Subverting the Princess Narrative in Marissa Meyer’s Cinder (by Diana B. and Alessia M.)

The 1950’s Disney produced film Cinderella, was one of best American animated and one of the most popularized films ever to be made. While young girls adored the idea of sparkling glass slippers, pumpkins that transformed into twinkling chariots, and ever-so dreamy yet unattainable princes, the Disney princess has been widely criticized by feminist scholars for perpetuating traditional gender roles and stereotypical ideas about femininity. The female protagonist in Marissa Meyer’s novel Cinder, however, dismantles the gender binary by rejecting traditional characteristics of femininity. While the 1950’s Cinderella is forced to engage in domestic work and perform household duties in order to appease her stepmother, Cinder takes on a stereotypically male job as a mechanic where she earns a fair wage and produces income to support her family. Alike other traditional princess narratives, the plot of Disney’s Cinderella revolves around her quest for the Prince’s love, and her actions are rooted in her desire for a romantic relationship with the Prince. Though there is still a prince in Meyer’s work who also shows interest in the female protagonist, Cinder rejects his romantic gestures on numerous occasions and prioritizes her own goals above her intimate feelings for a man. We argue that the protagonist, Cinder, subverts the traditional princess role by challenging traditional characteristics of femininity. Unlike the Disney character Cinderella, Cinder provides a stereotypically masculine service to her community and refuses to participate in heteronormative romance narrative by declining Prince Kai’s invitation to be his guest at the ball.

 

Cinder subverts the traditional princess narrative by performing a stereotypically masculine job. In the Disney film Cinderella, the princess is only shown working within the private sphere, and she only performs domestic labour as a means to satisfy her stepmother’s demands (England et al. 563). Cinder pushes back against stereotypes about women’s work and performs most of her work within the public sphere. Unlike Cinderella, Meyer never mentions Cinder performing domestic tasks. Rather, she is regarded as one of New-Beijing’s most talented mechanics. In fact, her title even takes Prince Kai by surprise, as he was expecting a male to fix his android, “‘I’m looking for a Linh Cinder,” said the prince. ‘Is he around?’ … Staring at the prince’s chest, she stammered, ‘I-I’m Linh Cinder’” (Meyer 8). Cinder’s highly regarded position in her community combined with the fact that she is working in a male-dominated profession provides her with a sense of agency and credibility. Not only does Cinder assert her individuality and push back against gender norms by working as a mechanic, but she also receives income for her services. Her ability to financially provide for herself and her family gives her a new sense of autonomy and independence that was not apparent in Cinderella’s character. Cinderella receives no monetary compensation for domestic work and nor is her work regarded as significant or important to maintaining the household (Henke et al. 236). Rather, Cinderella’s work is an act of submission to her stepmother and demonstrates her lack of independence within her home and her lack of value within her community.

 

Unlike Cinderella, Cinder’s happiness is not dependent on the presence of a romanic relationship. In Cinder, Marissa Meyer shows her readers how Cinder is not reliant on the prince to fulfil her life, starting with the rejection of his proposal to be his guest at the ball. She is shocked and honoured that he would ask her, but she declines his initial offer by telling him “I—I’m sorry…Thank you—I… Thank you, Your Highness. But I must respectfully decline” (Meyer 165). Cinder makes the conscious decision to prioritize her goal of escaping New-Beijing over satisfying the needs of Prince Kai. A significant difference between Cinder and Cinderella’s romantic relationships is that Cinder develops intimate feelings towards Prince Kai over time as their relationship progresses. For Cinderella and many other Disney princesses, she falls in love with the prince “at first sight”, and Cinderella accepts the prince’s first and only invitation to the ball. (Henke et al. 241). In Cinder however, she is asked multiple times to be the prince’s guest and she declines him more than once. Prince Kai expects that she will change her mind, but she never loses sight of her own goals and appears reluctant to change her mind. This seems like a rather defiant stance against what is the traditional narrative associated with the fairytale. England et al. state that “[c]onsistently portrayed gender role images may be interpreted as “normal” by children and become connected with their concepts of socially accepted behaviour and morality” (England et al. 556). Children learn to mimic the actions of the characters in these works. Girls in particular, then, are taught that they must always be obliging and accommodating to their male counterparts. In Cinder’s case, however, she is outspoken, and when offered the “ideal” position as Prince Kai’s date, one that appears to be desired by most girls in New Beijing, she does not alter her plans or change her decisions based on social pressures. When Prince Kai asks her to be his guest a second time, Cinder retorts that “there are about 200,000 single girls in this city who would fall over themselves to have the privilege [of being his guest]” (Meyer 224). Despite Prince Kai’s dissatisfaction, she politely declines in order to pursue her own goals rather than to accommodate his wishes.

