The Same Old Story

I love fairytales – and fairytale retellings, which is why I joined the Fairytale Challenge hosted by the awesome Mel of The Daily Prophecy and wrote a post about it. I love the magic, the tradition, the belief that good always wins over evil. 

I am quite sick, however, of hearing the same damn story over and over again.

cinderellaWhat I’m trying to say is: I saw the new Cinderella movie this week (yay for date night!) and I was so disappointed. I don’t think they’ve added a single new aspect to the story that’s hundreds of years old! It’s the same as the Disney cartoon from the 1950s! I made a list of things that bothered me:

  • The music. While I’m sure my husband was happy nobody broke into a spontaneous singing session, the music was sappy and boring.
  • The costumes. When I go see a fantasy/fairytale/historical movie, I expect gorgeous dresses. These were mainly confections of glitter and fluff – kitchy and over-the-top “magical”. Also, Cindy spends 80 % of the movie wearing one dress, even before her father’s gone.
  • Cinderella. Look, Lily James is one gorgeous young woman. I haven’t watched Downton Abbey but I imagine that given a proper role, she shines like the bright star that she is. Her character in this movie, however, was even more of a simpleton than the 50s incarnation – I wished I could shake her and tell her to burn the stepmother’s toast, at least! She just wept, twirled around with her eyes closed, and kept regurgitating that “courage and kindness” line over and over again. I get it, it’s your personal mantra – but still.
  • Kit/Prince Charming. OH MY GOD. Richard Madden has to be the worst Prince Charming in history. I DARE YOU to find a less swoon-worthy prince. Try it. You’ll fail. I adored the guy as Robb Stark, so it’s not that I don’t find him attractive or anything but his wooden one-liners made me want to chuck things at the screen. Instead, I groaned out loud and tried to unsee how orange his skin was. Or how Cindy’s dress at the royal ball matched his baby blue eyes (GAK). Or how… Actually, I just want to unsee his entire performance. Especially that moment where he cries, curled up in fetal position.

Anyway, there were a few redeeming qualities – the lizard footmen, the fairy godmother (Helena Bonham Carter), and even at times Cate Blanchett’s evil stepmother. But these moments were too rare to make me like this movie.

zmaj-desno

This rant was perhaps the final nudge I needed to write about a related issue: I am tired of reading fairytale retellings that tell the same story. Ok so this might sound nonsensical, but hear me out. 

Mel listed several ideas she wants to see in books – and this is what I would love to see, too: stories that take the original tale and twist it into something new, something original.

I am sick and tired of reading about the same patriarchal ideas that the brothers Grimm managed to weave into their collection. I wish for more un-Disney-like stories (I like Disney as much as anyone but my favourite was always Mulan, not Cinderella, for example). I want active, decisive heroines and unusual settings.

I recently read several retellings that differed vastly in this regard (none of these are as bad as the movie Cinderella):

  • uprooted-naomi-novikA Court of Thorns and Roses seemed different at first but in truth, it doesn’t really add anything new to the Beauty and the Beast story. I liked it well enough.
  • Cruel Beauty was a book I read almost a year ago and while it definitely had some problems (like instalove), I really liked the twist to the original story.
  • Scarlet was a great new find for me! It’s a Robin Hood retelling where Will Scarlet, one of Robin’s faithful companions, is a girl. A cross-dressing girl.
  • But Uprooted takes the prize because it is, hands down, the best retelling I’ve read – probably ever. Look for my review next week because it’ll be full of failing and rolling around in glee. Read this book once it’s published, people. Read. It.

To sum this up: know for a fact that great fairytale retellings exist because I have read them. So I don’t really understand why some people insist on writing/filming stories that bring absolutely nothing new to the game. I wish people would give those millions of dollars to someone who would make Uprooted a movie, for example. If enough people ask for it, maybe our wishes will come true! ;)

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Have you seen this Cinderella version? What did you think?

I’d love some good fairytale retelling recommendations! 

What story would you like to see twisted and told in a different way?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

  • That doesn’t surprise me at all that the Cinderella story offered nothing new. Disappointing, but I thought they had set out to make it as close to their original cartoon as possible, so I guess a rehash is what we were meant to expect. I’m not sure I like their casting of Prince Charming either but I haven’t seen it so I’ll have to take your word on how awful he was, but I imagine it’s probably as jarring as I think it is :D

    Hmm, fairy tale retellings. I gotta go with Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier. It’s a pretty close retelling of the Six Swans fairy tale, but oh my goodness, it’s so beautiful and tragic and moving and heart stabby stabby. Made me an instant fan of the author.

