I Am a Feminist, And I Think 'Ever After' Is the Best Feminist Fairy Tale
by Thualsie Manoharan
This article is part of a new column series called, "I Am a Feminist, but...," which features stories about the various ways in which women (and men!) can and do embrace feminism.
I’m going to go on a limb here and say that we have all watched fairy tale movies growing up, am I right? Growing up I’ve seen Sleeping Beauty wait for the perfect kiss, Cinderella wait to be whisked away from her horrible stepmother and Snow White waiting, once again for the perfect kiss. See a pattern here? It was a little bit disheartening to watch all these princesses constantly wait and wait for a prince they barely knew to come and change things, without taking matters into their own hands. Why can’t princesses be bold and still live happily ever after with their prince charming?
When I watched Ever After, it was most definitely a breath of fresh air in a world full of frayed beliefs. I was immediately in love with this Cinderella adaptation. Danielle De Barbarac, aka Cinderella, was a women of complete intelligence, wit, humor, boldness and courage. As you can imagine, I fell head over heels for this character. Danielle proved to us she was no ordinary cinder girl or princess for that matter. She did not just succumb to the ways of Prince Henry; rather she constantly stood up for her values and even surprised Prince Henry a few times.
This kick-ass princess (pardon my French) also showed us all how important reading was. While Snow White dusted and cleaned and Sleeping Beauty slept, Danielle was actually reading a book. She would constantly interpret her understanding of the knowledge she acquired and use this new and profound understanding of the world to help the people around her. In many occasions Danielle also quoted Thomas More, the author of Utopia. Danielle knew just how important knowledge was, which was something the rest of the princesses had failed to show us.
The thing is, being a feminist easily translates to rebelling. The act of rebelling often falls within the shadows despite the fact that it is the game changer in the world. If you think about it, if Betty Friedan had not written the Feminine Mystique, which caused a major stir between women, we would most definitely not have had the second wave of feminism. Standing against the common ways of thinking or going against powerful authorities is the benchmark of change. In this case, reading was Daniella’s act of rebellion. It constantly fueled her many ways of thinking. The lack of rebelling among the rest of the princesses has created a trend depicting women as submissive, ignorant and helpless creatures. Every time we watch Snow White ignorantly eat the poison apple or Princess Aurora prick her finger on a spindle of a spinning wheel, we are allowing the world to see women as creatures of weakness.
I am not saying that women are not allowed to be weak; rather I’m trying to point out that while all these princesses suffered unfortunate circumstances, the princes seemed to somehow remain untouched or possess god-like abilities to keep harm at bay. These princes were never the ones who fell for the tricks of the evil witches or drifted away into a coma-like sleep.
The turn of events in Ever After, where Danielle saves the Prince from the gypsies, breaks the ice of double standards in the world we live in. The movie was not just a series of feminist rants. There were many circumstances where patriarchy prevailed, especially when Danielle’s stepmother sold her to a merchant. This seemed awfully cruel. Despite the sticky situation, Danielle fought for her own release instead of waiting for her prince. Once again this goes beyond all that is normal in a fairytale.
I believe Ever After’s perfect balance of orthodox patriarchal reforms and feministic outbursts is how this movie managed to instill within me a notion to look at the world I live in and question it. Most people today forget to question the happenings around them. Both men and women alike have taken the phrase “go with the flow” quite literally. Some women still believe that to not change is the way to go. But I truly can’t imagine a world where I did not have the common opportunity as any male to go to school or even read a book. The world has to understand that women can be both princesses and warriors. We are not feeble, we are not weak, and we are most definitely helpless! We can all be Danielle!
May our perspectives be constantly challenged.
Thulasie Manoharan is a college student majoring in Architecture and Literature. She is in love with great philosophical conversations and questions, the arts, writing, books, anything Renaissance, and feminism. If asked to describe herself in a sentence she would say: “An ancient soul, trapped in a uncivilized heart with a futuristic mind.”