 

Cinder as a character defies the princess archetype and teaches her readers the importance of having a strong sense of self. She is interested in Kai, but knows she never loses sight of her larger goal at hand to escape New-Beijing and forge a new life for herself. She recognizes the importance of her job and how her talents and abilities are both valuable and meaningful to her community. Her refusal of Kai’s invitation to be his guest at the ball shows that Cinder is resilient and defiant in the face of conformity. Cinder shows readers that courage and being different are not qualities to be afraid of, but rather, are qualities that should be both rewarded and embraced.

 

Discussion Questions:

  1. Are there other ways shown in the novel that Cinder defies the traditional princess narrative? Other characters who change their role?
  2. Why is it important to change the princess narrative into one that is more progressive?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

 

England, Dawn, Lara Descartes, and Melissa Collier-Meek. “Gender Roles and the Disney Princess.” Sex Roles, vol.64, 2011, pp.555-567. Gender Studies Database. http://web.a.ebscohost.com.proxy1.lib.uwo.ca/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=baacd68c-2d93-40ed-b82a-b5b25cb670cb%40sessionmgr4008&vid=4&hid=4206

 

Henke, Jill Birnie, Diane Zimmerman Umble, and Nancy J. Smith. “Construction Of The Female Self: Feminist Readings Of The Disney Heroine.” Women’s Studies In Communication, vol.19, no. 2, 1996, pp. 229-249. Gender Studies Database. http://

journals1.scholarsportal.info.proxy1.

v19i0002/229_cotfsfrotdh.xml

 

Meyer, Marissa. Cinder. New York: NY, 2012. Print.

 

 

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16 thoughts on “Subverting the Princess Narrative in Marissa Meyer’s Cinder (by Diana B. and Alessia M.)

  1. I’d argue that it’s hugely important to change the princess narrative because of the effect it has on young girls. The Disney Princess franchise is probably the most popular form of the princess narrative that girls consume, through movies like Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Beauty and the Beast– and this consumption happens at an age when gender socialisation begins to take hold. For a lot of girls, their introduction to the concept of gender will come about partly through Disney Princess films and the associated merchandise like dresses and dolls, as this is very much pushed on them– Disney’s marketing power is expansive and unavoidable.

    With this in mind, it’s necessary to examine the message of these princess stories. As you point out, Cinderella is a passive character, doing housework for her evil family with no resistance. In order for anything to change in her life, she must be rescued first by her fairy godmother and then by the prince. Her happy ending (of a marriage to a man she doesn’t know) comes about because of her beauty and her clothes.

    Meyer obviously works hard to change this in her novel. As you again argue, Cinder is an active character who comes up with ideas and works to escape her situation by herself. She has a skilled job in a traditionally male field. Her concern is not marriage and she turns down an invitation to the ball.

    One criticism, though, is that Meyer doesn’t attempt to subvert the heteronormativity of the original story. Cinder is heterosexual and there is no suggestion of anyone in the novel who isn’t. In the end notes of my edition of the book, Meyer says that when she was a teenager she was ‘completely boy-crazy. But who isn’t?’. I think this quote really reveals the attitude that went into writing Cinder; the fact that not everyone is heterosexual and that it doesn’t have to be the default never occurred to Meyer, meaning heteronormativity is ingrained in the text.

    However, it could also be argued that Meyer subverts the expectations of heteronormativity and the conventions of the genre. A reader familiar with YA tropes may expect Cinder to eventually agree to go to ball and show up looking uncharacteristically feminine and graceful, in a ‘coming of age’ moment, and there is definitely an expectation that she will end up with Kai. But instead she shows up at the ball purely for practical reasons, looks terrible, and is eventually imprisoned by Kai. Her concern when this happens is not that he doesn’t like her anymore, but what she can do to protect the people of Earth from Levana.

