We all know the step-sister from Cinderella that ends up reforming in the sequels. However, many people seem to have criticisms about her because they feel that she shouldn't have been forgiven by Cinderella, there was nothing to show that she deserved to be redeemed, and that it's ridiculous that she got to be redeemed but Drizella didn't. First of all, I think I need to explain where this idea of Anastasia reforming came from. In the original Charles Perrault version of Cinderella, Cinderella's real name was actually Ella. When she became a servant she would sleep by the fireplace to keep warm and would have ash cover her. Her step-mother and one of her step-sisters called her Cinder-Slut but the younger step-sister, who was not as spiteful and was slightly more sympathetic, referred to her as Cinderella. That is where the idea of making one of the step-sisters redeem herself. But I know the question is, why Anastasia and not Drizella? What makes Anastasia so special? Well, let's take a look at the original film for that answer.
At first look at the movie, especially since people don't pay enough attention to is, it appears that Anastasia is just as horrible as Drizella. However, if you pay enough attention, you'll see that Drizella is a lot worse than Anastasia. One instance is that when Anastasia is playing the flute and gets her finger stuck in one of the holes, she ends up accidentally hitting her sister with the flute below the neck. Drizella clearly sees that Anastasia was struggling to get her finger free when she moves away from the flute, but she grabs the flute from Anastasia and hits her on the head with it, calls her clumsy, and claims that she did it on purpose. Anastasia in turn retaliates by hitting Drizella on the head with her flute and says "You always think it's my fault," her mother interrupts them arguing and Anastasia says that it's Drizella's fault. It's likely that anytime Anastasia does something clumsy or by accident that Drizella taunts and abuses her. It's likely that when Anastasia is abusing Cinderella it's just her taking out her frustration of being abused by her sister (to which her mother does not punish Drizella for) out on Cinderella. I'm not saying that this gives Anastasia a good excuse to abuse Cinderella because two wrongs don't make a right but I do understand it from a psychological sense. Also whenever their making fun of Cinderella, it's always Drizella who starts it and Anastasia just follows to keep her mother's approval (who has raised her daughters to believe that Cinderella is beneath them) and avoid taunting from Drizella. Drizella is the one who taunts the idea of Cinderella going to the ball first and is the first one to destroy Cinderella's dress, Anastasia merely followed, likely to avoid the disapproval of her mother and the taunting of her sister. Drizella is the more aggressive one who always starts the fights with Anastasia and is the one who starts the taunting of Cinderella. Such as when Anastasia accidentally steps on Drizella's dress and Drizella just pulls her dress, causing Anastasia to trip and almost fall face down on the ground, humiliating her in front of the prince. Another instance is how Anastasia is going over to the mirror to get ready for the Grand Duke but Drizella rudely just kicks Anastasia out of the way. You also can see in that exact scene that Anastasia is nervous about the whole thing, likely because it's her chance to find love and marry the prince, where as Drizella isn't nervous at all but instead sees it as a way to improve her status, causing her to aggressively push Anastasia out of her way to look in the mirror and get ready. Plus if you notice in the scene where Lady Tremaine tells her daughters about the glass slipper and they start getting ready but they notice Cinderella looks strange. Anastasia simple replies "What's the matter with her?" where as Drizella says "WAKE UP STUPID!" Showing that Drizella is definitely MUCH more aggressive and cruel than Anastasia was. I will admit that for a LONG time I couldn't figure out why Anastasia reformed but Drizella didn't. But when I think about it, Anastasia was the softer and less aggressive one, so therefore she was the logical choice.
Cinderella 2: Dreams Come True
Now we get to Anastasia actually redeeming herself, at least in this alternate universe, since the sequels don't exactly have continuity with each other. We see that Anastasia is longing for romance and Drizella is acting abusive towards Anastasia once again by pushing her out of the way so she can use her mirror and ruining Anastasia's ribbon. Her mother again is trying to get her daughter's married off and plans on using Cinderella's ball as an opportunity. She sees both of her daughters as ways to improve her social class and likely doesn't even love them, though whether or not she loves them is debatable.
