Too many times people have lamented that early Disney Princesses are insufficient role models because they simply wait around until a Prince saves them. Earlier, I wrote a post on other classic Disney Princesses who are treated as though they too sat around waiting for their Prince to save them. Cinderella seems to consistently be on top of the list of Princesses who wait around, doing nothing until their Prince arrives and saves them. But I disagree. I say that Cinderella did the exact opposite of waiting to be saved by a Prince, and here’s why:
Cinderella suffered ongoing neglect and domestic abuse throughout her life from early childhood. She is groomed and manipulated into being a servant for her step-family by her stepmother. Cinderella is a teenager who has been continually abused, manipulated, and groomed into domestic servitude by an adult—who also happens to be the only adult in her life. With no money, no way of making her own money, nor anywhere else to go, Cinderella is trapped in this abusive environment. As well as being abused by her stepmother Cinderella is also abused by her step-sisters who, contrastingly, are fawned over and treated as superior over Cinderella.
Cinderella isn’t just passive and ‘putting up’ with her step-family until the Prince comes and saves her. Cinderella is surviving.
By the King’s orders, every lady in the land is invited to the ball. Cinderella desperately longs to go to have her one night of fun, dancing, and freedom. Unlike her step-family, she never goes with the desire to enrapture and marry the Prince. Cinderella just wants a fun night out. She actively makes her own dress by altering her mother’s old dress. On the night of the ball when Cinderella comes downstairs in the newly altered dress, her step-family sneer at her, verbally abuse her, and physically push her around while ripping the dress off her.
In an act of courage and defiance, she finds her own way to make it to the ball (yes, with some help from her Fairy Godmother). When there, she looks about in wonder at the extravagance of the palace and its ballroom.
The Prince is there, of course, and he does not intend to marry for anything other than love. Yes, the ball was thrown for him to meet the ladies of the Kingdom, but it is the King who throws the ball in the hopes that the Prince will marry. When the Prince first sees Cinderella, he is being wooed
Happy in each other’s company, they spend hours dancing together. Until the clock strikes midnight and Cinderella has to flee, that is. She rushes home and, to protect herself, does not tell her family where she had been.
Sad at losing the one he loves, the Prince mopes around the castle. In response to this, the King orders that the shoe that Cinderella left behind be fitted on every lady in the land. It is this shoe that she leaves that ends up being Cinderella’s salvation.
Despite being locked away by her stepmother, Cinderella ends up being saved by these glass slippers. In some adaptations, Cinderella is heard singing by the Kingsmen and asserts her presence as a lady of the house in that manner. In other adaptations, such as the animated Disney version, she is freed by friends she forms around the house—people or animals who she was always kind to, and who were always looked down upon by Cinderella’s step-family.
In the animated Disney film, the stepmother trips the Kingsman, causing the shoe to shatter before it can be tried on Cinderella’s foot. In a pivotal moment, Cinderella produces the other shoe. The Prince is nowhere to be seen in this scene. That’s right. Cinderella saves herself.