    Regarding Cinder, then, I would argue that Meyer manages to re-write the princess narrative in a positive way. However, another part of the princess narrative is the evil queen–and that is very much still present in the novel, along with all its misogynistic elements. While the portrayal of Cinder may be progressive, Levana’s portrayal is that of the traditional evil queen/witch character: she possesses an evil, dangerous femininity and sexuality; she is able to ‘bewitch’ people and use sinister magic; she is untrustworthy, something linked to her womanhood and her appearance; and she is jealous and vain. In short, Levana represents the monstrous feminine in opposition with the idealised Cinder, who despite breaking gender norms is still ultimately the character of the rightful princess.

    Ultimately then, I think it’s important to change the princess narrative because it is popular and influential but also one built on misogyny, and I think that Meyer is mostly successful in changing this in regards to Cinder, but not for Levana. It suggests to me that Meyer just focused on inverting the obvious princess stereotypes while not examining any underlying attitudes from the princess narrative that carry through to her work.

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    1. I completely agree with your reading of Levena as a narrative built on misogyny. It’s a really important point to bring up, especially if we’re seeing Cinder’s rejection of Prince Kai’s advances as a strength/something that pushes back against gender norms. What does Levena’s use of beauty and desire mean in contrast to Cinder and her distancing herself from sexual/romantic feelings? In some ways, does Cinder’s powers being bound, making her unable to make herself more desirable speak to some angel/whore or a good girl/bad girl dichotomy being played upon by Meyer? If Cinder didn’t refuse Kai’s advances, if she say entered a sexual relationship with him, would we still be able to see her as the stereotypical pure, angelic, good hero of the story? I’m not convinced we would, as women being demonized for sexual activity is still very prevalent in our supposedly modern world. Thus, while I agree that Cinder not engaging in a relationship with Kai definitely pushes back against the expectation that that love is a girls first priority, I also think it’s important to think about how Cinder’s lack of sexual/romantic engagement sets her up to be the “good” girl to Levana’s “bad” – seductive, explicitly powerful – one. This then plays into gender roles and gendered relations/narratives between women that are misogynistic in nature, calling into question just how powerful Cinder’s refusal of Kai really is in the grand scheme of things.

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  2. In response to your second question, I would argue that it is important to change the princess narrative in order to set an example for young people, specifically young girls. Young girls tend to consume ‘princess media’ at a highly impressionable time in their lives, and being told that they need to wait for a prince or some other magical saviour is a highly damaging message. As you said, Cinder certainly does feature a prince figure, but it does not feature a prince in the way Disney films tend to. While Prince Kai is certainly capable of sweeping Cinder off her feet and carrying her away to a happily ever after, she resists him at ever turn (even if she does not necessarily want to). It is important for young boys and girls alike to learn that ‘the right boy’ cannot fix everything in a girl’s life; rather, it is up to the girl herself to try and fix what needs fixing. The message of independent decision-making is strong in Cinder, and is certainly one that young people could stand to receive.

    While Cinder certainly does a good job of flipping the princess narrative, I argue that more work still needs to be done within the genre. Elements such as the evil queen still need to be removed in order to present a narrative build less on misogyny, as this trope relies heavily on viewing women as wicked and evil. As well, the prince element could be removed altogether, as it is reinforcing a heteronormative ideology. Perhaps the princess could be the love interest of another princess for the sake of diversity, or perhaps the element of a love interest could be removed entirely. While some steps have certainly been made in the genre, more certainly need to be made in order to provide a good example for young people.

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    1. Briar, I really enjoyed your comment and think it raised some excellent points. Your idea about “princess media” is perfectly relevant to Cinder, and to our current society. I would argue in agreement with your point that narratives in which the princess has independent decision making skills are crucial to the development of girls. The idea that girls can save themselves is extremely important, as how it currently stands, the “fairytale” situation forces girls to wait for someone else (usually a man) to rescue them. I would argue that this further promulgates misogyny in our society, cultivating generations of girls lacking aspirations beyond romance.
      I would also agree that the wicked witch/evil queen role is detrimental to the advancement of strong women in society. It perpetuates the idea that a powerful woman must be wicked and cruel, and generally undesirable. This idea is present in relation to women in positions of power, most notably in current American politics. It should not be a hindrance to be a strong and capable woman, and yet, so often it is.
      Cinder is an outspoken role model for adolescent girls, and really, all women. As said in this post she “does not alter her plans or change her decisions based on social pressures.” Even though most of the women would love to be Prince Kai’s date, Cinder has other priorities that are more important to her. I would argue that is is integral to changing the way we view powerful females.

