Extra: The Cinderella set up

extraThere are some stories that are so timeless they have been retold in various forms longer than any scholar could even begin to guess. This is especially true of folklore, often in forms we now refer to as “fairy tales.” The tale of Cinderella is perhaps the most well known, and in no small part from Disney’s popular animated version (the live actions they’ve done have never stuck well). Of course, Disney was by no means the first to tackle this story. Heavens no. The Cinderella tale, also known as the rags-to-riches story, has been told and retold all over the world for hundreds of years. In fact, no one knows for sure where the story began. As soon as one old tale that seems the be the “original,” known academically as the “Ur tale,” is found, another text shows up even older and on the other side of the world to boot. It is for this reason (among others) that many professors believe the Ur tale to be a myth itself. They often believe that these stories stem from basic human needs or some kind of collective human consciousnesses. But regardless of whether or not you believe such theories, the fact remains that these motifs and plots are used heavily in nearly every culture in the world.

Which brings me to Fruits Basket‘s main heroine: Tohru. She’s a near perfect example of the Cinderella character. She has a painful past, yet smiles. She had a horrid family, yet remains kind. She is overworked and taken advantage of by others, yet continues to be cheerful. All of these attributes are seen in Cinderella’s heroine, even in the odder versions from various points on the globe. The universal idea that a girl who does not lose her integrity and “goodness” despite being in bad circumstances shall surely be rewarded in the end is pretty strong in this show. And, of course, there are two very separate camps on whether or not this Cinderella tale is as wonderful as it first seems.

One camp of thinking is that this kind of selflessness is demeaning to women. That the entire story was (and still is) a way to tell women to take whatever hardship and abuse come their way with a smile and a submissive nature that never questions anything. I fully admit that this is a compelling point considering that there are indeed many folk tales that were used as… “instructional” materials, to put it gently. However, like many stories that have been retold so many times, whatever intentions may have first existed in the stories’ creation, new ideas have indeed been added and the “point” of Cinderella may not be as straight forward as it seems. After all, is not hardship inevitable for many in life? How many exist in the world in situations that are horrible through no fault of their own? Bad things can and will happen in our lives. Should we use these bad events to justify being angry, spiteful and hateful people ourselves? I certainly hope not! And so, the Cinderella tale still makes a good point or two – so says the second camp of thinking.

I’m more in the middle myself. You will get angry over things that happen in your life that are unfair. Emotions are a part of us and that will never change. But the strength is in not allowing those emotions to control you. Not in never having them at all. And so while the Cinderella tale – and characters based off of it – has a message we all need to strive towards (that is, not letting the events around you control who you are), I think it’s a bit more understandable – and healthy! – to see a bit more of the emotions one must conquer first. Genuinely smiling after someone has cruelly bullied you is no easy task. You have to face the rage and pain inside you first. It’s not impossible to move on, it’s just not quite as easy as Cinderella (and Tohru) would lead many to believe.

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About inrosegalaxy

Raised on everything from Moby Dick to the Star Wars X-Wing books from a young age, it came as no surprise to anyone who knew me that I’d become a literature graduate and avid writer. But my love of a good story wasn’t restricted to the written word in my early years. Star Trek, Mystery Science Theater 3000, and badly dubbed Godzilla flicks helped shape my love of science fiction on screen as well. I wrote my first story while in the second grade. It was a horrifying tale about murdering a fairy-eating dog via a slice of pizza (in my defense, my only exposure to pizza was in the cafeteria and I swear you could legitimately kill someone with those things). I was a special snowflake. Today I write science fiction, fairy tales, Gothic epistolaries, fantasy and anything else that pops into my bizarre and twisted mind. I write new articles for my blog every Tuesday and Thursday. And if you happen to fancy Japanese animation, I also run an anime review blog, RRAR, which updates every Monday.

3 thoughts on “Extra: The Cinderella set up

  1. Another great observation there. It so happens Fruits Basket is one of my favorite shows. And as a man speaking, I have never seen Tohru in such a negative light as that first camp of thought you mentioned does.

    Tohru is a woman who loves her friends and happens to show it by cooking and other similar things. While not all women do this, it is certainly not limited to women but it.
    But actually, that misses the point: here you have a woman who is precisely what these Zodiaks need: someone mature to be an example for them to follow and provide that outside friendship they craved from the uncursed. Considering the cat, we see Tohru continue to try to understand and enlighten the cat to accept who he is and to love not for the purpose of getting anything in return (the definition of love like with your child), so that he might mature and be content with where he is.

    Naturally, this is more of a broad brush over the show, but one cannot escape to notice it is Tohru who is in fact the mature one, and who is really in control of sorts, and who is teaching them what maturity means and what repentance is.

    I personally love the admirable character of that woman. While people often try to imprint their failures as a way to justify their lack of character, its not like Tohru was always strong, we see that. But Tohru’s vision and character is the cure for the Zodiaks salvation, whether or not they are cured from the curse or not….which, I may note, is not shown.
    When considering the story, there is no factual or intrinsic derogatory viewpoint of women presented (oof, a lot of adjectives there).

    It is naive to say all events in a show are being promoted. Just because a woman kills another and is put to death for example, has little to do with women as a category itself being more evil or what. Context and the world view of the show is essential.

    Sadly, such feminists (feminazies as often is shown) or wannabes assume their world view is what is presented, as if a story can’t be a parody or satire. These godless, ungrateful, selfish people are always comparing themselves with others and unsurprisingly find something to complain about in the Cinderella’s of the world.
    They hate humility unless its a facade for something, and so see Tohru as fake… but that’s the thing, we all have the potential to be great men or women of God.

    It just starts with being humble.

    • Humility is very misunderstood today, which I think only makes these kinds of misunderstandings worse.
      Even though I have a hard time with what many call “faminazies,” (try taking upper division lit courses. You can’t swing a dead cat without running into badly written “feminist” arguments that get As because the teachers doesn’t want to be called sexist), I can understand the worry. Many fairy tales do indeed shrink women down to an embarrassing simplicity. The “Angel of the House” mentality is still in effect today. That’s the idea that woman have to be either angels or demons. No middle ground. So I can see where the bitterness comes from. I’ve been through that crud myself.
      BUT that’s why keeping the right frame of mind is so important. Yes, there are sick views of women out there and those need to be handled. But that doesn’t give a green card to crying wolf whenever a bush rustles. It also doesn’t give a free pass for bad behavior. Regardless of who treats you badly, male or female, you should show yourself to be loving. Nothing makes someone stop and reevaluate their lives like seeing kindness where there shouldn’t be any. Because what humility is is right thinking. Right thinking about yourself and others. We are all no better – or less than! – anyone else. We are all human begins who need love and should have respect for each other. Humbleness is that right thinking in action. There’s nothing “weak” or “subservient” about it really.

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