A Tribute to Cinderella, In Memory of Ilene Woods

(image via Disney Wiki)

On this day in 2010, Ilene Woods, the voice of Disney’s Cinderella, died from complications of Alzheimer’s. During her sunset years, living in a nursing home, she had forgotten about playing Cinderella but was comforted by the song “A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes” and it was played for her as often as possible. During her life, she was known for being a spokeswoman of United Cerebral Palsy, for her lovely singing voice, and for becoming a Disney Legend for her voice work on Cinderella.

Since Cinderella has been on my mind recently, I thought now was a good time to talk about it. While I can’t say I totally love the 1950 Disney classic (the mice take up too much screen time for my liking and the king can get a little creepy), I don’t think it deserves the bad rap it often gets for being antifeminist. I understand criticism towards the stepmother and stepsisters, but Cinderella herself is far from a weak, bland damsel.

For starters, it’s important to note that Cinderella lost both her parents and was put into the care of an abusive stepmother at a very young age, and her only friends are animals. The lack of support and proper love for so long is enough to show that it would be hard for Cinderella to stand up for herself or leave. The fact that she’s able to stay positive and kind is a remarkable feat in and of itself. But don’t think for a minute she spends the movie wailing and waiting for a prince. She wants to go to the ball for a night out, not expecting any reward for it. She is able to make snide, sarcastic jabs, making her disdain for her situation clear, and shows visible anger whenever Lucifer makes things harder for her. At one point she stands up to Lucifer and makes him free her friend. And when Cinderella is locked away, she’s not totally helpless. It’s she who tells her friends to get Bruno so he can ward Lucifer off, and it’s she that reveals the other slipper, the key to her happily ever after. While she may not be as rebellious or adventurous as the later princess, she has a clear personality in the movie, and a clear desire to get away, even if she can’t. Melissa Grey puts it better than I do.

This is something I think got lost in the (very boring) 2015 remake. In attempt to make it ‘more’ feminist, it sort of failed because you see Cinderella has opportunities to leave and friends outside of the animals (and she only just starts having abuse at a later age, not her whole life), yet doesn’t because she can’t bear to leave the house. In that movie, I find Cinderella weak because┬áher personality is pretty one-note (she’s saccharine sweet and passive; she has none of the wry humor or sarcasm that her animated counterpart possesses) and doesn’t do much to suggest that she has courage and kindness (also, why why why would she feed her remaining scraps to mice).

I don’t think the original Cinderella is weak. Not by a long shot. I see a kind, caring woman who perseveres but still finds a way to cope with what’s going on around her. Even if you don’t believe Prince Charming is her true love, that’s not the point. The point is that Cinderella went through so much but didn’t let it get to her, and got to escape from it and become the princess she deserves to be.

I’m not sure if I’m making a lot of sense, but basically, Cinderella gets a pretty bad rap, and it’s not entirely fair. But if anything, Ilene Woods put a lot of life into the character, making her a true Disney Princess, and deserved becoming a Disney Legend.

Rest in Peace Ilene Woods.