A Cinderella Story

Have you ever noticed how practically every time they interview the creators of an animated feature film, they say something like:

 If they really wanted to be unique, how about "Our heroine will have a nonzero quantity of body fat..."

If they really wanted to be unique, how about "Our heroine will have a nonzero quantity of body fat..."

I think I understand why they do this, though, even though as best as I can tell, every animated heroine since 1988 has been feisty, strong-willed, and independent.  The stories of the old-school princesses still loom large in the societal imagination - Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella.  So understandably, folks are loathe to perpetuate the absurd gender discrepancies in the stories we tell our kids:

 This would be a hilarious actual title for a smarmy, modern autobiography with a smiling celebrity's face large on the cover.

This would be a hilarious actual title for a smarmy, modern autobiography with a smiling celebrity's face large on the cover.

 I'd read that book.

I'd read that book.

The boys got stories about heroes and warriors who saved the day with pure awesome.  The girls got stories about demure and virtuous women who waited to be rescued by men.  Society has tried since then to rectify the situation.  If the boys get Achilles and the girls get Cinderella, maybe the answer is to give the girls some Achilles-figures to look up to!  The men didn't always seem to mind for some reason.

 Midriffs don't need protection.

Midriffs don't need protection.

From a Christian standpoint, however, I wonder whether this is actually the right solution.  It's American to praise "standing up for yourself" as a virtue - but is it necessarily the Christ-like way?  What if the right answer to gender discrepancy is not more female Achilles's, but more male Cinderellas?  Why must patience, self-control, and remaining faithful in the face of injustice be strictly female virtues (or, nowadays, not virtues at all)?

Given how important the male power fantasy is to storytelling, it seems absurd that anyone would ever write a male Cinderella story, but in point of fact, we have a very rich source of them - the Bible.  (Ta-da!)

Consider the following stories from the Old and New Testaments:

  • Joseph - horribly mistreated by his brothers and sold into slavery, he remains virtuous and learns humility, ultimately being rewarded by God with the means to escape his imprisonment (interpretations of visions)
  • Joshua and Gideon - win tremendous battles by means of absurdly non-violent approaches mandated by God - patience and trust prove more powerful than human arms and armor (don't worry - the stories end plenty violently)
  • Christ and the NT Martyrs - remaining innocent and holding true to God even to the point of torturous, horribly unfair death - Christ is the ultimate exemplar of humility, patience, self-control, and faith

You could include Noah, Daniel, and a host of other characters in the list as well.  You can see God at work in all of them, subverting the traditional male metanarrative - "You don't get to fight and win - you get to be still and I will win."  It seems to me that our society would do better to celebrate the Cinderella figures - male and female alike!

To close, I leave you with one thought, in the form of one of those obnoxious internet memes:

 Belle's a little hotter, and definitely self-sacrificing, but she is kind of smarmy, isn't she?

Belle's a little hotter, and definitely self-sacrificing, but she is kind of smarmy, isn't she?