    ~Mogsy

    • When I saw that Madden was going to be Prince Charming I didn’t expect it to be this bad. But the trailer was a fair warning! I have no idea what happened to Robb Stark – the roles aren’t THAT different if you think about it… Anyway, I’d love to hear your opinion if you ever get around to watching it. I liked some of Kenneth Branagh’s work but this was pretty bad.

      Ooh, right, Daughter of the Forest! “heart stabby stabby”? :D That’s a great description :) I have it on my tbr, I know Danya from Fine Print is a huge champion of this book and I’ve seen nothing but great reviews of it.

  • I actually loved this movie. I’m sorry it was disappointing to you, but I actually loved that it was a more traditional retelling. Not that I don’t like when things get changed around either, but I thought this was such a sweet story. And I thought Ella was a great character. I liked that she chose to be nice and forgiving even when it was so so so difficult for her. I do love those tough, sassy, brassy female characters, too, but I also love the quieter ones, because that feels more like me.

    I do admit, I didn’t find the prince all that swoony (it might have been those tight pants – his legs looked soo skinny), but I guess I wasn’t thinking it was that kind of movie anyway.

    • AHA! I love it when people disagree with me. Can’t have a proper discussion without it! :) I think I was so disappointed because I expected something different from this movie! If I went in expecting a remake of the Disney cartoon, it probably wouldn’t have been as bad.
      Though I don’t think I could like Prince Charming in any case – you’re right, those pants were ridiculous :D

  • At first, I wasn’t interested in seeing the new Cinderella film at all, simply because I KNEW it would end up being the same, old tired story. I didn’t even think it was a retelling, just a remake. And from what you’ve said here^^ it seems I was right. The thing is, we’re all TOO familiar with the classics, authors NEED to give us something NEW. I think that’s why the Lunar Chronicles were so successful, they’re completely different and really turn the classics on their head, time and time again. I still need to read Uprooted and Scarlet but I own that last one and WILL read it SOON. As a film, I really liked Maleficent because of the reason you listed here^^ it changed things up. The villain wasn’t as evil as we had been told, she had dimension and a personality! Awesome discussion Kaja! xx

    • Yes, that’s it, exactly. We’ve heard these stories so. many. times. and I for one just want something fresh. But part of the charm of reading retellings is knowing the story, or at least some of the story. But I like being surprised! I like having my expectations turned upside down.
      I tried The Lunar Chronicles but didn’t really connect. I liked what she did with the stories but maybe it was the writing style? I don’t really know. Maybe I should give them another chance.
      I haven’t watched Maleficent yet, will give it a try!

  • Maraia

    I don’t think I’ll be watching that movie anytime soon. It soundds rather awful. I was never a *huge* fan of Disney princesses, but Mulan is definitely my favorite. She’s really the only one who hits all three of your requirements: an active, decisive heroine in an unusual (well, interesting, at least) setting.

    I enjoyed fairy tale retellings more when I was younger (Ella Enchanted, for example!), but too often these days I can’t get past the weak, anti-feminist heroines. I didn’t like any of the ones you listed above, except for Uprooted, which I have high hopes for. Have you read the Lunar Chronicles? I think it’s one of the best examples of a truly unique fairy tale retelling. I’m not as crazy-in-love with the series as much of the bookish community seems to be, but I am enjoying the books, and they’re certainly interesting. I never would have thought to combine classic fairy tales with sci-fi.

    I just noticed that the commenter below mentioned Daughter of the Forest. I always forget that it’s based off a fairy tale, but Juliet Marillier is one of my ABSOLUTE favorite authors. If you haven’t read her books yet, I strongly encourage you to bump them up your TBR list. I’ve read all of her books, and while there are a few I don’t like, most of them are amazing.

    • Have you seen they’re doing a live-action remake of Mulan? YAY! :)

      Yeah I read the first two books in the Lunar Chronicles, I think, but didn’t really connect. I guess it was the language? The style? I don’t know. I might give them another go now that I’m blogging.

      I KNOOOOW, I have to read Marillier soon. I will, I promise :)

      • Maraia

        Oh yeah, I forgot about that! I hope it’s as amazing as the original.