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  3. You raise an interesting point about Cinder’s job as a mechanic helping to subvert gender roles. While it does mirror the classic Cinderella’s role as a housekeeper for her family, their two lines of work differ greatly in terms of the gender stereotypically associated with them. This becomes complicated, however, when one considers that Cinder doesn’t really have much of a choice whether or not to become a mechanic, and that her income is all taken by her stepmother. She doesn’t get to earn her own money until she meets Dr. Erland. You argued that Cinderella’s work is an act of submission to her stepmother because she received no monetary compensation, therefore demonstrating her lack of independence, but Cinder is in a similar position. That’s not to say that it isn’t subversive to place a Cinderella figure in a traditionally masculine profession, but she is still working for her family rather than for herself.

    Perhaps a more independent and empowering act on Cinder’s behalf that also subverts the traditional Cinderella narrative is her restoration of the car in the junkyard. Cinder does this for herself, without her stepmother’s permission, making it a more rebellious act than fulfilling her role as a mechanic in order to make money for her family. Automotive repair is another male-dominated field, so this defies traditional gender roles. Not only that, but if the car is interpreted as Meyer’s version of the pumpkin carriage, then that means that rather than waiting for a fairy godmother to get her to the ball, Cinder creates her own means to get there. This makes her even more independent and proactive than the original Cinderella.

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    1. The way in which you describe Cinder’s visits to the junkyard as an independent and empowering act really made me think. In traditional fairytales, especially the Disney representations of these, princesses are made to look either extremely passive or portrayed as ‘independent’. However, in most of these cases, their independence relies on the consent of a paternal or maternal figure, in this case Cinderella’s stepmother. A great difference between the original fairytale and the re-telling of Cinder can be found here; Cinderella is extremely naive, and when her stepmother tells her she could ‘go to the ball’, Cinderella believes her, and works extremely hard to finish her work before the ball. Cinder, on the other hand, is aware of her stepmother’s manipulative behavior, and when Adri tells her she could go to the ball if she finished all the work, Cinder relativates this by thinking about all the things that still ‘should’ be done, describing how Adri would never actually provide her with consent to go to the party.
      Although Cinder needs her stepmother’s permission to do things, as she is her legal guardian, she involves herself in something that could either be seen as teenage behavior or straight up rebellion against her authority figure. She does not base her actions on the consent of her stepmother, which is something Cinderella does do. Something interesting to figure out might be the effect of the abusive behavior of both stepmothers in the different tellings of Cinderella, and the way in which the protagonists respond to this abuse?

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  4. I find that even more so than defying the traditional princess narrative, Marissa Meyer goes above and beyond, defying even the tropes generally given to girls that are placed in masculine positions or careers. As Rachel Dean-Ruzicka says, “Instead of finding dynamic female STEM characters in popular entertainment, what one tends to find is women who fall into a few limited tropes… the babe scientist, the mad scientist’s beautiful daughter, the gadgeteer genius, the motherly scientist, or the wrench wench,” (51-52) with STEM standing for Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics. These tropes seem to overemphasize feminine features in order to counterbalance the supposed masculine characteristics. Clearly, Cinder is placed in a traditionally masculine career, and if we were to classify Cinder into one of these tropes, she would fall either under the gadgeteer genius or the wrench wench. The Wrench Wench is usually often unkempt, covered in motor oil or grease but very likely has at least one Cleans-Up-Nicely moment, as per the Wiki TV Tropes page. Cinder, despite having a masculine career and being a wrench wench, does not follow this trope. She is in fact constantly unkempt – covered in the efforts of her trade – and there is the hint that she may have a Cleans-Up-Nicely moment when the ball is presented as an option to her. However, Meyer defies these tropes as Cinder goes to the ball in a “filthy, wrinkled, water-stained dress” (Meyer 338) and grease-stained gloves. Even when her setting are elaborate and it is the social norm to be beautified and at the very least clean, Meyer does not provide a moment in which Cinder’s outward appearance and physical beauty is the emphasis. She thereby strays from the typical Wrench Wench, STEM girl trope.
    As well, in response to your first question, I find that Cinder also subverts the traditional princess narrative in that there are moments when she is cast as the hero. Disney princesses generally remain passive, only escaping terrible circumstances through marriage or the efforts of a male hero. I find that Cinder actively breaks these tropes by (1) desperately rushing to the letumosis quarantine wards to give Peony the antidote. Despite not having procured the cure herself, by engaging herself in the crisis and being so passionate about saving Peony – going so far as to list Peony as the first in line for the cure if found in exchange for being a volunteer for Dr. Erland – Cinder is cast as heroic despite her untimely failure. Also, (2) by being the lost Princess Selene of Luna, Cinder is ultimately placed in the position of hero, where as Lunar and as a someone responsible for the welfare of her people, she must face Queen Levana as an enemy and take her down in the name of the oppressed.

