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“So you’re telling me you had a good time?” “And I owe it all to you.” “Rubbish! You did it all yourself. The cake was already made, all I did was add the frosting.”
– The Fairy Godmother lays down the truth about our long-lasting fascination with the original rags-to-riches story
Did I say Snow White held the record for the fairytale with the most variations? Silly me, how could I forget Cinderella, the story that’s so known worldwide that when I tried to research every single version for this review my computer exploded? In fact, I questioned the point of recapping this episode since you don’t need me to remind you of the plot. This is a fairy tale so widely spread across thousands of years, continents and cultures, from Ancient Greece to the Tang Dynasty, that everyone knows it in some form or another.
It’s only when I stopped to compare Faerie Tale Theatre’s Cinderella to other iterations of the story that I came to this conclusion: the devil is in the details. Cinderella’s timelessness has left it open to a multitude of interpretations, analyzations, deconstructions, reconstructions, subversions and spoofs. There is no one definitive version, which is great. You can do whatever you want with the tale if you play with the beats creatively enough. Want to change the setting to high school and make the prom the ball? Sure, why not? Remove the magical elements and place it in Renaissance-era Europe for that historical fiction approach? Whatever floats your boat. Flip the perspective to the stepsisters’ side of the story? Go nuts. Have Cinderella’s servitude be a literal curse she has to break by tearing the fairy who enchanted her a new one? Boom, done.
Cinderella has also been subjected to plenty of criticism, as a good many traditional fairy tales have lately. Forgive me for beating a dead mouse-turned-horse, but those espousing the negatives of Cinderella, from All-4-One to The Cheetah Girls to Andrew Lloyd Webber, to a whole slew of bad-faith “feminist” critiques and even YA retellings I love like Kaylnn Bayron’s Cinderella is Dead and Margaret Peterson Haddix’s Just Ella, have gotten it completely wrong. Cinderella is not, and never has been, about marrying a prince. It was, and always will be, about maintaining hope in dark times and escaping poverty and abuse through kindness and determination. That’s the eternal appeal of Cinderella, that anyone can rise to the top when it seems like the whole world’s against you. It’s also what makes a straightforward rendition in a sea of postmodern adaptations so refreshing (when done right, of course).Continue reading