Friday, September 13, 2013

Fairy Tale MOOC Highlights - Wk 1 Cinderella (Pt 2)

Walter Crane

The second part of the 1st week was to discuss reactions to the use of various lenses, especially the Freudian lens, when applied to the Cinderella variations, including Disney's. You can find that discussion HERE.

Here's the prompt:

Kevin Yee

Discussion - Cinderella Interpretation, Disney Analysis

Use this discussion thread to react to the analysis (lecture) provided by the professor, or to address the larger questions of Disney's contribution to the genre (including the Cinderella movie or theme park additions).

Note: the video lecture prior to the discussion included notes on Disney's Cinderella, including the following, which I'm including as it's referenced in many of the comments:
It's worth pausing to consider the effect and impact of this movie. For many audiences, it has "taken over" the entire collection of Cinderella-type tales. Arguably it's even become THE major fairy tale, symbolic of all other fairy tales (indeed, this is the reason we are reading THIS story first, of all the princess fairy tales).Consider adding your analysis about the role and impact of Disney's version in that next discussion board.
The discussion ranged through all the various lenses, including looking at the social messages. for example:

by Paul Woodroffe
In the story's own terms, there is restoration of rightful order: Cinderella starts highly placed in the world and ends up there too. The fact that some persons rightfully belong in the ashes is assumed but not dwelt upon; social hierarchy is assumed too, without judgment. One could play with these themes a lot, but the Cinderella story depends on the rightness of social stratification, and because it both justifies layering and provides hope for those who wish to ascend, it remains popular. (Bill Lowery)

I somewhat disagree with the story showing a person who ascends in the social hierarchy. In all versions of the story we examined, including the Disney film, Cinderella was originally a girl of high status. She would have very likely married the prince without question/trouble if the stepmother never entered the picture. The stepmother attempted to supplant Cinderella with her daughters -- they were the ones trying to ascend, and they failed due to something they can't even help (their large feet, a sign of their lower status according to the lecture). (J R)

In the lecture, Dr. Yee stated that the purpose of the slipper test in "Aschenputtel" was to ensure that the woman the prince was seeking was in fact of noble birth, which in that era was symbolized by having small feet (a result of not having to stand for long periods and perform laborious tasks).  Makes sense, but if that were the case, how was Cinderella able to pass the 'test'?  She was forced to work long hours every day, while her stepsisters did nothing and were catered to, so wouldn't one of them be more likely to fit the slipper? (Belinda Jamison)

               Cinderella by ~doven
Good question, Belinda. It's because she is, in fact, of noble birth (remember she is forced into house slavery by the father's remarriage) (Kevin Yee)

You also have to remember that the slipper belonged to Cinderella. The only "test" she passed was that the shoe fit only her! In Perrault's story, the fairy godmother "magicked" it up, made just for her, and in the Grimms, the bird brought it specifically for her. It wasn't that the prince had the shoe just lying around and only a woman whose foot was small enough would do. He wanted the woman whose foot the shoe was made for! (Margaret Lundberg)

Here's what I don't understand.  If the theory is small feet is that they were not given the chance to grow because they have not had to stay on them...the feet were not given the chance to widen.  How, after all of the work Cinderella grew up doing, did her feet stay so small?  And why where the sisters, who grew doing nothing, so wide? (Rachel Doan)

I will say I was struck by one thing from the lecture about the Basile version. The idea that the peasant message was to be crafty to get what you want - but the minute that Zozella does that - murdering her first stepmother - she gets punished with another evil stepmother. But it's when she's smart and manages to maneuver without hurting anyone that she eventually gets what she wants. She also ends up back in the class in which she started, so I'm not so sure about the peasant message in regards to getting ahead. (Kristen Menke)

Wanda Gag
I see the importance of differing gender roles. I was merely suggesting that by have a standard archetype for 'female' or 'femininity' it is affecting young boys and men into have those distorted expectations for women! Gals come in all different shapes, sizes, colors, personalities and temperaments, that this standard portrait of women conveys a single image, rather than the broad spectrum of women out there.
Even more than that, you could argue that Disney has also distorted the 'male prowess.' Rarely, do you see a Disney hero, who is not charming, muscular, handsome, great at ridding a horse, swinging a sword, or shooting a gun (I can only think of the guy from Atlantis who does not fit into this mold). Boys who do not identify with this standard again can feel less than male, and women, in turn, have their ideals of male distorted by this archetype of 'male.' (Lizzy Harford)

