ByShayLynn Redford, writer at
ShayLynn Redford

In the game of telephone, one person says a phrase and this phrase keeps being repeated and repeated until it gets to the end and the phrase becomes a new one entirely. This is a perfect description of what happened to the classic rags-to-royalty story of the girl named Cinderella. The basis for modern-day stories originate back to the 1697 folk tale called The Little Glass Slipper by Charles Perrault. Since then we have seen authors and numerous cinematic adaptations put a twist on this story.

The Brothers Grimm emerged in the early 1800s and they based their Cinderella (1812) on Perrault’s folk tale, and this new version had the honor of being mentioned in the film Ever After. However, Ever After claims itself to be the true story — before the Brothers Grimm’s publication. Therefore, for the purpose of this analysis, let’s make Ever After our baseline story of Cinderella and see how each modern twist has strayed from the story Danielle de Barbarac provides for us.

1. This Cinderella Does A lot More Than Cook, Clean And Sing

'Cinderella' [Credit: Disney]
'Cinderella' [Credit: Disney]

In every Cinderella story, a servant girl is trapped in a world she despises and dreams of being something else. She is a dreamer, not a doer. She tries to make things better by singing to herself as she does the dishes and mops the floors, but she doesn’t actually do anything to change her lifestyle. The first animated Cinderella (1950) by , shows a Cinderella who sings, talks to mice, and only rebels when her fairy godmother said it was OK. After she meets the prince her life has changed. She sings and smiles more — but wait, she did that before she met the prince. OK, so maybe she is more hopeful? However, it was still up to the prince find the maiden with right shoe size to actually change her life.

Oh, how this differs from Ever After’s Cinderella. Danielle de Barbarac is an opinionated, headstrong, young lady who is her own hero. This commoner doesn’t rely on someone to save her from her predicaments — she confronts her problems with enough backbone and sass to fill the Loire River. Aside from what is required of her, she still sneaks out to have fun, to take a break, and to see the prince. She is punished for it, but that doesn’t stop her from doing what makes her happy. Danielle gives “Cinderella” a new name; she doesn’t let her predicaments restrict her from living her life.

2. Fairy Godmothers Are Magnificently Magical

The idea of a godparent is to ensure that your child will always have someone there for them. With Cinderella being an orphan, her having a godmother is very fitting. To make it more magical, she becomes her Fairy Godmother. However, adding the word “fairy” to the title, somehow changed the role of the godmother. She was nonexistent in Cinderella’s life; she only came on one night. And just to provide a dress.

Luckily, there are versions with a good Fairy Godmother. An example: In A Cinderella Story, our modern Cinderella, Sam (Hilary Duff), has a good friend that fills the role. Rhonda (Regina King), is her mentor and coworker at her stepmother’s diner, and Sam seeks counsel, courage and advice from Rhonda. She is with Sam throughout the entire movie, and sees her to the end of her happily ever after.

This realistic version of the “Fairy Godmother” is beautifully shown in Ever After —Leonardo da Vinci plays the magical role. Da Vinci does the normal tasks of the Fairy Godmother; he uses his skilled hands to get Danielle to the masquerade and makes her the gem of the ball. Beyond that normal duty, da Vinci is a counselor and friend to both Danielle and the prince, and is the reason why they end up together. He plays the true role of a godfather, and brings honor to the name.

3. The Prince (What More Need I Say?)

The prince. The handsome, dashing gentleman, that makes or breaks the story. When you hear “prince” you need to swoon; that’s a requirement. But does every single story get that perfect prince? Let’s look at Ella Enchanted: Ella (Anne Hathaway) receives a “gift” of obedience. This gift seems more like a curse, as Ella is constantly forced to do things against her will. Through this curse she is able to connect with Prince Charmont (Hugh Dancy) and influence him as he struggles with the desire to be king. Ella has felt trapped with this curse, and it gets under her skin that someone like Char has the power to make things better for others, but doesn’t. So at first, you’re thinking: Wait, this is the prince? Someone so insecure and oblivious that it takes a cursed commoner to change him? But indeed, it’s through Ella (our Cinderella) that he finds the motivation, courage, and desire to be a great king and to make a difference.