    Works Cited:

    Dean-Ruzicka, Rachel. “Of Scrivens and Sparks: Girl Geniuses in Young Adult Dystopian Fiction.” Female Rebellion in Young Adult Dystopian Fiction, edited by Sara day, Miranda Green-Barteet, and Amy Montz, Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2014, pp. 51-74.

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  5. I wholeheartedly agree with the idea that we need to revamp the Disney Princess, and that Cinder is a great step forward. I’m also not convinced that Cinder does the best job of this. As others have pointed out, her youthful femininity is placed in opposition to Levana’s monstrous, and older, sexually voracious version of it. We get a new kind of princess, but she is still largely defined by what she shouldn’t be, in opposition to another kind of woman, rather than affirming a girl’s right to be who and how she pleases. Cinder still expresses anxiety over her non-traditional job and appearance, and is only rescued from her fate because of her ability to supplant Levana. It isn’t her abilities that interest Dr. Erland, or Selene’s abilities that interest Kai, but the opportunity to replace a threatening woman with a younger, more pliable one, who will reproduce and continue a royal line of women who are better situated to deal with Kai and his patrilineal governance of the Eastern Commonwealth. It’s almost a step backward, because at least Cinderella was chosen by the prince for her ability to clean up nicely, and not because she had the right blood and ovaries, as Dr. Erland was so pleased to discover Cinder still had.

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  6. Diana and Alessia,

    Within your post, you offer a convincing argument as to how Cinder subverts the traditional princess role in Marissa Meyer’s novel. I agree with the points you raise, but I think Cinder’s cyborg identity, in part, complicates your argument. For example, while Cinder declines Prince Kai’s invitations to the ball, her feelings towards him are romantic nonetheless. The reason she declines his numerous invitations, I argue, is because of her cyborg identity; she fears that if Prince Kai knows the truth, he would, as the narrator of the novel tells us, “want nothing more to do with her” (333). In the end, Cinder goes to the ball and thereby fails to, as you argue, “[make] the conscious decision to prioritize her goal of escaping New Beijing…” Instead, she puts Prince Kai’s safety and freedom before her own, and in doing so, has her real identity as cyborg and Lunar exposed. While she could have easily escaped New Beijing when the ball was being held, Cinder chooses not to. In this way, she “loses sight of her larger goal,” and participates in a heteronormative romance narrative. That said, I think Cinder still subverts gender roles through her position as a mechanic and her saving of Prince Kai from Queen Levana.

    In response to your second discussion question, I think it is important to change the princess narrative into one that is more progressive because it empowers young girls, which is the target audience of YA novels such as Cinder. As we have discussed in lecture, constructions of girlhood render girls passive, impressionable and weak. In doing so, gender relations that oppress girls and women are reinforced. Teaching girls to challenge societal norms and hegemonic power structures, as well as to exercise control over their lives, in turn, teaches them how to be strong, powerful and resilient in a world that tells them that they should not to be. By extension, addressing such issues at a young age pushes us all the more closer to gender equality.

    Overall, in your post, you demonstrate the ways in which Cinder subverts the traditional princess role through her challenging of the stereotypes surrounding femininity. While I think this argument is valid, Cinder’s cyborg identity poses somewhat of a challenge to how and why she defies archetypal constructions of girls and girlhood.

