Cinderella might be dead, but that magical fairytale feel and feminism are alive in the new book that is out today from author, Kalynn Bayron. Imagine the Cinderella story that you know (and perhaps love), but instead, it’s feminist af with a f/f romance featuring a Black Cinderella and Merida’s twin (warrior + curly red hair = Constance) taking on (and perhaps down? no spoilers here) the patriarchy.
If you’re not sold already, we have a review coming later this week, and Kalynn talks a bit more down below about what behind her fresh take on the classic story and perhaps another old school fairytale that could use a feminist reboot – and *hint hint, pubs, we want it and need it*
Title: Cinderella is Dead
Author: Kalynn Bayron
Genre: Young Adult | Fantasy, Fairytale Retelling, LGBTQIA+
Release Date: July 7 2020
Publisher: Bloomsbury YA
It’s 200 years after Cinderella found her prince, but the fairy tale is over. Teen girls are now required to appear at the Annual Ball, where the men of the kingdom select wives based on a girl’s display of finery. If a suitable match is not found, the girls not chosen are never heard from again.
Kalynn’s challenge: What other classic fairytale could use a feminist take like your book, Cinderella is Dead?
Cinderella is a hugely popular fairytale. There are elements of that story that are instantly recognizable; the glass slippers, the fairy godmother, the familiar beats of the story that tell of a young girl who is mistreated by her step-family and finds her happily ever after with Prince Charming. I adore a good fairytale, but there is so much room to expand and explore within these stories.
So many fairytales incorporate common themes of rampant misogyny, villainous women, and happy endings that are only attainable by way of marrying a knight in shining armor or Prince Charming himself. These tales assume that a girl is always in want of a boy, that nothing outside that binary construct exists, that women should be distrustful of other women, and that you must be saved and elevated to a position of power in order to be valued. If we are to reimagine these tales, it’s important to remember that one of the key tenants of feminism should be fighting for women to be able to make the choices that are best for them, as individuals. If you want to imagine yourself as a princess, you should be able to do that. I want that for you! The issue with a lot of these stories is that the choice is eliminated and we rarely get to see a young girl choose this path for herself. The story is always the same—young girl finds happiness only when she is rescued by Prince Charming and only at that point does her existence become meaningful and important. It reinforces heteronormativity, patriarchy, misogyny, and there is an almost complete erasure of BIPOC and LGBTQ+ BIPOC.
These fairytales could be so much more. They could do so much more. I’d like to see all the popular fairytales redone. Every single one! And I’d like to see them be more inclusive of all kinds of women. Sometimes when we talk about feminist retellings, we stress the notion of bad ass women with swords and fighting skills, but bad ass women are not a monolith. There is room for women who are soft, who are gentle, who are messy. There is room for young women who don’t have it all figured out, who make mistakes and who are learning who they are and what they stand for.
A classic fairytale I’d like to see redone is Hansel & Gretel. This story irks me! Not only is the step-mom horrible (she tried to leave them in the woods the first time and it didn’t work so she had to try again—yikes) but so is the witch. How many terrible women does this story need? I’d like to see something more along the lines of the recent film remake Gretel & Hansel by Oz Perkins. The witch has more agency as does Gretel. Maybe I’ll work on this one day!
Fairytales are entertainment but they absolutely have long lasting effects on us and how we view the world and our place in it. Classic stories are a product of the time they were created in, which is just another reason why they should be remade to reflect the richness that other points of view bring to these tales.
More About Kalynn Bayron
Kalynn Bayron is an author and classically trained vocalist. She grew up in Anchorage, Alaska. When she’s not writing you can find her listening to Ella Fitzgerald on loop, attending the theater, watching scary movies, and spending time with her kids. She currently lives in San Antonio, Texas with her family.
What other fairytales do you want to see taken on with a feminist twist? Let’s discuss in the comments below!