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JAN MOIR says Cinderella is the fairy tale every generation of women adores

What is it with Cinderella? For centuries her story has fascinated millions of women and been transformed into the world’s most popular fairy tale.

Generation after generation has been gripped by the story of the beautiful but downtrodden scullery maid who is rescued from a life of cruelty and drudgery by a wealthy, handsome prince.

Even in these cynical times, when heroines must come equipped with a complicated set of sisterhood-approved woke credentials, Cinderella’s eternal allure has not dimmed.

No matter how strident the women’s movement becomes, nor how bruising the politics of the post second wave feminist world, there is clearly a special place in the collective female psyche for this persecuted heroine, with her heart on her sleeve and her mop in her hand.

The hashtag activists, the MeToo mob, the girl-power gang? Even the executives who smash the glass ceiling but still thrill to the glass slipper? Yes. All are still in thrall to the transformative powers of Cinderella’s story arc. No one is immune to her charms.

You can trace her lineage across all the popular Disney Princesses — worth a cool £500 million per annum — and right through many classic films such as My Fair Lady (itself based on Pygmalion) to the global success of the Fifty Shades Of Grey books and movies.

For what truly separates Eliza Doolittle and Anastasia Steele from Cinderella? Little more than a drop of Rain in Spain and a Red Room of Pain. They are still the poor little girls who made good, and we never tire of that narrative.

And with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new musical Cinderella finally open in London’s West End, plus a big-budget jukebox musical Cinderella, packed with an all-star cast, about to drop on Amazon Prime next month, our girl’s never been more popular — nor more open to the vagaries of fashionable thinking.

For yes, everyone still loves Cinderella, but only if she can be tweaked and remodelled to suit modern tastes. Cinderella cannot be simply a princess-in-waiting these days. She must also be a woman driven by ambition and a sense of self, rather than merely being driven by love.

It’s not enough to snare your Prince Charming and hope for Happy Ever After, even if you are cursed, orphaned or living under a spell.

To earn your modern feminist points, even beloved Cinderella must do better.

And to waltz through any batch of Cinderella adaptations is to see how a woman’s place on stage, screen and page has evolved over the past 70 years . . .

THE ORIGINAL CINDERELLA

This is the Walt Disney feature-length cartoon classic from 1950 that started it all

Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo! This is the Walt Disney feature-length cartoon classic from 1950 that started it all.

Here, in glorious Technicolor, Cinderella is the sweet scullery maid who wins the heart of Prince Charming despite the efforts of her evil stepmother and mean Ugly Sisters.

Cinders can’t be much of a cleaner as the house is overrun with mice, whom she befriends. She also dances with bluebirds and translates their chirps into human-speak. What a talent!

In this version, Cinderella is straight-down-the-line boy bait, and her only purpose is to wait to be rescued by Prince Charming. She sings A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes and she really seems to mean it.

She believes that if you keep on believing, the dream that you wish will come true. Sweet.

WOKE RATING (out of 5): 1 SLIPPER

Back then woke was something that Sleeping Beauty did every 100 years.

THE TELLY CINDERELLA 

Back in 1957, 107 million Americans tuned in to watch Rodgers and Hammerstein’s live production of Cinderella on CBS

Back in 1957, 107 million Americans tuned in to watch Rodgers and Hammerstein’s live production of Cinderella on CBS

Back in 1957, 107 million Americans tuned in to watch Rodgers and Hammerstein’s live production of Cinderella on CBS. Julie Andrews sang her socks off, but this is very much a period piece.

Many will be disappointed with her ardent longing for a Prince at any price. 

‘All your life you will dream of his lovely, lovely eyes,’ she chirps. Oh, the shame. Mind you, soppy Prince Charming (Jon Cypher) wasn’t much better. 

‘Do I want you because you are wonderful, or are you wonderful because I want you?’ he sings.

WOKE RATING: 1 SLIPPER

I’m taking points off for Julie’s simpering. 

THE RAUNCHY CINDERELLA

Officially known as The Other Cinderella, this is a raunchy version of the classic fairy tale, tracing the misadventures of a Cinderella played by Cheryl ‘Rainbeaux’ Smith. Made in 1977, there is an orgy scene (gulp), and some of the film had to be cut before it was shown in UK cinemas. The prince (Brett Smiley) can’t get enjoyment from sex and thus sings a song called My Kingdom Won’t Come. He is rescued by Cinderella, who, luckily, has a magic vagina.

WOKE RATING: 3 SLIPPERS

Hats off to Cinderella for owning her sexuality, right?

THE RENAISSANCE CINDERELLA 

The 1998 film Ever After is set in 16th-century France and stars Drew Barrymore as the plucky Cinderella character and Scots actor Dougray Scott as her prince

The 1998 film Ever After is set in 16th-century France and stars Drew Barrymore as the plucky Cinderella character and Scots actor Dougray Scott as her prince

The 1998 film Ever After is set in 16th-century France and stars Drew Barrymore as the plucky Cinderella character and Scots actor Dougray Scott as her prince. In some scenes he wears remarkable tights and what I fervently hope is a codpiece.