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  7. I don’t completely agree with Jen and Jess’s above comments on their interpretation of Queen Levana – there needs to be an evil character. It could’ve been a man instead of a woman, but there is no evil queen character in “Cinderella”, only the bad stepmother. So I’m arguing that potentially there is more to Levana that we don’t yet know. Levana at the end is seen has being “really ugly” by Cinder, when Cinder is able to see through the glamour. There is clearly something that happened to Levana, either physically or emotionally in her past, that explains why she is the way she is. I don’t think we can judge her and accuse Meyer of ignoring this character and building her on misogynist views when she doesn’t appear much in the story, and we only receive the other characters’ views on her.
    In response to your first discussion question “Cinder” defies the typical princess narrative by not having the female be left helpless, waiting to be saved by the prince at the end of the narrative. Yes, Doctor Erland stops by the cell but he does not help her escape, only allows her to start using her lunar gifts. Cinder is able to escape imprisonment because of her unique powers, as well as escaping Levana’s spell that was forcing her to kill herself. In both instances the prince is unable to do anything to help her. Whereas in the original fairy tale, the prince uses the shoe to find Cinderella and free her of her stepmother. Although I think Aesha’s argument above is valid, the book is named “Cinder” for a reason, and Meyer chose to follow the story line in order to challenge it. However, certain elements of the fairy tale still need to occur – the prince’s existence, and the ball occurring for instance. I disagree that Cinder’s return reinforces the heteronormative romantic relationship, rather than her focusing on her larger goal. I argue that through getting to know prince Kai and learning her true identity, her end goal has changed – as it does with most protagonists in YA Dystopian Fiction. Lena’s end goal was to have the procedure and be normal, but no one gets upset when she escapes the city in an attempt to find her mother instead. Cinder is taking on the role of the protagonist who tries to save her people from a terrible fate, in doing so, she can no longer run away. She has chosen to go to the ball not only for Kai, but also for the citizens of her country who need saving from Queen Levana.

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  8. Replying to your second question, I would argue that it is important to change the princess narrative because it contributes to harmful social constructions of girlhood. The princess archetype perpetuates stereotypes that girls are passive, boy-crazy, and appearance obsessed. It also places princesses as the beauty ideal, which is problematic in that Disney princesses are almost always white, thin, and perpetuate a very specific idea of what is beautiful. This has real life impacts on girls who watch the Disney princess films and internalize beauty ideals. So, if girls have more positive role models in the princess stories, this could translate into girls internalizing more positive messages about femininity and girlhood.

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  9. Other commentors have discussed Queen Levana and her role in the narrative but I would like to analyze her character further. Elizabeth Bell argues in her essay “Somatexts at the Disney Shop” that the Disney versions of fairy tales portray three types of femininity: the young innocent girl, the femme fatale, and the godmother. Based on a woman’s age she embodies a certain position: young girls are innocent and good, slightly older/middle aged women are sexual and dangerous, and then old women are wise and helpful. “Cinder” does not have an older, wise, female, godmother figure but it does have an innocent young girl and a slightly older monstrous femme fatale. Levana is portrayal as the traditional evil queen in fairy tales. She is manipulative, dangerous, vain, and evil. She is the monstrous feminine who uses her sexual power to control and kill. This archetype is used to make the reader agree and believe that Queen Levana needs to be stopped. Reliance on the good girl/bad girl or woman dichotomy undermines the progressiveness of Cinder. Though Cinder is skilled in a field which is traditionally exclusive to men and does actively pursue romance the novel’s reliance on this dichotomy ultimately means that for one girl to succeed it must be at the expense of another girl/woman.

    Bell, Elizabeth. “Somatexts at the Disney Shop.” From Mouse to Mermaid: the Politics of Film, Gender, and Culture. Edited by Elizabeth Bell, Lynda Haas, and Laura Sells, Indiana University Press, 1995, pp. 107-124.

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  10. While I appreciate the examples provided in the blog, I disagree that the story of Cinder subverts the princess narrative. To start, Cinder lacks a fair amount of agency due to her being a cyborg, and ultimately belonging to Adri. This is true so much so, that she does not even possess full ownership over her robotic; when she so desires, Adri enacts her power over her, and forcibly takes Cinders foot. This, in several scenarios, produces Cinder as a “damsel in distress.”
    Cinder also has a “fairy godmother”-like supporter, Dr. Erland, who provides the means to make “the impossible” happen. An example of this is when Dr. Erland assists Cinder in providing her with the means necessary to not only fix her car, but also fully execute her plans for her trip. Dr. Erland fulfill the role of the “fairy godmother,” as well I would argue, as the “saviour” of the “damsel in distress” when Cinder is rendered unable to do what she needs because the loss of her robotic foot.
    However, what I struggle the most with in the story of Cinder, is the presence of not one, but three “evil” female characters, who not only provide Cinder with no support, but almost all work tirelessly in the ways that they know how to stunt her growth and happiness. We have a lavish, cruel, and power hungry “evil queen,” a manipulative, abusive, and power-hungry “step-mother,” as well as a miserable and also abusive “step-sister.” All of the negative female fairy-tale tropes have been met. Not only this, but the only supportive and positive female character in the Disney version of Cinderella, the “fairy godmother,” has been taken and replaced by the male Dr. Erland. As such, I struggle to read this text as feminist, or subversive of the Disney Princess version of Cinderella and assert that in order to be subversive in such way, it must move away from the narratives that propagate the stereotypical narrative of jealous, manipulative, miserable, and unsupportive girls and women.

