After over two weeks in theaters, Disney’s live-action Cinderella is going strong. A true-blue rendition of a 65-year-old cartoon has reaped a follow-through to make modern rivals jealous. Its second week nearly upstaged The Divergent Series: Insurgent’s first.
For many, Cinderella director Kenneth Branagh’s shift from filming unabridged Shakespeare to churning out blockbusters embodies Hollywood’s squandering of creative talent. Jacobin’s Eileen Jones even holds up the franchising of Branagh’s Thor as “a perfect example of how market competition does not actually provide us with the highest quality product.” This just might be overwrought. The Bard himself was a refiner and updater of existing lore who was considered lowbrow in his day. But above all, competition in today’s market culture is highly restrained.
The industry’s cultural production takes to heart Cinderella’s adage that “if you tell a wish, it won’t come true.” The Authors Guild’s Scott Turow, Paul Aiken and James Shapiro have disingenuously portrayed cultural enclosures putting Aladdin’s cave to shame as spontaneous, the walls around Shakespeare’s theater The Globe — and its moneybox — “went virtual.” But without distortion by state subsidy, market forces alone can never be enough to sustain them and their attendant play-it-safe guarantees.
The true embodiment of wealth isn’t past glories turned to hoarded gold, but living talent which has often stubbornly fled the castle. In a time when the basic cel animation process was still under a patent monopoly, Ub “The Hand Behind the Mouse” Iwerks left the Mouse to produce stylishly surreal cartoons in his own independent studio. His successors range all the way to How to Train Your Dragon’s Chris Sanders.
Given the stiff, albeit limited, competition, there is evidently considerable audience demand for the straightforward retelling of Branagh’s Cinderella. But how would Branagh fare if the drawbridge was lowered? All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put alternate-scenario consumer decisions together again.
Turow, Aiken and Shapiro’s fret — “Would the Bard Have Survived the Web?” — sees open bazaars as a threat to the safeguarding of cultural treasure in hidden caves. Their jeremiad forebodes something very much like the midnight chimes at the prince’s ball: abundance melting into squalor, the imaginative left to daydream while stuck at whatever available menial jobs remain.
In fact, the economic decentralization enabled by network communication can be a real-life Fairy Godmother. Doing ever more with less, it has the power to raise royal luxury out of the grubbiest of local resources — and to make every woman a princess.