The Cinderella Complex in Art: Imposing Dependence

June 23, 2022 by Essay Writer


As the audience, we all perceive the Cinderella movie as a perfect love story that ends happily ever after but the truth is that the movie has created an overview of The Cinderella Complex. 

Dowling describes the complex as the deep wish to be taken care of by others waiting for a prince charming to come to the rescue. Cinderella is the most famous and favorite princess Disney has ever created. There are more than 700 versions of the Cinderella movie. We see Cinderella as an innocent young lady being emotionally tortured by her evil stepmom and stepsisters. She is pictured as a poor girl who needs to be rescued by a prince charming because that’s her only way out to an ideal life.

Prince charming would be the heroine protecting her and giving her empowerment to a higher social class. This paper will explain the Cinderella complex and the effects it is creating on children growing up with the fairytale imagination that has been presented in movies.

What does the Cinderella Complex teach Children?

Children are the primary audience of these fairy tale movies but what do fairy tales really teach our children? Many stereotypes like prince charming rescuing Cinderella makes children especially girls believe that finding a man will save them. Cinderella’s appearance is very unrealistic in the real world she is viewed as perfect with her blond hair, fair skin, and slim hourglass figure. But what happens to the young girls watching do they fit in that category or is it an unrealistic expectation created? Fairy tales are unrealistic who later on create insecurities for girls who have the opposite characteristics Cinderella has. Fairy tales are intended to teach us morals and what’s right and wrong in life that’s why the main audience comes from children.

In the article “ The Uses of Enchantment “By Cinderella” it is said that “The godmother order that Cinderella must be home by a certain hour or things will go very wrong.” This specific order that the grandmother keeps Cinderella is one that parents give to their children to protect them from harm. Following the rules will protect you is one of the morals we learned from Cinderella she has to be home by 12 she will turn back to who she really is. The con about this moral is that she had to pretend to be someone she wasn’t at the ballroom. Cinderella had to become an elegant lady to be accepted and when doing so she was envied by other girls at the party.

The Cinderella complex doesn’t let children become independent on their own and understand that being different is important.

The Chick Flick Paradox

In the article The Chick Flick Paradox, Thompson states “Romantic as these movies may seem, their uncomfortable stereotypical portrayals of gender, race, and sexuality detract their otherwise rosy glow.” The reason behind the stereotypical idea is that women are not being realistically represented in films. Only three percent of all Hollywood cinematographers are women. Ironically, the main audience is women yet women are not the creatures of the films and get little representation of what women stand for today. A real representation of women in films would have to include the issues we face such as workplace discrimination, childcare, reproductive rights, racism, and domestic violence. How can men create a movie about women when they are not the ones facing the social issue we still have today. Additionally, Tompson elaborates that “Chick flicks are the rare genre that generally steers clear of Hollywood’s culture of violence”. The nature of chick flicks’ appeal and their potential value in shedding light on women’s lives are controversial issues in part because these films contain protagonists who are overwhelmingly young. heterosexual, white, and middle-class. The designation of chick flick has been automatically avoided in the case of films focused on women of color.

Legally Blonde

Chick-flick movie Legally Blonde protagonist Elle Woods is blonde, slim, attractive, young, and rich. In an effort to impress the love of her life Warner, Woods decides to attend Harvard Law school. She quickly is pointed out as an outcast by her peers. She is portrayed as a dumb white sorority girl how has no clue about law. Throughout half of the movie, we see the stereotypes people have about women especially producing a male-dominant career like law. As a result of everyone doubting her, she makes a dramatic change to prove to people who she is. Elle Woods changes her appearance, study habits, and manners to be more like her peers. After being Viewed as inferior Woods had enough and decided to improve herself doing so she won a major law case, valedictorian, was viewed as equal to males, realized she didn’t need or want a man and proved the women stereotypes wrong. Why is it what women have to change to prove to people they are as equal as men? Feminist theory focuses on the promotion of women’s rights and interests in Legally Blonde we see both the stereotypes and revolutionary feminist ideas. Woods had to change to a more masculine aspect in order to prove people wrong. Her goal was to get into Harvard to impress Warner and potentially fall in love and live happily ever after. As Woods’s success builds she realizes she’s better off without Warner because she doesn’t need him to be happy and successful. The movie overall underlines the issue we still have with gender stereotyping pursuing dominance and power structures.

Cinderella Complex in Romeo and Juliet

Freudian division of mind demonstrates that characters with Id, Ego, and superego. In Romeo and Juliet, we have Tybalt the Id character who similarly is similar to Cinderella‘s stepsisters who try to prevent the main character from reaching her goal. In both stories, we see that the main characters fall in love at first sight which gives the fairytale illusion movies create. Both Romeo and Juliet met at a party and come from a different social classes just like prince charming and Cinderella. The movie Romeo and Juliet is one of the 700 versions that were created what is the Cinderella complex inspiration. In both stories, the main characters act on emotion showing signs of love at first sight and having character allusions. The man in the movies Romeo and Prince Charming saves Cinderella and Juliet from the terrible life they are living with their families. Not only does Cinderella have different versions of the movie but Romeo and Juliet have one as well. The scene of the balcony correlates with the movie Tangled where she’s up on the tower locked and he loves comes to rescue her. In these movies, we see the ongoing pattern of stereotyping women with the Cinderella complex.

Freudian Ideas in Cinderella

The feminist idea is to be beautiful, quiet, and submissive just like Cinderella. Men are always the ones to save and be the superheroes in movies. In this case, without a father figure Cinderella is abused by her stepsisters and a stepmother the struggle only ends when she is saved by the prince. Who establishes the love and protection she was missing. The Cinderella movie becomes every little girl’s dream to hope for a better future but what does that really mean? Do we need to be rescued? That is a perception that we get from fairytales. According to the description Freud gives of the Id characters The stepmother and stepsister fall into that category of evil and always tormenting. Cinderella is the ego character who is perceived as an angel due to hurting innocents. In this movie, we have two superego characters who are prince charming and the fairy godmother. The fairy godmother grants all wishes to Cinderella and Prince Charming saves her from her miserable life. Kelley states that “to cope with their anxieties when lacking a man, many women become what Dowling calls counterphobic” Counterphobic definition, seeking out a situation that one fears in an attempt to overcome the fear meaning that man relieves women from anxieties. The main psychological issues presented in Cinderella are sibling rivalry and repression. The story of Cinderella can relate to the experience a child has growing up with siblings. Most children feel like their siblings are rivals and want to be the favorite among the parents. In the movie, we also see the stereotype about the evil stepmother. The stepmother’s actions and evil plans Will lead children to believe that all stepmothers are evil and will have no love for them.


In conclusion, we see the Cinderella Complex in a lot of films including the chick flicks. Society makes us believe that the only way a woman will be successful is if a man comes to the rescue and gives her happiness. Additionally, the only way to succeed is by having someone to help you, in this case, a wealthy man. Children are growing up with a fairytale imagination that blocks their independence.  


Read more