While Disney's create and recreate a kind of imagery also draws patterns and models of behavior, for example, saying (dark vision: contributing to the programming of minds) what is to be a woman and what is happiness - conveying that construct that is gender. It is done in accordance with the society patterns and conventions in such a way that at some point it is not clear if that is the mirror of society norms and expectations or if it transforms society norms and expectations. I thing that it goes in both directions. (Helga Fernandes)

And then, of course, there was the Freudian lens, which disturbed more people than not (most people were responding to the notes made in the lecture so the comments don't make a lot of sense by themselves but here are some examples of people considering the Freudian/Bettelheim lens):

Cinderella  by ~Maryanneleslie
Bettleheimer in Grimm's version sure gave an unexpected interpretation about the blood on the toes and heels of the two usurpers. The feet fetichism and menstrual blood... A menstrual women is regarded in biblical context as unclean and not pure during the time duration of her impurity ( period ), making them unable to minister, and entering the temple among other restrictions. Taking this into account, Battleheimer's interpretation begins to appear very accurate. (Rodrigo Antonio Suarez)

"...the cutting off of body parts is how we dishonor ourselves in order to fit in or be accepted by others."
I like this--I don't think I've ever thought about their self-mutilation as metaphorical, but it definitely makes sense. (Although, not when placed next to Bettelheim's analysis!)  (Jennifer D. Bushroe)

In the analyzation, I can see the foot fetish, and the rivalry. But the menstruation doesn't fit. I can almost see how, if the evil-sisters are the one to menstruate, than womanhood must be a bad thing? And misogyny does not seem to be prevalent in this story, so I'm honestly confused by that analysation. (Jeanette Fox)

by David Delamare
Ah, but menstruation is "a bad thing." In many cultures and religions a woman is considered unclean once she begins to menstruate and women must undergo ritual cleansings to be considered worth, approachable, or allowed to participate in religious ceremony. I believe it is the Romanian Orthodox church that has a specific "do not cross" zone in the sanctuary beyond which a menstruating woman may not go. Cinderella is virtuous (clean) and pure (non-menstruating) and her step-sisters are vicious and conniving (unclean/menstruating). (Deborah G.)

Then there were some observations about parts of the tale that could be considered to be symbolic...

I reached the same conclusion as to why she was called Cinder-Ella or Cinderella.  Ella's english definition means "beautiful fairy." (Cheryl Wilcher)

So her name could be taken to mean "beautiful fairy of the cinder". A fitting name for a girl who remains kindhearted even though she is forced into the ashes by her cruel, jealous stepfamily.

This is an absolutely lovely meaning and it calls to mind that although her stepmother and stepsisters try to reduce her to a girl of ashes and cinder, they can't change her true beauty. There  also could be a transformative aspect to her name's meaning; out of the cinder comes a beautiful fairy.

Book illustration, Cinderella, 1865
Another interesting observation on Cinderella's name is that it was originally an insult, but it becomes the only name she is known by. Many versions of "Cinderella" never even give her a name other than whatever insult she is called by and even after she marries the prince, she is still known only by that name. For example, in Perrault's and the Grimms' stories, she has no name other than Cendrillion or Aschenputtel. In the Disney movie, her real name is Ella, but she still is called Cinderella after she marries the prince.  (Belle Gold)

My attention was drawn to the section dealing with the lentils. I thought it was interesting that the Grimm’s would devote such a large part of the story to this seemingly arbitrary task. I think it has to have more meaning then just showing the cruelty of the stepmother. I did a quick Google search and found several interesting results relating to lentils. First a dream dictionary equates lentils with domestic duties. Other results pointed out that lentils are historically associated with the Catholic time of lent, or the preparation for the resurrection of Christ. In an earlier post, someone also mentioned how the ashes reminded them of the rising of the phoenix. Pulling this all together, you might say that this part of the story is telling of Cinderella’s rebirth from oppression under her stepmother and sisters to a recognized princess. (Michael Cooper)

...including the godmother and/or helper aspects:

