Disney Debate: Cinderella

Welcome to Disney Debate!

Over the next 11 weeks, we’ll discuss each of the “official” Disney princesses. Read the information and question below and then use the comments section to join the debate. Engage with people’s comments by replying to them, and add your own points by creating a new comment. Comments must be civil to be included.


Shoes and a dress. For critics of Cinderella, this is all the story boils down to. Chelsea Mize of Bustle writes, “Prince Charming likes [Cinderella] based solely on… well, her dress, we think. And her shoes.”

Would Prince Charming have fallen for Cinderella had she shown up to the ball in rags? What’s so important about the shoes, and the dress?

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12 thoughts on “Disney Debate: Cinderella

  1. To understand Cinderella, you have to see that she stands juxtaposed to her step-sisters.

    They are everything gilded: Adorned in fine clothes, trained in the arts, waited on like royalty, but ugly underneath. Cinderella, on the other hand, is pure and beautiful, but hidden under rags and serfdom. At the end, nothing could hide the ugliness of her step-sisters. And, thanks to her fairy godmother, nothing could hide Cinderella’s beauty, an unmatched beauty reflected in the unmatched dress and shoes.

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  2. The dress and shoes, as well as the pumpkin carriage for that matter, are just the means of getting to the ball. Without them she cannot be there, and she very much wants to be there. It is Cinderella’s selflessness and loving heart that are compelling to the prince. It shines through, whether she is wearing the rags her step-mother leaves her in, or the ball room gown the fairy godmother conjured up. In my mind the prince is the lucky man who after much searching has finally discovered the pearl of great worth. He gets to live happily ever after. And why wouldn’t he?

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  3. I’m honestly a bit rusty on my original Cinderella lore (sorry! It’s on the list!) but, to me, part of the allure was that there was something different about her. She likely carried herself differently, she didn’t throw herself at him, she probably had sun-kissed skin from being outside more than the other women. Once they danced, she left THE PRINCE. That’s pretty rare. Perhaps he wanted a woman who wasn’t easy to get.

    But I don’t think he would have paid much attention to her in the rags unless he somehow saw her inner beauty. Maybe she looked the part of a serving maid, but her gracefulness spoke of a high-born lady.

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    1. That’s an interesting idea — that the prince was drawn to her *because* of the markers of her life as a servant.
      I think the dress represents her inner beauty — so, in that sense, he does see it when he looks at her.


  4. The argument that a pretty dress and a pair of shoes win over the prince ignores the fact they’re magic, and that they’re part of a grander transformation.
    We know from the fairy godmother herself that her magic has limitations. One is that her spell must end at midnight. The other, although not explicitly stated, is that she can’t conjure things out of thin air. She doesn’t create, she transforms. So in this way, a round, stately pumpkin becomes a round, stately coach, four noble mice friends become four noble white horses, a loyal dog becomes a loyal footman, and a hardworking horse earns a place in the driver’s seat. The good must be there in order for the transformation to take place. Note that Lucifer is not considered for any role.
    Cinderella too, is fully transformed. So much so that her step family looks right at her and doesn’t recognize her. But the ugliness of the tattered dress and plain shoes could not be remidied without her goodness. Her appearance is magically infused with her own inner beauty. That’s what the prince when he sees her for the first time.

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    1. It is also worth considering that the Prince might very well understand that this is how fairy magic works and be acting accordingly. If so, his speed to snap up Cinderella (and his parents turning the kingdom upside down) makes total sense. If the Prince realized after the Ball that the running away at midnight had to do with the limits of her fairy magic, then he would know that she must be an incredibly lovely person to have been able to be so beautiful while under its influence.

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  5. I think I tend to prefer the Cinderella storyline; but I find it easier to look at in the live-action version. I know the older animated ones were more symbolic than literal, but she is just rather too much of an airhead for me to take as an adult. The live-action movie is the perfect princess and perfect love story movie to me, doing justice to both the prince and Cinderella. She was gracious, kind, respectful, and strong; I think a lot of feminists think back-talking equals strength while some in more patriarchal (actually patriarchy, not the feminist straw man) circles think abject submission to horrid authorities (in this case, not a man) is respect. And Kit displayed that a man could be both masculine and strong, and sweet and gentle (the feminist/feminist allies and patriarchy leaning both make false dichotomies with this that drives me NUTS).

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