Gender Roles – Women
Self-Esteem and Body Image
Gender Roles - Women: 5 Stars
Danielle De Barbarac plays the usual role of a servant to her vain and abusive step-family, but there is an undeniable strength to her character. She works tirelessly to keep her father's estate in order and to take care of the few family servants that remain employed at the manor. She does not take orders because she is weak or submissive, but out of simple care and necessity. She is also a self-educated woman, with a passion for knowledge and social justice. And though there are few opportunities for her to put this passion to use, she takes advantage of every opportunity to enlighten Prince Henry, and to pursue her dreams through him.
Self-Esteem and Body Image: 5 Stars
Ever After doesn’t attempt to feed us the traditional story of a beautiful young girl terrorized by two “ugly” stepsisters. Instead, Danielle’s stepsister, Marguerite, is both cruel and strikingly beautiful. As a result, we are given a more complicated story in which Prince Henry must chose Danielle, not because she is the most beautiful, but because her personality moves something in him. He must reject Marguerite not because she is hideous, but because she is vapid and entitled.
In addition, Danielle’s other stepsister, Jacqueline, is average in features, but turns out to be caring and thoughtful - reversing the popular framework in which “ugly” is hateful and “beautiful” is kind. The film also contains warm portrayals of the servant women in Danielle’s manor, and elegant portrayals of older women such as the Baroness de Ghent and Queen Marie. The overall result is compelling and powerful.
Plot: 4 Stars (Spoilers)
Although the plotline of Ever After is focused on the love story between Danielle and Prince Henry, the film includes a number of scenes that paint Danielle as a hero and a leader. In one of Danielle’s very first scenes, she is able to prevent Prince Henry from stealing a horse by assaulting him with an apron full of apples. She then takes the gold that he offers her and devises a plan to buy back one of the family servants, Maurice, whom the Baroness has sold into slavery. Danielle is given numerous additional opportunities to prove herself, through the speeches she makes to Henry and by saving him from the gypsies. But by far her finest moment is when she confronts the Baroness de Ghent, who’s finally learned that Danielle has been impersonating a courtier and captured the heart of the prince. Despite the fact that she has been whipped for her earlier rebelliousness, Danielle can no longer contain her disdain for the behavior of her wicked family. She brazenly challenges the Baroness to answer for the missing candlesticks and draperies, and calls out Marguerite for her shameless games to win the Prince’s heart. While her outburst doesn’t slay dragons or break spells, there is something unquestionably brave in standing on principal and challenging the power structure, regardless of the end result.
Room for Improvement:
Gender Roles – Men
Gender Roles - Men: 2 Stars (Spoilers)
Prince Henry is an admittedly arrogant and listless character for most of the film, with only a few redeeming moments. He’s drawn to Danielle because she has a passion that is unfamiliar and intriguing to him, yet he mocks her ideals and has little regard for those beneath him. We’re led to believe that Danielle inspires a change in him, however, it’s questionable how much Henry truly changes. In one moment he’s waking up his father to declare that he wants to build a public university and invite the gypsies to the ball - in the next, he’s casting Danielle aside because he learns that she’s a servant and not a noblewoman. Henry eventually does humble himself for her, but it’s clear that Danielle falls for him before this change occurs.
It’s unfortunate that more wasn’t made of Danielle’s friend, Gustave, who certainly shares some of her passion and ideals. Ever After, like so many romances, encourages women to disregard their less attractive male friends in the hopes of transforming someone selfish and attractive into someone they can love. It always seems to work out on the screen, but less so in real life.
Character Development: 3 Stars (Spoilers)
Danielle’s character is somewhat contradictory in the first half of the film. She is strong-willed and outspoken with Prince Henry, and yet she is reduced to nodding along and tolerating the injustices in her own home. We do see a gradual transformation however, as the film progresses. She eventually challenges her stepmother and stepsisters after a long night with Henry and the Gypsies, by refusing to leave her bed and make them breakfast. This simple act of resistance leads to a series of conflicts that ends with Jacqueline tending to the lashes on Danielle’s back. This episode of violence not only helps to explain Danielle’s subservient behavior at home, but eventually leads Danielle to confront her stepmother on a more sensitive and personal matter. For a brief moment, she drops her unyielding strength and asks the Baroness if there was ever a time when she might have loved her. Although it might have been understood that Danielle was secretly hoping for love from this cruel women, it’s powerful to hear her ask for it. To recognize that Danielle has the same vulnerabilities as the rest of us. That sometimes even the strongest women want the wrong people to love them.
Love: 2 Stars
Cinderella stories are problematic because they are frequently set in a time and place where women have few prospects in life. Marriage is typically the only path out of poverty. As a result, Cinderella re-tellings often create worlds in which women battle each other for the opportunity to marry a handsome prince, but never address the underlying reason for all the stress. Even Ever After, which boasts a remarkably empowered servant girl as its heroine, never once mentions the social structures that force Danielle to bow to her stepmother’s cruelty. She quotes Sir Thomas Moore to Prince Henry and espouses ideals of social justice between the rich and the poor, but never once mentions the unequal status of women. To do so might kill the love story.
While the film provides ample opportunities for Danielle to be bold and daring, she still needs Henry to propose to her if she is to find a happy ending. There is little that is triumphant in Danielle’s lonely escape from Monsieur Le Pieu’s manor. We have no idea where she will go or how she will provide for herself until Henry appears to slip her misplaced shoe on her tender feet. It helps that he apologizes for the way he treated her at the ball, but at the same time, she has little choice but to forgive him.
Family: 3 Stars
Ever After contains a few pretty scenes that reveal the unique bond between Danielle and her father. He brings his daughter books on science and philosophy and allows her to play with one of the boys from the manor, Gustave, never restraining her with ideas of how a young lady ought to behave. Perhaps it was this progressive parenting that allowed Danielle to grow into the vibrant woman she eventually becomes.
Ever After is a de-mystified version of Cinderella, with no fairy godmothers or magic spells. It is the story of a woman named Danielle, who loses her father at a young age. She is raised by a critical and abusive stepmother, who is grooming her own daughter, Marguerite, to become queen. Danielle’s limited prospects change when she disguises herself as a courtier to save a family servant from slavery, and catches the attention of Prince Henry, the heir to the throne of France.
Kelly is a labor law