Kitty Blackadder

A Scottish blog about anxiety, minimalism and eyeshadow.

Monday, 13 April 2015

My Thoughts on Disney's Cinderella (2015)

Image: Disney

I love reading books and watching films and I love talking about them nearly as much. I've wanted to make that a part of my blog for a long time but always felt like it would just be really silly somehow - what would I say?! I am, clearly, in no way fit to be a critic of any sort (except maybe of ice cream, but that's only through excessive consumption...), but at the same time, everyone has an opinion on what they watch and read, and isn't it nice to share those thoughts and maybe get a conversation going? So while this isn't a 'review', there are small Spoilers ahead - I figure it's safe enough at this point since the films been out in the UK for a couple of weeks, and plus, it's not like most of us don't already know the plot of Cinderella anyway!

Initially, the main thing that got me wanting to write this post was to weigh in (no pun intended) on the great Lily James tiny waist debate. Prior to seeing the film, I was aware of the controversy - despite never actually intentionally looking into it, it seemed to be everywhere. Lily James (who played Cinderella) came under fire from the media, organisations and individuals alike, many of whom felt her incredible hourglass silhouette - seen throughout promotional posters and on screen during the film - had to be the result of extreme and dangerous dieting, or worse, digital enhancement in post production. James hit back at critics claiming that all the talk of something so insignificant detracted attention from a beautiful film and story. She also claimed the finished effect we see is a combination of skilled corseting and tailoring of the dress. 

Before seeing the film, I was totally ready to jump to James' defence - why should a woman have to hide her natural shape to avoid offending people? If she naturally has a small waist, why should she be ashamed of that? I completely believed that the claims of the 'liquid diet' were, as James claimed, based on the practicalities of eating while corseted (i.e. it isn't practical), rather than on a desperate need for her to be slimmer.

And now that I've seen the film? Well, I agree with James wholeheartedly on one point - focusing on what may or may not be too slim a waist is really a waste of attention during a film that is visually stunning. The whole movie is a decadent cinematic spectacle. Every set so richly dressed - from the expected opulence of the palace and its' gardens, but also throughout the scenes in the attic and the garden - it is an utterly immersive experience. The digital elements blend so seamlessly with the live action, and everything fits around the story so well that I found myself captivated and staring at the screen saucer eyed throughout. You could literally screenshot any moment and blow it up the size of your bedroom wall and it would be beautiful.

The film follows the story of the original animated film very closely, with a few added scenes and elements to modernise the story. For example, the death of Ella's parents is featured more heavily now than the typical "oh yeah, and they're an orphan" Disney style of old - which, while it caused me to blubber away in the cinema during both scenes, was kind of refreshing and more human to experience. The expansion of this theme also added more depth and believability to the main focus of the film; the strength (or, kindness and courage) of Ella. This film, far more than the animated original, tells the story of her inner strength and dignity during incredibly hard times, it tells of kindness and belief and love, of maturity, responsibility and dreaming - all big and bold messages.... or, you know, we can just go back to focusing on whether that waist is an inch slimmer than it should be.

Jokes aside, I will admit my eye being drawn to her waist on numerous occasions throughout the film; even being aware of the effect a dress that shape has on the figure, and even trying not to focus on it, I'll admit, there were times I found myself thinking, "Geez, she is tiny". But, ultimately, that's not the point I want to take away from the whole thing. For me, it is irrelevant. Lily James played the part incredibly well, in my opinion, and I wouldn't have wanted her not to get the part simply because she is so slim and beautiful - does that send a better message to young girls? I don't think so. What if they had just corseted her slightly less, to make the image less extreme? Well, I'm not sure that would have appeased critics, because clearly, a slender woman in a corset with a billowing dress is always going to look tiny-waisted, and ultimately, I think the visuals of the film would have suffered if they had made the dress less grand. I can see why, as a parent of a young girl, there might be concern over them idolising this shape or worrying that that would be what stood out to them from the film - but ultimately, I think it's about education; most things in life can be taken negatively or misinterpreted without some guidance and explanation.

 I know when I was younger, and I mean, I watched a lot of Disney films and never stopped to wonder as to why the Princesses were all prettier than me - I did however develop a nasty series of nightmares that recur on at least a weekly basis to this day, revolving around the fear of my mother dying. I know that after seeing Frozen, the nightmares intensified and so too, did I have a pretty bad sleep the night after watching this. Obviously, there's no way of knowing if the constant watching of orphaned Disney characters caused my problems, but, it is an interesting thought. They could have. So, we can worry about whether the skinniness of the Princess will cause us to have low self esteem, or whether the constant stream of happy endings in Disney films will increase the chance of depression as things so rarely work out that way in our real lives, or wonder if the classic Prince Charming concept is setting feminism back... Or, as I decided to do in the end, it can be accepted as a film; a story, a fairy tale, that contains morals and hopes and fears and dreams, but ultimately, is fictional. A lot of work went into creating this film, a lot of skill, a lot of time - the result is a mesmerising and lingering story about a good person who deserves her happy ending, and gets it.

I'm not critisicing those who have taken issue with the film - I wrote my dissertation on some of the darker elements of the Disney company, and despite being a lifelong fan, I heartily enjoy a good debate about the messages and conduct of the almost inescapable corporation, no, I suppose my thoughts about the film reflect my thoughts about so much of modern life - you can take from it what you like. Most things, from music, to magazines, to TV shows, advertising, clothing, makeup and social media, can be interpreted a myriad of ways; some favourable, some less so. I loved this film, and think, despite arguably negative imagery, that the overall intention was to create something beautiful and happy - and so that's how I'm going to walk away from it. 

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