Why Cinderella Is the Perfect 'Strong Female Protagonist'

7:00 AM




Over the weekend, I went to see the new Cinderella movie, with a lot of excitement. It isn't the kind of thing I usually enjoy, yes, but Cinderella has always been one of my favorite fairy tales/princesses, and this looked lovely and sweet and fun.

It was all of those things, and I absolutely loved it. 

I really, really did. I loved the colors and the setting and oh, the outfits. I loved the richness and the detail. I loved the whimsy, the touch of magic done so tastefully. I loved the fairy godmother, of course. And oh, I loved that prince, in all his handsome and respectful and charming (of course) glory. The movie was like stepping into a whole new world for an hour or so, and getting totally lost in it. 


And most of all, I loved Cinderella herself. 

She wasn't some hardcore fighter girl, forcing her way into heroics. She wasn't sharp-tongued or sarcastic. (And believe me, I do love that on occasion.) Cinderella was sweet, she was kind, she was brave. She was everything I want to see in what I would call a strong female character. 

Of course, there's a time and a place for our Katniss-type protagonists or characters in general. I don't have a problem with that. But I would like to see more kindness, more sweetness. More making an effort to be good and kind just for the sake of it, even when people don't deserve it. That is the kind of thing I can really root for in any kind of character. And I don't think sweetness and gentleness makes anyone less strong. In fact, it might be the opposite.

I'm using a lot of gifs just because they're so pretty. 

Say what you like about Cinderella but she certainly wasn't weak. She didn't let herself be pushed around, not at all. She was very respectful in her standing up to people, but very firm - she didn't let people get away with terrible, terrible things, or let them use her. She chose to stay with the stepmother and stepsisters, even though she could have left at any time. She was kind to them when they abused her. She was respectful when the stepmother didn't deserve it. She had her moments of breaking down, and I don't blame her, because her circumstances were horrible - she wasn't sunshine and rainbows and singing the whole time. But when it came down to it, she wasn't going to let them walk all over her. This, I think, is a special kind of bravery, and it's absolutely noble and wonderful.

Why can't we see more of this in our 'strong female characters'? There's nothing weak about it. 

I wouldn't mind a little more sweetness. I wouldn't mind more 'girly' female protagonists, who are allowed to be so without it being a weakness. I definitely wouldn't mind girls who make an effort to be kind to everyone, who are just sweet, who are allowed to go to the ball and fall in love with the prince and heck, let him save her every once in a while because everyone needs help. I don't mind at all.

JUST LOOK AT HOW CUTE THEY ARE. *squee*

So yes, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. I spent the entire time smiling so hard - and yes, I full-on cried several times. It was everything I wanted it to be and more. I thought Cinderella was an amazing role model, and the message of the movie was simple and pure and noble and captured this perfectly.

"Have courage, and be kind." 

That dress, though.

40 comments

  1. *nods emphatically* I saw a series of Tweets on Tumblr the other day about how Cinderella's not a pushover, and people who say she should've stood up to stepmother & co. don't really acknowledge the fear of being in an abusive family.

    Personally, I don't really write protagonists like Cinderella (possibly because I'm too evil? Ah well) but I would like to write someone who is kind because that's who they are, instead of having an agenda all the time.

    And I agree, THAT DRESS. Such a pretty shade of blue. Disney really nailed the outfits -- looking forward to all the other live-action remakes they're planning!

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    1. I think I saw those tweets too! Or a set like them, but likely the same ones. :P I definitely agree. It's not the type of character I write either (my protagonists are mostly guys?) but I'd like to see more of it, and maybe work on it more myself.

      THE DRESS. *grabby hands*

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  2. See, Cinderella has never, ever been a character that I can get on board with (*see my hatred of Marissa Meyer's Cinder*), but I do understand the point you're making. I think we see so many physically strong female protagonists though because the attributes that make Cinderella so strong are just so common. I'm not a pushover, and I'm kind and gentle and friendly (sometimes...), but I'm certainly not a strong female protagonist. We live in a world where it's difficult to imagine someone lovely as a hero, but it's far too easy to imagine some mega hot kick-fighter as one...
    Yeah, I'm not sure where I was going with that. But I did love this post - your discussions are always so thoughtful!

    Beth x
    www.thequietpeople.com

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    1. Ah, well, to each her own, I guess. *shrugs* That makes sense...it is the normal thing to default to to get a 'strong female hero' and I'd like to see that change, maybe? I think we need lots of different kinds of heroines, just like in real life.