How does the use of magic sit with the Grimms' Protestant views?  I did a quick google seach of witch-hunts in the 1700's and found in Wikipedia that there were over 50,000 trials in the Holy Roman Empire from 1450–1750.  It seems the Grimms distinguish between white magic and dark magic?
My knowledge of Protestant traditions is slim, but are godparents common in that religion, or was this a hold-over from Catholicism? (Natasha Johnson)
My guess is that the magic you're seeing in the Grimm version is really a holy power from God. Note that it comes from the girl's dead mother, who we can assume is in heaven, helping from above. There's no fairy godmother here, it's all the power of the dead mother and her holiness.  (Carina Clark)
And then there were discussions trying to make sense of a number of lenses at the same time:

by Edward Henry Wehnert
I was wondering if the twig in the Grimm story had any meaning. From a Freudian perspective I think of Cinderella wanting to be punished with it (to make it really Oedipal: by her father himself). But from a historical perspective it could be the love of nature. Or is it just an illustration of her humble nature? The latter (may be combined with the nature thing) seems the most likely to me, as this is a recurring theme in all versions. (Carla Stiekema)

I had the same question, and I started by thinking on Laurel, symbol of victory. That drove me to a dictionary of symbols, and it says that "A twig is the last manifestation of a tree's life" So I may think that it is related to the death mother. It follows "it is the outcome of the process of evolution of the three. So it has all the value, all the power. A olive twig has more power than the olive tree itself" and then it mentions other myths, like Heracles and recalls the entrance of Jesus in Jerusalem. Given this info and my own brainstorming, I understand the twig as a channel between Cinderella and her mother, so strong that it falls on the head of the father and that it is still to able to nurture and protect her. What do you think? (Tamara Guirao Espiñeira)

I never knew that about twigs, et al, and find it very interesting! I think you are on to something here. A theme of afterlife and life renewed, especially life renewed-- Cinderella was once in a good position but has been demoted and treated cruelly, then she rises again. (Theresa Williams)

Janet and Anne Grahame Johnstone
The lecture providing interesting interpretations and invitations to consider the story in new ways.  I cherish myth as a teacher.  Not discussed in this lecture is the theme of overcoming crisis to re-emerge transformed.  I suppose this is the folklorist lens that we are not using in this course. 
The Freudian lens was fascinating.  I find Freud baffling - even after extensive study in psychology.  I just don't get him. (Barye Bluth Dellinger)

Some commentary was also included on Disney's reason for doing Cinderella and how he/the company handled the tale as opposed to previous storytellers:

Disney and Perrault had one major thing in common beyond their versions of Cinderella: they knew their Audience. (K A Petentler)

I absolutely agree with your (KA Petentler's) points of view. Your (4th) point is very powerful, perhaps it's the main reason those two versions are the ones we have easier access to. The magic of knowing who your target market will be. (Violetta Rios)
Illustration by the Walt Disney Studio,
adapted by Retta Scott Worcester
By 1950, when Cinderella was released, Disney was already well known for bringing classic fairy tales to families that guaranteed the triumph of virtue, the reward of faith, and living happily every after.  
At that time, Walt Disney was a founding member of an anti-communist group called Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals. It's possible to see his belief in virtue, innocence, faith, hard work, and optimism as American ideals that were expressed in all his fairy tale movies.
Why is the Disney version of Cinderella the most well known?  Distribution across many channels including movies, TV, DVDs, books, theme parks, merchandise, etc.  If the Grimms had access to all that, this might be a different discussion. (Susanne Martin)

I found it interesting that as mentioned in the lectures it is a common theme in fairy tales to be crafty, to lie, and to cheat in order to get what you want. In that case, I appreciate Disney's adaptations to the themes, making them more noble. I also appreciate that various adaptations allow the story to become culturally relevant and expressive to many different cultures in varying time periods. 
Krista Huot
I also found it intriguing to note that only in Cendrillon did the glass slipper fall on purpose.  I love that there was a conscious thought to it and that it was her taking part in her own destiny, not just taking things as they came or via "luck".  Wow, I do sound like an American, now don't I! (Dana Irwin)

