impact it’ll have on kids. “Revisit the animated classic that will cancel out all of the empowering things your daughter learned from Frozen,” deadpans the voiceover, “where girls are taught to be pushovers, do all the housework and that their problems will disappear if they’re hot enough to land a rich husband.” Another barb: “But everything will change when [Cinderella] meets her Fairy Godmother, a guardian angel who has waited years to improve Cinderella’s life in any way, instead of helping her out when her parents died, or when her step family forced her into slavery. Thanks for the dress lady, but it would have been more helpful if you had bibbidi-bobbidi called child protective services like, eight years ago.”
Then there’s the “Cinderella vs. Belle: Princess Rap Battle,” on YouTube starring Sarah Michelle Gellar and comedian Whitney Avalon. The infectious verbal sparring bout has attracted almost 7 million views and features Avalon as The Beauty and the Beast’s Belle and Gellar as Cindy. “I’m the smart female heroine that can’t be ignored,” blasts Belle. “The moral of our quarrel and why I’ve got you beat, it’s what’s inside that matters.”
Sarah Michelle Gellar raps as Cinderella. (Photo: YouTube)
All this backlash isn’t a bad idea, according to psychotherapist Amy Morin, author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do. “Depicting a female who appears utterly helpless until a male swoops in and rescues her from all of her troubles sends a troubling message,” she tells Yahoo Parenting. “Girls may learn, ‘I can’t solve my problems, but a boy could.’ It’s much healthier for girls to recognize their own problem-solving skills, rather than look to boys as the solution.”
Cinderella dances with her Prince Charming in the 1950s movie. (Photo: Walt Disney/Everett Collection)
The long-ignored stepsister’s transformation into an appreciated princess is only a positive takeaway on the surface, she adds. “Stories like Cinderella can erode attempts to teach empowerment.”
And it’s a message that she, for one, believes young people readily absorb. “Kids learn about themselves, other people, and the world in general by what they see and hear,” says Morin. “Movies that depict certain stereotypes can cause children to see the world in a certain way. Even subtle messages in the media can alter the way kids think and behave.”
If you’re concerned, talk with your kids about it, advises child and teen development specialist Dr. Robyn Silverman. “Ask children what they believe the story is trying to tell them,” she tells Yahoo Parenting. “’What would you do if you were in the same situation: held captive and offered one night to escape?’ ‘Where would you go?’ ‘Who would you enlist to help?’ Silverman’s favorite conversation starter with young ones is, “’What advice would you give the protagonist in the story?’” In the end, she says, “We want our children to recognize true love when they see it but also discover that when they are in a negative situation, their smarts, wit, courage and character can change it. And no, a prince should not be top of mind.”
However, keep in mind that children’s perception of fairy tales will change as they mature. “It’s a misguided notion that these stories are going to have lasting significance to a child,” David Elkind, a professor and department chairman of the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Development at Tufts University, tells Yahoo Parenting. “Cinderella doesn’t do any harm. It’s just a charming story. Kids enjoy fairy tales and these stories fulfill fantasies.”
And as children age, they realize that such tales aren’t true. “That gives them a marker of understanding, ‘That’s not the way the world really works,’” he says. “To have a fantasy and give it up is a healthy sign of growing up.”