Cinderella is one of the all- time favourite Disney stories and it has numerous versions to it. When children hear these stories from their childhood itself, they immediately begin to relate to the mystical characters portrayed. These stories help children to mould their own characters, and judge the characters around them as well. Initially, they are unaware of the roles of gender or colour, but when Disney brings these fairy tales to life, they are indirectly being taught to discriminate. Disney effectively advertises all its products by making them colourful and attractive. This catches the eyes of children, causing them to long to be like the Disney characters themselves. For example, Disney's female characters are mostly given negative roles. The men are portrayed to be the superior gender, which was due to the status of women at that time. This gives rise to certain gender prejudices in children. In the case of colour, white is associated with all that is "good", while black is associated with all that is "bad." This brings in the concept of skin colour. Children therefore unknowingly begin to discriminate, as this notion has now been instilled in their minds. Fairy tales like Cinderella play an extremely important role in shaping both the self-image and belief-system of children. Children see what they are made to see, and believe what they are made to believe. Therefore, there is a clear understanding that such concepts in these stories can have a profound impact upon young minds.
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Every child grows up watching Disney movies or reading Disney books, but little do they know that their memory is retaining every detail of what they read and see. They do not understand the various complexities in life. However, through fairy tales like Cinderella, they get to step out of their world, and into the world of someone else who is witness to similar situations. Even the smallest things seem big; for instance, being dominated over by an older sibling could cause some sort of anger in their minds. However, children are new to the ideas of anger, jealously, and other such emotions. Therefore, when they see Cinderella crying, but being so patient at the same time, they believe that just as the Fairy Godmother rescues Cinderella, their parents will rescue them from their siblings. Gender also plays an important role in establishing the various characters. All the main characters in Cinderella are female: the dead mother who is always with her, metaphysically guiding her, her stepmother who treats her poorly and attempts to destroy her self-esteem, and the Fairy Godmother, who grants her wishes. It can clearly be seen that women play an important role in Cinderella, being lovable characters (Cinderella's mother), cruel characters (Cinderella's Stepmother), or virtuous characters (the Fairy Godmother). These are three traits which children can easily relate to. They put themselves into the shoes of the leading characters, and associate the various people around them to these different characteristics. However, the female characters in Fairy Tales are mostly given negative roles, such as the step-mother and the step-sisters. In Cinderella, the men are portrayed to be the superior gender. This is due to the sociological status of women at that point of time, where they were considered inferior and of a lower wealth and class. This causes children to develop negative attitude.
In Disney's Cinderella (1950), on the other hand, the colour symbolism operates in different ways. The term "good" is used for Cinderella, who has blonde hair and blue eyes. The step-sisters and step-mother, which are all considered "bad", are visibly darker in complexion compared to Cinderella, who is white as milk. The Prince that lives in the white castle has white birds at the window. His father, the King, has white hair. This points not only to age, but a child-like innocence and purity as well. The Fairy Godmother also has white hair. The coding of black and dark hues is subtle in Disney's movie, though it undoubtedly exists. Therefore, concepts like gender discrimination and racial discrimination (colour) are visibly incorporated into the story of Cinderella, and these concepts are in turn seen to mould the minds of the young viewers or readers.
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The concepts of 'colour' and 'gender' in Fairy tales play an extremely important role in moulding young children's personalities. Beginning with colour, children are definitely seen to have an eye for subtle distinctions in skin colour. They do not understand the concept of racism at such a young age, but when the idea of "white" is "good" and "black" is "bad" is introduced to them, it alters their entire approach. Fairy tales such as Cinderella have been a part of Children's literature for a long time now. Over the years, children have formulated mental images of princesses and other characters depicted in these tales, which are portrayed to be superior to the rest. Different countries instil different ideas into the minds of their children. One can see this by looking at the different versions of Cinderella, which essentially talk of the same thing, but express it in very different ways. The cultural beliefs and the value systems can be clearly seen through the various versions of the story. For example, through the Chinese version of Cinderella, we get an insight into how Chinese women were meant to bind their feet. This can be seen due to the tiny glass slipper, which is described in the story because women with tiny feet are considered elegant.
Gender too plays an extremely important role in these fairy tales. In Cinderella, the central character in the story is played by female characters while the other female characters in her life are her step-mother, step-sisters and a Fairy Godmother. Moreover, these fairy tales have been written by men themselves, because of the fact that women were not at the same level as men at that point of time. However, women play the roles of all the dominating characters, and the men (the prince, king etc.) do not play leading roles in most fairy tales, especially Cinderella. Cinderella's father is not her source of inspiration, since even though both her parents were dead she looked up to her mother and felt her presence. No such thing was mentioned about her father. This could be negative for the children, causing them to interpret these facts in unintended ways.
In conclusion, there are many ways in which children are exposed to certain media which are not entirely appropriate for them. Nobody would ever have guessed that fairy tales are a main cause for people becoming racist at such a young age, or to discriminate against females. Fairy tales prompt children to develop negative feelings towards their mothers, which brings us to the Oedipus complex. Freud's theory is that a female child desires to kill her mother and marry her father, as she now believes that her mother could be evil. This is what society has revealed to the child, causing fathers to be idealized over mothers. Fairy tales were written for adults, and Disney has converted them into a wonderland, where everything is bright and shiny. At the same time, children have brains made of sponge, causing them to absorb everything they see. They do not understand the meaning of everything they see, but they do process things and it is evident in the later stages of their development.