The Cinderella Story

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful young girl who lived with her evil stepmother and stepsisters. One day, Prince Charming who fell in love at first sight with this beautiful girl came to rescue her from her misery. And they lived happily ever after. 

As children —especially as girls—, we have heard this typical Cinderella story over and over. And we even learned to think of it as a romantic tale that all girls should strive to model. Without a doubt, the numbing gender boxing started at a young age. Good news is, young adults now know the tale of Cinderella is an insult. But is that a success to feminism? Or did we just grow out of insulting fairytales to insulting rest-of-the-society —say, mass media? 

“Fumer, c’est être l’esclave du tabac.”

Translation: Smoking, it is being enslaved to tobacco. With a powerful hook line, this French anti-smoking advertisement shows a girl giving oral sex to a man who, judging by his chubby beer belly and formal attire, is in his middle-ages, and has a white-collar job. Of course, his penis is a cigarette (because remember, this is an anti-smoking ad). The girl, who is in her mid-twenties at best, naively and helplessly gazes up to the man as he firmly and aggressively holds her head in place. Her makeup is minimal, and her cheeks are flushed like those of a little girl, and of course, she is petite.

Is this an eye-catching, in other words, “successful” advertisement? Perhaps. But what the ad is saying literally (through words) and descriptively (through image) is quite a leap away from each other. The underlying assumption of putting an image of a girl giving a blowjob to a powerful, old man while he keeps her tamed under his fat hand is an allusion to female submissiveness and gender roles — quite frankly in the most primitive aspect: sex. A “master” who has power over the “slave” is an old, socially upper-class male, while the slave is an innocent, helpless, girl-like female who is ironically considered sexier because of her innocence and young age. In addition, out of all the images of enslavement the ad could use, the choice was of course, oral sex. Because let us be honest, if we are going to dominate and enslave a girl sexually, might as well silence her. Shove a cigarette (or genital) in her mouth so that we can kill two birds with one stone: sexual pleasure and shutting her yappy mouth. 

As dismal as this *social awareness and health-related* advertisement may be, the even-more-unsettling-message the ad renders is the social construction of masculinity and femininity it embodies. A “true man” should be “alpha male.” In other words, only the dominant, powerful, aggressive, and controlling man is a true man who is considered sexy and macho. And obviously, such masculine features are what woo the ladies, because desirable ladies are submissive, innocent, controlled, beautiful, and brainless and hence need their prince charming to swoop in and rescue them from their miserable little world. It is, indeed, a waiting game for the ladies. Waiting for Mr. Perfect to finally complete their lives because without the men, who would they be? What would they be? —Worthless. Thus all the ladies can do for themselves is sit and put makeup on and remain skinny until they find the best alpha male out there to have (or give) sex with. 

So no, we have not escaped the shadows of Cinderella. Rather, our society slyly indulged in different forms of it using mass media. People are exposed to media and consequently a plethora of advertisements every day, and most of the ads involve female degradation and gender inequality. Thus it is no time to applaud the fact that people can point out the gender indignities classic Disney movies have been perpetrating; it is time to look around because Disney movies are probably not even close to being the primary propaganda of female objectification and gender stereotypes.