Sunday, November 2, 2008

Ella Enchanted

Ella Enchanted is like Cinderella meets Harry Potter. I debated whether to go with this or read a more serious book. But I went with this because it's fun and, let's face it, girls like fairytales. It's a book that I really enjoyed; however, I'm struggling to decide whether it's feminist or not.

Synopsis: The story opens with Ella as a child. Ella was given the "gift" of obedience when she's born. However, it's more of a curse because she's forced to do anything anyone tells her. When she's 15, her mother passes away. She meets a prince (Char) and although he leaves the country for a year, they write to each other frequently. Eventually he proposes to her, but she lies and says she's eloped with another man in an effort to protect him. She knows that if they were to marry, she could be forced to obey him. During the rest of the book Ella goes on this journey to find the fairy godmother that gave her the gift of obedience (this is where she fights ogres and other shitty people/creatures - which is really cool). At the end, Char holds a ball in order to meet a woman to marry. He finds Ella, who is in disguise, and follows her back home. Things get really Cinderella here, but it differs when he asks her to marry him, she finally breaks the curse and says yes. Yay yay happily ever after.

Pros:
The protagonist is a girl (Ella)
Ella is rebellious and super independent
She's cursed with obedience (I think this could be a metaphor)
She has pretty cool powers that get her out of sticky situations
She makes sacrifices to protect others
True love conquers all (this is debatable but I think it could be feminist)

Cons:
The whole thing is based on fairytales (which we know are questionable)
Much of the story is centered around a boy (Prince Char)
Char comes to Ella's rescue more than once
In the end everything is ok because she got her man

My interpretation: If I had a daughter, I would let her read this. One can easily argue that the story lacks some creativity and might not be the BEST story for girls. However, I think it's pretty cool. I was definitely emotionally invested throughout it and I think Ella is a pretty good role model. (I mean, she can speak ogre - who wouldn't want to do that?). I think it's interesting that her curse is obedience. It's like most women and girls in general - they're expected to do as they're told. It's especially interesting here, because she's a naturally rebellious girl. However, because she's cursed, no matter how much she fights it, she cannot break the curse. (Perhaps a metaphor for patriarchy? Or am I thinking too much into this?) Romance stories are fun sometimes, and at least in this one, the protagonist is not passive, unlike in most other fairytales. All in all, this is a good/safe book for girls.

1 comment:

shypoetfiore said...

Barbara Walker has a great book on reinventing fairy tales to make them feminist friendly, its a really fun text and you might enjoy it. -fiore