An article in today's New York Times Styles section looks at Cinderella mania, an affliction striking girls as young as 2 who obsess over sparkly blue ball gowns, Magical Talking vanity mirrors and special pink and blue DVD players. Mothers from New York to Colorado are quoted about the ubiquity of the trend, and the fact that lust for Cinderella-wear causes competitiveness among small girls. "It's all about who has the nicest costume," Suzanne Brady of Wantaugh, N.Y., told the Times. "I feel like I have to out-do everybody because everyone is going to be Cinderella. It's who's got the tiaras, the dresses, the shoes."
Disney prefers to focus on the transformative powers of the Cinderella experience. "She has almost everything a girl needs," Mary Beech, vice president of girls' franchise brands for Disney, told the Times. "A fairy godmother, royal ball, fabulous ball gowns, a royal coach." (Disney told Salon something similar last year in an article about the spectacular success of the Disney Princesses line.) Beech does not address the fact that the line also seems to inspire rabid consumerism and a preoccupation with vanity, but hey -- that's a job for the cultural critics.
The Times story also notes that the present-day incarnation of Cinderella is all blinged out, unlike the Cinderella of yesterday, a modest waif who scrubbed floors and dressed in tatters. "The beauty and material possession competition fostered by the consumer Cinderella campaign contradicts the folkloric message that a princess is someone who merits ascendancy," Alida Allison, a professor at the National Center for the Study of Children's Literature at San Diego State University, told the Times. "Not just someone who can afford it."
Interestingly, while Cinderella seems to inspire girls to obtain as many Cinderella-themed luxuries as possible, it doesn't necessarily mean that they care -- or even know anything about -- the Cinderella story, either the original Grimm fairy tale or the Disneyfied version.
Maybe we should feel grateful, then, that the masses of little girls trying on glass slippers have no idea that they are supposed to wear their fabulous footwear en route to a life with Prince Charming.