'Enchanted' [Credit: Buena Vista]
'Enchanted' [Credit: Buena Vista]

Hmm, this sounds oddly familiar — oh! We see this relationship in Ever After. The Prince is a little more mature and headstrong than he is in Enchanted, but it took the determined Danielle to help him become the king he was meant to be. She inspired him to do things he would not normally do and kept him on his toes. As he learned that even commoners have passions and ideas, it presented a more realistic approach of two people falling in love. When you spend a lot of time with someone, your personalities rub off on each other. So having Danielle rub off on Henry and affect his decisions made the chemistry more believable and the prince more swoonable.

4. Stepsiblings Help Make A Good Story

In just about every movie, the characters are the same: The stepmother is annoyingly cruel and the stepsisters are dumb and take after their mother. A new twist on the stepsisters is seen in A Cinderella Story: Once Upon a Song. No more two annoying, wanna-be, stepsisters; Cinderella has to deal with one stepsister and one stepbrother. When you have to deal with a pesky, younger stepbrother and a demanding stepsister of the same age, how could you not learn patience, long-suffering, and charity?

'A Cinderella Story: Once Upon A Song' [Credit: Warner Premiere]
'A Cinderella Story: Once Upon A Song' [Credit: Warner Premiere]

Ever After presents more depth and meaning to the stepsisters as well. It creates a realistic and more humane version of these characters as a whole. One of the stepsisters is (wait for it) on Cinderella’s side. Marguerite takes after the mother in being devious and unfair, whereas Jacqueline notices the Danielle's unfair treatment, and doesn’t participate in it. In a sense, Jacqueline is being mistreated as well; her mother obviously favors her sister over her and she’s often left in the dust. With knowing the unwanted feeling, she sympathizes with Danielle and quietly helps her. This creates a more realistic world, showing that there is mistreatment beyond one girl. Danielle shows kindness in return, re-edifying that the stepsiblings play a huge roll in the decisions Cinderella makes and in her personal growth.

5. Princess Vs. Servant: What’s Really The Difference?

'Another Cinderella Story' [Credit: Warner Premiere]
'Another Cinderella Story' [Credit: Warner Premiere]

Cinderella and the prince are on different ends of the society spectrum. One is a commoner, and one is a royal. In every version of this story, that idea is somehow reinforced. For example, in Another Cinderella Story Mary Santiago (our Cinderella, Selena Gomez) is a nobody. She is a shy and timid character, with only one friend. The “prince” is the famous celebrity singer Joey Parker (Drew Seeley) who is outgoing and and gets everything he wants. You have a nobody and you have a somebody, and somehow they fall in love against the wishes of their families and friends.

What if Cinderella was already of high class, but it is unrecognized? In Ever After, Danielle comes from nobility. During this time period in France, females were only occasionally guaranteed hereditary titles, but becoming a servant for her baroness stepmother simply guaranteed she wouldn’t claim her birthright. Not accepting this fate, Danielle finds a way to change her title on her own. Because of Danielle’s fearless attitude (in order to save one of her friends and fellow servants), she dresses up as a countess, and ends up introducing herself as her countess mother to Prince Henry. Therefore, every time Danielle sees the prince she disguises herself and her true rank in society is ignored. This allowed Danielle to show her true colors instead of being trapped in the life of an unnoticed servant. Once the truth about Danielle was out, it was too late; people knew her and came to love her — the differences in class were set aside. Ever After shows the realism of how the society chain works, and how you have to overlook titles to be happy.

'Ever After' [Credit: Fox]
'Ever After' [Credit: Fox]

In this game of telephone, it’s not an entirely different version of Cinderella. At the end of the game there are repeats and similarities, but it all boils down to one small truth: Ever After is the most realistic and relatable version. Therefore, it should be believed as the true story of Cinderella. So, keep Danielle de Barbarac in mind as you watch the other versions of her story — she is not someone to be forgotten.

Which version of Cinderella have you watched the most?


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