Merida vs. Cinderella

The more I hear/read people talking about Brave, the more I feel she’s still getting too much credit, particularly when it comes to being empowered.  Cinderella seems the obvious person to compare her to as her situation was also dominated by her relationship with her mother-figure.  Cinderella is often viewed as one of the weakest female characters in fairy tales, while Merida was supposed to be a new, more feminist princess.  The more I think about them together, the more I feel Merida makes Cinderella look good.

First off, I have to say that I have never been as down on Cinderella as many people are.  I always felt she developed relationships with mice and birds in order to preserve her sanity and keep from growing embittered.  As a young girl thrust into a lonely, tough situation, choosing to put forth extra effort (which the mice clothes show she clearly does) for these reasons shows foresight, self-awareness, and resourcefulness.  Add to that, she is forced to work long hours, do many manual jobs, and clearly isn’t allowed enough sleep.  In this situation, putting forth the energy to do that much for yourself and to better your circumstances is incredible.  I think it’s courageous of her to try and hold onto her happiness.  It shows that she doesn’t internalize the messages she gets from her family, she still believes in her own self-worth.  The fact that she is doing so while trying not to vilify her family any more than she must is an added effort of will to keep her sane and from the trap of being bittered, again-lots of foresight, lots of willpower.  Many people have a down on her for not getting out and making her own way in the world, or not doing more.  I think Cinderella was already doing more than many real people would.  Compare her to someone in a dead-end job that they hate-they don’t get along with their coworkers, there’s barely any time for them to have a social life, there’s a lot of pressure and demands.  Sure, they’d rather be somewhere else but finding a job is tough-at least they have a place to sleep and enough to eat, and they know enough to appreciate that.  At least they’re better than these rich, lolly-gagging idlers who just do nothing all day.  You have satisfaction in knowing you can get stuff done, even if it’s not stuff you’d particularly like to do.  People might wish these people into better circumstances, but does it really reflect badly on them that they keep going on and doing their job because they feel that they must?  Particularly if they are still working to keep up a rewarding social life and to not become embittered?  That person is the common hero or heroine of today, and Cinderella is a wonderful guiding light from them.

 

To get back to the comparison, look at Merida’s position.  She’s already a princess, she’s clearly well taken care of physically, she has a family who clearly loves her, days of total freedom, and her biggest complaint is that her mom is trying to control her.  Yeah, tell Cinderella about it.  Now, for the crucial point: how they handle their one magic wish.  To be fair, Merida does show more spirit in needing to insist on receiving a wish instead of simply being given magic like Cinderella, but then Merida also had magical wisps giving her the hint to claim something important.  On to the actual magic.  Cinderella wishes for the equipment to get to the ball.  This may seem shallow or short-sighted.  However, after seeingBrave, I see Cinderella’s wish as more self-assured.  She asked for the equipment to accomplish a certain task-she trusted herself to actually see that task through.  Merida, on the other hand, in spite of starting out with a huge advantage over Cinderella, didn’t think she could “change her fate” on her own, even with a little help.  No, Merida only saw that her mother was in charge, not that Merida herself could take control of her own fate.  In terms of control, I think we can all agree Cinderella’s mother figure had far more control over her than Queen Elinor does of Merida, but Cinderella still managed to think of something she herself could do, if just given the opportunity.  Moreover, Merida was entitled enough to put her wish on someone else.  Cinderella, at least, takes all the consequences of her magic to herself, not using the moment to put something unwanted on her family or trying to change them to make her life easier.  That gives Cinderella’s magic the moral high ground, especially considering how much more Lady Tremain deserved a magical alteration compared to Queen Elinor.  This is even before considering that Merida’s desire to change that particular event shows that the educated princess totally missed the big picture and failed to consider the consequences her actions would take.

 

Who would you rather have running your kingdom?  The resourceful princess who was always forward-thinking and only experiments with magic on herself? Or the entitled princess who’s willing to magically ‘change’ family members and doesn’t wonder about the consequences?

I declare Cinderella the victor.  Merida’s a new, more empowered spin on a princess, my ass.

Devil’s Cub

Devil’s Cub

By: Georgette Heyer

http://www.georgette-heyer.com/

Sourcebooks Casablanca 2009

An historical romance fiction review

 

Here I was expecting a cozy, amusing read, and the Devil’s Cub pounced on me.  The locales, characters, and overall tone of this work are not in Heyer’s usual style, starting with the title character.  Georgette Heyer’s never shy of the Bad Boy Mystique, but the Devil’s Cub takes the cake.  And more literally, the girls, the races, and even the winnings in gambling dens, are all taken at the impulse of the Marquis of Vidal.  This restless antihero’s passions set a quick pace for the novel and a fast beat for the heroine’s heart.

Mary Challoner meets the Marquis when he begins paying attention to her more beautiful sister.  A combination of protectiveness, foolishness, and as it turns out tenderness compel Mary to draw the Marquis’ dishonourable intentions to herself.  However, her character is the least well developed of any I’ve read in a Georgette Heyer book.  The interaction between the leads clearly shows why she suits the role of Marchioness of Vidal.  Why the Devil’s Cub found a place in her heart is a mystery that happens before the action, before their interaction, and without any demonstrable connections with Mary’s identity.  There are some facts about her life that suggest reasons for Mary’s partiality (at least to me), but nothing is really explored along these lines.

The really strong characters in this novel are the Marquis’ parents, the Duke and Duchess of Vidal.  As the stars of These Old Shades Justin, the Duke of Avon, and his Leonie put in bold, genuine, and refreshing appearances.  Add in a vivacious cousin with engagement problems and an uncle who’s insulted at being told he’s growing moral, and it keeps the novel pleasant.  Even so, it needs the fast pace and adventure clichés to keep this novel interesting.  The Devil’s Cub has his appeal, but the cub’s mate isn’t really what I’d wish for him, and is certainly not the heroine I expect of Georgette Heyer.