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  3. Point 1: Robb Stark is so handsome and I love his teeth and his eyes oh praise and joyness he is no longer dead in my heart with a wolf head sewn to his shoulders. What a happy girl am I.

    Point 2: This is interesting. I haven't seen Cinderella yet so my opinions are still up in the air, but my sister got to go see an early viewing and she didn't make it sound like something I'd enjoy. The last time I watched Cinderella was with my best friend and we criticized Cinderella for the whole time. However, if Cinderella has been rewritten with a personality, then I look forward to seeing the movie and a good strong female protagonist. :)

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    1. XD

      It's not something I usually enjoy, either, at all. I'm not a fluffy princess kind of person. But this WAS well done and sweet and I thought she was a great character, as were the others.

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  4. Although I haven't watched Cinderella yet, I total agree with you about the strong female character.
    Sure there is a place for sassy mouthed female characters who can do pretty much everything and anything on there own. But sometimes we need the gentle and kind females.
    Great Post!

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    1. Yes! We need a little of both, I think, so I very much appreciated Cinderella. :)

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  5. I have not yet seen this Cinderella but I definitely agree. She is a perfect example of a strong female protagonist. Because, despite popular belief, strong female protagonists do not have to be: Physically strong and an amazing fighter, capable of keeping themselves safe independently, or emotionless, and sassy. While I do have characters who are good fighters and have no problems holding their own, at the same time, characters who are gentle and kind and can continue going despite what they are put through are often stronger, in my opinion. I have a character like that, and despite all the horrible things I've put her through, she keeps going. She's kind, and couldn't hurt anyone. My friend even says she is stronger than one of my other female characters, who is physically strong and capable. And I like that more, honestly.

    This was a really cool post, Aimee. It was rather thought-provoking and interesting. :)

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    1. *nods* Yesssss. I like having a balance, but...there's definitely strength in choosing to be kind and gentle and just /sweet/ and there's absolutely nothing wrong with it. I wish we saw that more/more people had that attitude. I'm glad you liked this!

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  6. I so badly want to see this, it looks fantastic and I LOVE the Cinderella fairy tale. I completely agree with you, there's rarely protagonists in books that are sweet, kind and helpful (they're generally hardcore and sassy) but I'd love to see more characters that are genuinely very nice and polite. Fantastic post! :)

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    1. Oh, you need to see it. It's lovely. <3 And you're right, there aren't many of them, especially in really mainstream fiction - it's just not the thing you do. So I'd love to see more of that!

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  7. I haven't seen the movie but I know the story, and I agree with you on this. Another point that I didn't see specifically, but you did somewhat cover, that she wasn't really looking for a guy to save her. She didn't need a man to help her escape everything, she just wanted to go to the ball and happened to fall in love with the prince. I dunno. My younger sister saw the movie and really enjoyed it.

    Also I loved Cinder, sorry Beth.

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    1. It's such a lovely movie with lovely characters asdfghjkl x3 xD Yesss. It was so great.

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  8. This was not my favorite movie, but I agree. I loved the theme! I loved that Cinderella was innocent and yet not naive. So many people confuse the two as one in the same and they are not. She remained blameless and did what was right despite her circumstance. But it wasn't because she was naive or foolish, it was because she was kind and brave, in a gentle way. It's very different from what's most prevalent these days. It's kind of nice and refreshing.

    I really like, also, how they developed the prince's side of the story. I wasn't expecting that. But I really liked that.

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    1. *shrugs* YES. She was by no means happy and cheerful and innocent constantly. She made a CHOICE to make an effort to be kind, and that made all the difference, which is really one of the greatest messages there is in my opinion.

      *hugs the prince* That scene with his father basically slayed me.

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    2. Oh my goodness! When his father died, just wow! Sure, the prince is *normally* depicted as manly, charming, and I've-got-it-all-together. But that scene was just so accurate to reality when your father dies, man or woman. And even though he and his father seemed to be at odds for most of their time together, that scene just spoke volumes about their relationship. They treasured and respected each other so much.

      Okay, okay. Sorry. But I love that scene. :')

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  9. I loved this movie so much (watching it right after a really stressful week of standardized testing probably had a little bit to do with it), and I agree that Cinderella was a wonderfully strong female protagonist. Honestly, I'm a bit sick of the kick butt warrior type characters that are considered strong female characters. Yes, there's a place for them, but the repeated use of them is drowning out the strong girls that love dresses and frilly things. Why can't they be considered strong, too? I loved the message Disney sent with this movie. And even though the movie didn't really contribute anything new to the original story line, I was still completely enchanted.