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    1. Going along with that point I agree that Cinder does not subvert the princess narrative. You must also consider that Cinderella’s actions are not “rooted in her desire for a romantic relationship with the Prince” as you suggested. If you are going with the Disney version of the tale, Cinderella just wants a night out to the ball to get away from her home life. She does not go to the ball with the intention of wooing the Prince and she does not immediately reveal who she is to him. I think it is a lofty statement to say that Cinderella’s happiness is “dependent on the presence of a romantic relationship” because I believe her happiness was dependant on freedom from her step mother and sisters; it just happened to be the Prince that got her out of this situation. I believe that Meyer draws on Cinderella’s useful relationship with the Prince in a way that an older audience can understand. The audience is also important to consider here because Disney princesses are targeted at a much younger audience than YA literature is. I’m not saying the princess narrative isn’t problematic, but it is much less complicated than the one seen in Cinder. This is partially because it is reaching a younger audience; people want children’s movies to be happy. Disney is also making steps to change this narrative for the better by introducing new princesses such as Merida from Brave, who does not rely on a man to help her situation. You make many excellent points regarding the way Cinder and Cinderella differ, but I argue that Cinder is simply made more complex to appeal to older audiences. Deep down they are the same and they have the same basic driving force: to escape.

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    2. I would argue that Cinder does strive to subvert the princess narrative, and does a fairly good job compared to the typical fairytale. Cinder breaks gender stereotypes by working, and excelling, as a mechanic. She is a rational thinker with strong aspirations and is motivating to girls seeking a role model. While I agree that Cinder lacks agency as a cyborg, I would suggest that Meyer does this to parallel the lack of agency that many young girls and women have today. By giving Cinder this difficulty, Meyer demonstrates the idea that girls have the ability to push past obstacles that are in their way. In many cases, girls may lack the resources to feasibly achieve their dreams. I would argue that this novel shows girls that even with their limitations, they can be successful.
      I do, however, agree with your point about the stereotypical evil female characters present in the novel. I would argue that Cinder promotes strong and passionate females, but that it needs to eliminate the negative connotations it places on women in power. Adri acts as a negative stereotype of women in charge and perpetuates the idea that women must be cruel to be powerful.

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  11. I really enjoyed reading this post in regards to reading Cinder through ideas surrounding princess culture and princess narratives. In response to your question “Why is it important to change the princess narrative into one that is more progressive?” I think that it is extremely important that princes narratives are progressive, in order to reflect current concepts of femininity and girlhood. As with traditional princess stories and fairytales, consumed by younger children (particularly young girls), it is important that we to not encourage the arguably negative traits of traditional femininity often endorsed by these narration. For example, many of these princesses, such as Cinderella in the conventional telling, often rely on princes, and marriage plots for their ‘happily ever after’, and often lack agency and autonomy. It is therefore important that we steer younger girls away from these concepts and encourage them to be independent and see themselves as powerful individuals capable of making and creating their own “happily ever after”. This is therefore evident through the subversion of the original Cinderella, as Cinder sometimes defies traditional princess ideologies. Exerting ideas that adhere to boyhood, rather than girlhood (note how her clothes are often dirty with oil stains from her mechanic workshop) the concept of a pristine, and beautiful princess is inverted, and thus encourages girls to ignore matters regarding their appearance and aesthetic. As Cinder goes to the ball in rags, rather than a beautiful gown crafted by magic, as referenced in the original Cinderella, girls are depicted to be beautiful for their inner self, rather than their exterior beauty which is often encouraged in traditional ideologies and practices of femininity. This post is therefore very illuminating in reading Cinder as a critique on princess narratives, and existing concepts of constructed girlhood and femininity.

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