The Cliffs of Insanity: Kindness Shouldn’t Make You a Doormat

Lily James as Cinderella, in one of her few moments of doing what she wants. Image via Walt Disney Co.

Hello and welcome to this week’s adventures climbing the cliffs of insanity. This week, I ponder why the kindness displayed in Big Hero 6 and Disney’s new live action Cinderella struck me so differently, Wonder Woman gets a new costume as DC doubles down on stabby things, and, down at the bottom of the post, you’ll see a Goodreads widget to win one of my books in softcover. Enter fast, as the giveaway ends tonight, March 13. 

But first, the virtues of kindness and how they’re perceived differently for men and women.

The twins, now 15, came with me to a press screening of Cinderella last week. I had no preconceptions about what this new movie would be like, though I hoped the fairytale had been updated for modern times. Instead, what we watched was essentially a live-action version of the animated film from 1950. It entertained all of us, save for a slow beginning, and any movie with Derek Jacobi and Richard Madden (Robb Stark) can’t be all bad. Plus, Lily James did a fine job with the title role.

But the story itself bothers me for reasons I couldn’t articulate at first.

I thought of how much I loved Baymax’s kindness in Big Hero 6 and how that story taught Hiro that violence and rage aren’t the answer. So why did Cinderella’s kindness in the face of a stepmother who hated her and stepsisters who dismissed her make me so angry?

The answer is that Baymax exists to help Hiro deal with his anger and grief. Hiro’s story is that he must control his darker emotions and become a hero. Also, Baymax doesn’t stand by and do what Hiro asks him to do. He becomes involved, literally pushing his way into Hiro’s life.

In contrast, Cinderella’s story showed the death of her parents and her home being turned into a virtual prison. Her reaction? Just let them because it’s… courageous? All Cinderella has to do is to exist, let her innate goodness shine through, and all will be well.

Kindness is why the Prince falls in love with Cinderella and why the Fairy Godmother (wonderfully played by Helena Bonham Carter) gives Cinderella the night off and the dress. Cinderella has no character journey. She’s the same lovely girl at the end of the story as she was at the beginning.

Cinderella the movie tells us that women should be kind and deal with all sorts of horrible things, and if they do and just wait around, good things will happen. If you believe that, perhaps there’s this bridge in Brooklyn I can sell you.

Worse, Cinderella isn’t kind at the end. Yes, she forgives her stepmother, but that gesture is hollow because the narration informs us that the woman and her daughters have been banished from the kingdom. Now, that’s cruel because these three women have no means of supporting themselves and while the stepmother may have earned her fate, the daughters knew no better. Aside: How did Cate Blanchett manage to somehow make me sympathize with the stepmother in several scenes? Possibly because the character’s fear came through.

Cinderella could have been shown being proactive and won over her stepsisters’ allegiance at the end through kindness. That would have made her more proactive, kept the fairytale mostly intact, and made the kindness into a superpower of sorts, as Baymax does.

Alas, that’s not the movie we get.


Onto Another Princess… One Who Seems to Never Traffic in Kindness Anymore

Page 1 of a Children's board book about Wonder Woman.
Page 1 of a children’s board book about Wonder Woman. WW copyright DC Comics.
The new Wonder Woman costume coming in April. Image via DC Comics
The new Wonder Woman costume coming in April. Image via DC Comics.

When I said DC seemed to consider Wonder Woman “Princess McStabby Sword,” that wasn’t a suggestion. I was being ironic. And yet here’s the new Wonder Woman costume, beginning in April. First thing I noticed: Why does she look so angry?

Second thing I noticed: Why does she have two swords now? Has she been watching Wolverine: Origins?

The rest of the costume is a bit busy, but mostly fine. But this is not Wonder Woman. It’s some angry warrior who seems ready to poke out your eyes.

I want the Wonder Woman from the first image. This is from the introductory page of a children’s board book. In three short sentences, it provides young readers with a perfect encapsulation of Princess Diana. If a children’s book knows who Wonder Woman is, why doesn’t DC Comics?

Moving Onto a Prince
Ghost Phoenix is the third book in my Phoenix Institute superhero series and the one that features a lost prince from history as the hero. I like to think the heroine is kind. But her journey in the book is to stop being a doormat for her family and create her own path in the world. That’s my version of the fairytale.

Writer, Mom, Geek and Superhero. though usually not all four on the same day. Author of the award-winning Phoenix Institute Superhero series and the steampunk novel, The Curse of the Brimstone Contract.