        Do you ever listen to audiobooks? I just did a re-read of Cinder via audio, and I actually enjoyed it more than the first time. The narrator is very endearing.

        YAYAYAYAYAY is all I have to say. I look forward to you falling in love with her books. :D

        • Ooh, nice! I like re-reading books in audiobook form.

          OH NO Marillier’s books are in danger of being very hyped-up! ;) (Just kidding, I know her hype comes from actual awesomeness, not just blown-up publicity!)

          • Maraia

            Same! It’s such a great way to re-read. And then it’s okay if you accidentally zone out for a few minutes while listening. :)

            I won’t say anything more about Marillier, then! If you read them and aren’t impressed after all the hype, I might actually cry, haha.

  • Aw Man – what a bummer that the movie sucked so much! It sounds like the cast wasn’t that bad but they got awful material to work with. I haven’t seen it yet and now am a little bit wary. How frustrating!

    I am very excited to see your thoughts on Uprooted! You are not the first person I’ve heard say they loved it and I can’t wait to get my hands on it! I love fairy tale re-telings but they can be very hit or miss. It’s been a little while since I’ve read any but the most recent that I’ve liked were the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer which have some nice twists in the tale and I like the characterizations a lot and The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale which is a pretty traditional retelling but it fleshes out and gives life to a sketchier tale.

    • No, you should give the movie a try! Like one commenter said, it’s different for everyone – depends on what you expect! I really wanted to see an innovative retelling, she wanted to see a familiar story: I hated the movie, she loved it!

      Oh, I haven’t heard of Hale’s story yet, thanks for the recommendation! :)

  • I just saw trailer for Cinderella and honestly I do not have desire to see it. It looks the same as cartoon. Even that damn stupid dress…

    I love a good fairy tale retelling. Some recs: Crown of Ice (Snow Queen from her perspective), The Lunar Chronicles (sf mumbo jumbo of all fairy tales), Mermaid by Kate O’Connor (little mermiad sf version, very touching)…

    I can’t say I can pick one fairy tale. Do them all!!! LOL :D

    • Haha you just extended my tbr list with your comments. Thanks for all the recommendations! I’m enjoying retellings this year because I signed up for the Fairytale Retelling challenge and I’m paying more attention to them.

      Yeah the movie was just blah. But if I didn’t watch it, I’d keep wondering about it, so I’m glad I got that out of the way. Now I can rant about it, at least.

      • Haha sorry. When I think about it – I am not sorry. It’s payback time. LOL
        I love reading retellings. I am so sorry I missed signing up for the challenge. :(
        Haha usually I am the same, but in this case trailer was enough. Did you watch Into The Woods? Another fairy tale mixup. And a musical. :D

  • Batgirl

    I haven’t seen the Cinderella movie yet, but I agree that Mulan was always way more enjoyable to me than some of the traditional “princess” Disney movies! Let’s defeat some Huns! As for recommendations, if you don’t mind Indie authors I recommend the Timeless Fairy Tale series by KM Shea. She gives a new spin on the old stories. In particular her Little Selkie story (Little Mermaid retelling) is waaaay different from both the original and the Disney version.

    • Hi, Batgirl, thanks for stopping by! :)
      I haven’t read a ton of indie authors (it always seems so intimidating, searching out the good ones!) but I’m always open to suggestions so thank you! I’ll check that one out.
      Have you seen they’re doing a live action version of Mulan? YAY! :)
      By the way, I really like to visit my commenters’ blogs/comment back if at all possible and I can’t find your site (if you have one) through Disqus, so feel free to leave your link here if you want! :)

      • Batgirl

        Yes I did see the plans for the Mulan live action. Very excited! (But also doubtful they can make it better than the animated movie. I don’t know how they will recreate the panda riding scene.)
        I have a Disqus account but not a blog, lol. I’ve had several blogs over the years but I am never motivated enough to keep them going. :

        • Haha YES the panda riding scene!! I’ve forgotten all about that. I have to watch the movie again. Though if they can make convincing dragons, I’m sure pandas would be easy :)
          Ah, ok then. I just wanted to check. I’m actually really surprised by myself – this blog is more than a year old! I’ve started… three? Yeah. Three blogs before this one and I never stuck with them. I’m glad I did this time! :)