It seems to me that Disney (along with tv and the dawn of Saturday morning cartoons and the related marketing - oh, and Dr. Benjamin Spock) is largely responsible for the fetishization of childhood over the last half century or so. We've somehow decided it's a virtue to keep children innocent and oblivious of the realities of life - and then we wonder why we now have a couple of generations of perpetual children. Historically, there was never the luxury of that oblivious childhood - or only among the very wealthy, perhaps. Children were included in adult life as soon and  as much as they were able. They were not shielded from sex and birth and suffering and death because they couldn't be. They didn't have their own bedrooms to be sent off to like I was. Those earlier versions of "Cinderella" clearly reflect that difference in regard for children. Some days I wonder if we've changed for the better. . . (Caroline Bloodworth)
Fit the Slipper! by David Delamare             
I have always liked the Disney version of the tale, and how deep it gets into what Cinderella actually did all day. I also loved how the mice make her a dress. I find it very interesting to see how people react when they hear about one of the older tales and how shocked they are. I think this says a lot about how cultures change over time and what we are concerned about when we tell these tales. I also find the feminist outcry of the Cinderella tales to be interesting, especially when they are just focused on the fairy godmother and "being rescued" by the prince. Looking at the tale from a historical perspective, Cinderella is doing what she can according to the rules of her society, and she is not just being passive. In the Perrault, Grimm, and Disney version she makes some kind of deal to allow her to go the ball. It never seems to me that she particularly cares to meet the prince at first, she just wants to go and see other people.  She seems most passive in the Perrault version, as she plans not to go until she talks with her godmother and promises to be home until midnight, but in the other two she tries to make a deal with her stepmother first. She is learning to stand up for herself as she becomes an adult. She is of course happy to meet the prince and marry him, but that is never her goal, and to her is a happy coincidence. I especially appreciate that in the Disney version she doesn't even realize that she met the prince. I also appreciate that the prince has a little more personality in the Disney version than he does in any of the other tales. In the others, Cinderella is not the prize, the prince is. In the Disney at least he has a few more lines and a chance be his own character. (Jennifer Hayes)

And there were some other comments which were interesting to consider, no matter which lens preference you had:

Sulamith Wulfing
I found it especially interesting in the Italian version that there were so many references comparing the Cinderella Cat to a courtesan (according to the foot notes).  The emphasis on satire is clear over any moral lesson.   (Erika Franz)

If you start to think of fairy tales not as children's entertainment but as pedagogical stories for the young adults about to leave home and enter into apprenticeships, then all the orphan stuff starts to make more sense and the tales are about relationships. There is no real male power in this story.   The father is pushed and influenced by the new wife, the prince will marry the rightful owner of the shoe, not the woman he loves.  The women are deceitful, jealous and vindictive, yet true beauty will out, whether it is beauty of heart, mind or body.  I find it interesting that the heroine gets all of the spirit-world help from fairies, her dead mother and the nature spirits, the fairy godmother etc. (Janet Loughheed)

Fairy Tales are not a one size fits all item.  Disney and theme parks are the easiest and best way for tales such as this to gain wide appeal.  To me, it's simply a variation of Perrault's tale, and should be taught along with the other tales of this type.  In nearly all cultures there is a tale of someone who is wronged by a stepparent or parent, such as Cinderella.  She has many different names and ethnicity, but she's basically the same girl. (Nakita Caruso)

In addition to reading, lectures and discussions, we were also given the option of a "technology challenge", to stretch us into trying different (and new to most of us) forms of technology for a presentation. 

Unknown artist
Week 1: Make and post a video on YouTube of yourself to introduce yourselves to the other students - explaining a little of why you chose to participate in the course. 
Week 2: Create a photo remix, retelling wither SleepingBeauty or Snow White, and make it into a movie (free online software options were given).
Week 3: Create an online comic strip with Bubblr or online "posterboard" with Glogster on "the definition of PRINCESS"
Week 4: Make a "screencast" with Screencast-O-Matic while doing a rhetorical analysis of one or more of the fairy tale images on Dr. Yee's fairy tale class Tumblr blog (the software records your voice and whatever you are doing on the screen in real time - eg clicking to new page, pointing with your mouse , scrolling, zooming, etc)

You can find the videos from the first week (which I loved watching and show a fascinating cross-section of participants) HERE

I admit, I did not complete this one in time to post it but what I did get done was a good challenge!

The following week we read and discussed Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. Posts on those soon!
Aschenputtel - Cinderella in german fairy tale booklet
Looks like it could have been issued to Hitler Youth children.

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