It surprises me and disconcerts me that Disney’s “Cinderella” is dissed for having a poor role model as a heroine.
Cinderella was living and growing up under the abusive thumb of her stepmother and bullying sisters — and all before she had had a chance to even grieve her father’s death.
She was also living in a time where an unmarried girl had little to no recourse, especially against her “guardians”. And she had no money of her own to leave, or risk losing the only place she had ever known as home.
In essence, her stepmother could have sold her, thrown her out, or married her off to whomever she pleased, and Cinderella would have had no say in the matter. Class determined the justice one received. If Lady Tremaine had thrown Cinderella out, she would still have had no more of a status than a maid, as Lady Tremaine would have the right to disown her. And it would have taken very little money and effort to accuse Cinderella of being a thief or something and thereby have her thrown in prison or banished from the land.
In that situation, with absolutely no resources of her own, and absolutely no legal or social protection she could avail, she adapted to survive:
She learned everything a servant would know — even though she probably hadn’t even known how to dress herself in formal gowns while her father had been alive. (She was born into aristocracy; there’s a lot she would never have been expected to know or do for herself.) And by basically making herself useful to Lady Tremaine and her daughters, she made sure she was valuable enough to keep around instead of throw away.
More than that though, she was abused for YEARS from the time she was a child. And you CANNOT blame a victim of prolonged abuse for not fighting back or trying to better their situation — in any century.
But, even more importantly, despite everything, Cinderella was still very kind, gentle, and optimistic, often using her active imagination and daydreams to counter the drudgery and mistreatment she had to live with. And that…That is NOT weak. And nor could such a character be a poor role model.
Not in the least.