The plot is a bit complicated — Leonardo da Vinci makes a brief appearance in his ‘flying contraption’ and everyone is confused about everyone else’s identity. The big difference here is that Drew and Dougray meet in a library, prithee, so theirs is a meeting of minds.

That doesn’t stop the usual romantic nonsense. ‘I kneel before you not as a prince but as a man in love. I would feel like a king if you would be my wife.’

She agrees and marries him wearing fairy wings.

WOKE RATING: 4 SLIPPERS

She’s read a book!

THE GIRL POWER CINDERELLA 

In Ella Enchanted (2004), Anne Hathaway is the Cinderella character in this girl-empowerment flick

In Ella Enchanted (2004), Anne Hathaway is the Cinderella character in this girl-empowerment flick

In Ella Enchanted (2004), Anne Hathaway is the Cinderella character in this girl-empowerment flick. ‘I don’t need your chivalry, thanks. And I have no intention of curtseying to you,’ she tells heart-throb prince Hugh Dancy. Still it’s not long before Ella falls for him.

‘I think you are going to be a great king some day,’ she simpers.

WOKE RATING: 3 SLIPPERS

Not impressed by royalty and patriarchy.

CINDERELLA THE CYNIC 

According to her stepmother, Hilary Duff is 'not very pretty and not very bright' in A Cinderella Story (2004)

According to her stepmother, Hilary Duff is ‘not very pretty and not very bright’ in A Cinderella Story (2004)

According to her stepmother, Hilary Duff is ‘not very pretty and not very bright’ in A Cinderella Story (2004). ‘Do you believe in love at first sight?’ asks Prince Charming.

‘I’ll let you know,’ she replies.

WOKE RATING: 2 SLIPPERS

She is no pushover.

HIGH SCHOOL CINDERELLA  

Another Cinderella Story (2008) is a forgettable teen musical starring Selena Gomez

Another Cinderella Story (2008) is a forgettable teen musical starring Selena Gomez

Another Cinderella Story (2008) is a forgettable teen musical starring Selena Gomez. She sings, she dances, she gets her guy. ‘You’re the most amazing dance partner I have ever had,’ school heartthrob Drew Seeley tells her.

WOKE RATING: 1 Slipper

Who thought it was appropriate to cast 15-year-old Gomez with Seeley, 26, as her romantic interest?

DOORMAT CINDERELLA  

Lily James took the lead in Disney’s most recent live-action reworking of Cinderella, in 2015

Lily James took the lead in Disney’s most recent live-action reworking of Cinderella, in 2015

Lily James took the lead in Disney’s most recent live-action reworking of Cinderella, in 2015, but turned out to be a doormat — though a gorgeous one.

Director Kenneth Branagh’s version attracted censure over its regressive sexual politics — because it stayed true to the boy-meets-pliant-girl-and-sweeps-her-off-her-feet plotline. ‘I shouldn’t. I shouldn’t. I will!’ Cinders cries.

WOKE RATING: 1 SLIPPER

What a drip!  

BAD CINDERELLA

'I'm a bad Cinderella,' sings Carrie Hope Fletcher, star of Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical

‘I’m a bad Cinderella,’ sings Carrie Hope Fletcher, star of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical

‘I’m a bad Cinderella,’ sings Carrie Hope Fletcher, star of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical. She is ‘bad’ in the sense she is not a traditional Cinders, and wears Goth dresses and black lipstick.

This Cinderella fights back with her stepmother and mocks her silly stepsisters. She’s been popped through a feminist boil wash, emerging as a spirited maverick who refuses to let her life be defined by a man. Until the end of the first act, at least.

Still, the show’s diverse, inclusive, with a curtsey to gender politics.

WOKE RATING: 5 SLIPPERS

She is truly the real deal.

GIRL BOSS CINDERELLA 

Amazon Prime says its big-budget musical Cinderella starring pop star Camila Cabello is a ‘bold new take’ on the story

Amazon Prime says its big-budget musical Cinderella starring pop star Camila Cabello is a ‘bold new take’ on the story

Amazon Prime says its big-budget musical Cinderella is a ‘bold new take’ on the story. Starring pop star Camila Cabello as an ambitious dress designer, it’s being called the ‘Girl Boss Cinderella’ by her fans.

Hate to break the news but there are Meghan Markle-esque overtones. ‘I don’t want a life stuck waving from a royal box, I have dreams I want to chase,’ snips Camila.

‘I pick you to be my princess,’ says her prince. ‘But what about my work?’ she wails. And that’s where the Meghan similarities end.

WOKE RATING: 5 SLIPPERS

There’s barely a sliver of the original Cinders left.


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