The other day, US News & World Report ran a story on “Cinderella.” Bottom line: the new Disney film perpetuates the wrong image of the famous fairy tale character. She’s not the “sweet, accommodating and passive heroine” we’ve been led to believe; in earlier versions of the tale, Cinderella was really a brave, clever, assertive, savvy and ambitious princess.
The story quotes Jane Yolen, “one of America’s best-known storytellers.” As far back as 1977, she warned that the 1950 Disney version of “Cinderella” sends kids the wrong message.
Instead of learning that a wish and action can make dreams come true, children learn “only to wait for something or someone to save them.”
It’s not enough today, Yolen says, to rely solely on niceness.
She should know. A child of the 1950s — a time when gender roles were far more rigidly enforced than today — she carved an exciting path for herself.
And she did it in Westport.
The author or editor of more than 280 books — including Holocaust novella The Devil’s Arithmetic, and How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight — she was a dynamo at Staples. Before graduating in 1956 she was news editor of the school paper Inklings, captain of the girls basketball team, and vice president of the Spanish and Latin Clubs.
She also sang in the choir, served on the yearbook and Soundings literary magazine staffs, won 2 “Voice of Democracy” contests, and worked as a Westport Library page and Sunday school teacher.
Yolen went on to Smith College, and published her 1st book at 22. She also raised 3 children.
Far fewer doors were open to young women 60 years ago than today. But Jane Yolen walked (or, more likely, ran) through the ones that were — and probably pushed a few stuck ones open herself.
Sounds as if young girls (and boys) in 2015 should be watching a movie about her.
(To learn more about Jane Yolen’s life, click on www.janeyolen.com)