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    1. Right? I think she was so great because of that - a breath of fresh air among all those usual heroines. It was a perfect movie to use it in and made it so, so great.

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  10. *totally fangirling over your post* YES YES YES! This is what I've been trying to tell everyone!! You don't have to be tough or a black belt in karate to be a strong person. It requires more strength to be kind to people than it does to beat them up. Thank you so much for writing this amazing post!

    And I loved the Cinderella movie too. Kenneth Branagh is an amazing director and the whole thing was just eye candy. ^-^

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    1. YES. I don't mind the tough characters, either, but it was SO nice to see this being celebrated, too. *hugs movie to self and croons softly*

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  11. I completely LOVE this movie!!! I agree that Cinderella is such a strong female lead! *fangirls*

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  12. My sister and I are trying to sort out a day to go and watch Cinderella, and we're super excited!
    It sounds like we can learn a lot from Cinderella, which just makes me more excited to see it :))

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    1. I'm excited to possibly hear what you think about it! I think you'll like it. :)

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  13. I agree so much. This post captured exactly what I thought about Cinderella. :) She was a fantastic protagonist.

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  14. This is perfect. The image of a strong female protagonist has morphed into this badass, don't-need-no-man figure (which I appreciate) that it's rare to see different types of strength displayed in characters. I feel the need to watch Cinderella now :)

    Also, would you mind if I did a follow-up/reply post for this? It's such an important topic, and I think I'd like to expand on your points.

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    1. You're right. I don't mind it either (unless it's the emotionless, stereotypical variety that's been beaten to death by now) but the fact that Cinderella was different and celebrated for it made me very very happy.

      And no, I don't mind at all! Do go for it. I'd love to see it. :D

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  15. A very perceptive point - I agree kindness and courage go hand in hand and they should be making more of an appearance together. :-) I'm going to see the Cinderella film tomorrow, hopefully and your post has made me even more excited now :-)

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    1. *nods* I really do want to see more kind/gentle/sweet characters who aren't naive and who aren't mocked for it, because I think that's important. Cinderella is a great example of this.
      Yay! I hope you love it! :)

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  16. It's weird how people have, in history, accused of girls of not being strong, and then, a sudden outburst of YA strong girl characters appear. Hermione, Clary, Tris, Katniss, Annabeth are some of these just to name a few. Now it seems like there is no show of sweet, strong girls, not until the new Cinderella came out. I really love this post-- it's a real eye opener! ((I haven't seen Cinderella or Into the Woods' Cinderella, and I'm crying here. I'm so behind HALP)).

    xoxo Morning
    http://theworldthroughmywindowsill.blogspot.com/

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    1. Yesssss. I don't mind the strong characters (Heck, Katniss is one of my favorites) but there needs to be more variety, and more sweetness. (I think we could do this more with guy characters, too, honestly.)

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  17. Spot on!!! *applause* I adored Cinderella, and I would love to see more sweet, girly, STRONG heroines. I understand the idea behind all the tough, macho, sarcastic protagonists, but honestly, I'm getting kind of tired of them. We need more variety...and we need more characters that the girly girls (like me) can relate with. Thanks for the amazing post! I was cheering the whole way through.

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    1. Oh yes! Like I think I keep saying, they're no less strong. There are lots of different kinds of strength, and I do want to see that better represented. *nods*
      I'm so glad you liked it!

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  18. I haven't seen it yet, but I really want to! I love that type of character. It's not that I have anything against the use of the snarky, sarcastic, tough girl as the main protagonist. But it's been so overdone that anyone who doesn't fit the bill is written off as weak. Um...excuse me? No.

    Personally, I don't really like Disney's animated version of Cinderella. It was basically a romanticized Tom and Jerry. *shrugs* Plus the whole love at first sight thing. Ick.

    But the live action movie looks soo good! And that dress.

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    1. Oh, you totally need to! It's so lovely and refreshing. *nods*

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  19. Ahhh. *flails* The dress. The everything. This MOVIE. *squeals*
    It was gorgeous. Soooo gorgeous. I loved it. xD
    And it turns out their doing a live action remake of Beauty and the Beast!? That has always been my favorite fairy tale, so I simply cannot wait until that comes out. So excited. :D

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  20. :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D
    All I have to send are smiles.

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