The Impact Of Mass Media On Cinderella In America

June 22, 2022 by Essay Writer

Disney’s Cinderella has found its way into millions of people’s hearts, however, it has not been realized how flawed the nature of the new heroine is compared to its traditional versions. In America’s “Cinderella” by Jane Yolen, a noted author of children’s books, and The Princess Paradox by James Poniewozik, an American Journalist and television critic, the authors bring forth the influence that mass media has had on Cinderella. That, the amount of change that the movie and its variants have experienced since, is notable.

Poniewozik illustrates how Hollywood fairy tale movies have come a long way to succeed both at the feminist and fantasy level in order to make more money. On the other hand, Yolen depicts how Cinderella has been changed to be a wrong role model for children. While both authors address change and manipulation of Cinderella, Poniewozik focuses more on the change reflecting a combination of both feminism and fantasy, while Yolen seems more concerned with Cinderella’s character being changed from one that was hardy, helpful, and inventive to helpless, malleable, and pitiful. Both authors would agree that Cinderella has never been changed as much as it did with the American culture, however, Poniewozik addresses the positive changes while Yolen addresses negative.

Yolen, in her essay, claims that Cinderella no longer possesses the qualities that made her a feisty, demanding, and determined heroine. In fact, she describes her as a “disaster”. “She cowers as her sisters rip her homemade ball gown to shreds. She answers her stepmother with whines and pleadings”. This significant change in the character is what downgrades the original message of the fairy tale. Although she has already been changed a lot because of her endurance among different cultures for over a thousand years, when Walt Disney’s film Cinderella got released in 1949, “the story in the mass market has not been the same since”. Whereas Yolen criticizes the film’s text to be “coy and condescending” and Cinderella to be “a sorry excuse for a heroine, pitiable and useless”, Poniewozik reveals that the new Hollywood fairy tale movies present a new kind of Cinderella “one who would rather save Prince Charming, thank you, and who has learned the lessons of feminism”.

Poniewozik refers to Ella in Ella Enchanted and Paige Morgan in The Prince & Me as the newly emerging feminist princesses, who are a lot more active and independent than the Disney’s version of Cinderella. While Poniewozik distinguishes these new Cinderella heroines as protesting and chasing their dreams, Yolen asserts Disney’s Cinderella to be the “weepy, sentimentalized pretty girl incapable of helping herself”. Although both authors address different aspects of the change in Cinderella, they both aim to appeal to the same audience: parents of the modern children, and hence, address the same issue overall. While America’s Cinderella pulls the audience away from the Disney movie, the Princess Paradox brings them closer by providing evidence that the new fairy tales reveal that the issue is being tackled with. Although both authors agree that the modern fairy tale movies like Cinderella should convey the contemporary ideals, they approach the idea through different mediums. In Yolen’s essay, she believes that the fairy tales offer the children targets for the dreams and fantasies they have been wishing for. She mentions that “the fairy tales, as all stories for children, acculturate young readers and listeners” and thus, should teach them the right lesson.

Similarly, Poniewozik understands that “wish-fulfillment stories are about teaching people what they should wish for”. He considers feminism and insists that just as the wishes of the women are changing in the modern world, the movies in order to reflect these values should change as well. For example, “Among an earlier generation of women, the wish was to be able to do everything men could. For the modern Cinderellas’ audience, which takes that freedom as a given, the wish is also to be able – unashamedly – to fall in love and go to the ball”. Poniewozik brings to light the paradox that no matter how manly the modern parents try to make their girls, one day she reaches them and declares that she wants to be a “princess.” Thus, since the people are still liking to go see the fairy tale movies, Hollywood decided to change them so that “you can have the girly dream of glass slippers and true love, these films say, as well as the womanly ideal of self-determination and independence”. To him, any failures in making these ideas work together are “no match for the movies’ magic”.

Yolen, on the other hand, discusses about young readers and listeners in general. He asserts that the story of Cinderella now offers the docile princess, the “insipid beauty waiting…….for Prince Charming”, presenting the majority of American children with the wrong dream. With the true meaning of the old tales lost forever, Yolen contends that Cinderella’s character being changed to this extent “cheapens our most cherished dreams, and it makes a mockery of the true magic inside us all”, whereas Poniewozik claims that “what the modern Cinderella actresses have tried to achieve for other women is choice in every step of their lives”. Both authors in this way examine the importance of the values that the movies impart in order to appeal to the modern parents, however, Yolen refers to youth in general as his medium while Poniewozik specifically refers to girls, thus, producing different effects.

Jane Yolen in America’s “Cinderella” and James Poniewozik in The Princess Paradox examine the significance of the influences that the mass media has had on Cinderella and reveal that these changes play an important role in shaping the youth of the country. Yolen contradicts the belief that Disney’s Cinderella exhibits the female traits of selflessness and gentility that the modern world admires. Poniewozik, on the other hand, reveals that Cinderella is now being changed to reflect the modern ideals. Both authors are concerned about the impact of these changes on the children and hence, inform the audience, the parents, about the positive and negative influences of Cinderella. While Poniewozik addresses Cinderella’s betterment, Yolen addresses her deterioration. Although both authors place a significant importance on the change, they utilize different mediums and address different aspects of Cinderella in order to convey their message.


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