We also get to see Anastasia fall in love with the local Baker but her mother forbids it because she thinks the Baker is beneath her, unfortunately Anastasia is too afraid to go against her mother. I think this supports my theory that Anastasia did what she did in the original to keep her mother's approval because I think she fears her mother. Anastasia is quite timid and of course wants her mother's love, not knowing that her mother is too unfeeling to love anyone. Anastasia seems to not know what real love or happiness is. She can't even do a real smile because she's never had a real reason to genuinely smile. Her mother always taught her to be fake and plastic. A scene that I love that shows her genuinely smiling is when she gives a shy little girl a flower. When she's finally being kind and experiencing real love, she's finally happy and is able to let the true beauty inside of her out.
Speaking of beauty, I think I should talk about hers. Another reason I think she abused Cinderella was because she was jealous of her drop dead gorgeous looks. In the original she was portrayed as ugly but in the sequels she's only portrayed as plain compared to Cinderella. The creators said they made her head shaped more appealing looking and made her smile beautiful. Unfortunately, she's not a conventionally beautiful young woman. She even says in this movie that she needs more than just a little help because she's so clumsy and plain. She has her make-over and is feeling beautiful for once in her life, almost like she was a princess and Cinderella. However, she loses her hope when she thinks she sees the Baker giving flowers to a pretty young girl (who is actually just a friend). She feels like a fool for thinking that anyone would love her because she's ugly and completely unloveable. She's never had real love in her life, not even from her own family (though we don't know much about her father), and for once she thought someone could love her but her hopes were ruined. She even says to the Baker when he finds her "Don't look at me! I look horrible!"
It's very true that neither one of them is conventionally attractive, so it's obvious that it wasn't their looks that they fell for. They could see what was inside the other. She saw a sweet, kind, caring, and romantic man who even fought a goat just to save one flower. He saw a woman who deep down had a good heart and just needed someone to help her see the beauty that's inside. He couldn't care less what she looked like and loved her for who she was, knowing this caused Anastasia to finally stand up to her mother, something she had never done before. Plus, I think she's beautiful in an unconventional way but she's even more beautiful on the inside, which is conventional.
It's in this movie was we start to see some similarities between Cinderella and Anastasia. They both have dreams of happiness but are kept from it because of Lady Tremaine's prejudice (against Cinderella, which keeps her from Charming, and against the Baker, which keeps Anastasia away from her happiness), both have an abusive sister, their dresses are ruined and they run off crying, Anastasia receives help in gaining confidence and obtaining a more attractive appearance from Cinderella (much like she did from her Fairy Godmother), both think they will have their happily ever after but their dreams are shattered and cry (Cinderella when she's locked in her room and Anastasia when she thinks the Baker is giving flowers to a pretty young girl but is actually just a friend), and thanks to love and courage their dreams come true in the end. But they also grow a strong bond with each other because of Cinderella's kindness. Cinderella is a very big person to forgive Anastasia like that and even try to help her. I think she sees some of herself in Anastasia and is grateful for the help she received, so she wants to help others, even Anastasia.
Cinderella 3: A Twist In Time
Once again, alternate universe, since the Cinderella sequels don't have continuity with each other. But either way, both sequels have a thing about making Anastasia complex, sympathetic, and redeemable. We see that Anastasia and Drizella are both forced to become servants to their mother, who won't get off her lazy ass to do anything. Anastasia is still being abused by Drizella, who attacks Anastasia just because she put some dishes in the sink. Along with that, suggests that her and Lady Tremaine beat Anastasia with a stick, starts a food fight at the palace, constantly insults Anastasia, and even suggests to their mother to turn Anastasia into a toad. And people wonder why Drizella was never redeemed? I sure as hell don't anymore!
We see that Anastasia still wants love and even looks enviously at Charming and Cinderella. She steals Fairy Godmother's wand and accidentally turns her to stone, which she instantly regrets. She now gets a chance to be with the Prince but is also conflicted because she's taking away Cinderella's happy ending. She's been in Cinderella's shoes by being treated like her, not only by her own mother, but also by her sister who is a servant just like her. So she's walked a year in Cinderella's shoes, though now she's walking to the palace in one of her glass slippers.
This movie also adds to the theory that Anastasia has never had real love in her life. When she keeps messing up when she's dancing with Charming, she seems afraid of what he'll say to her and keeps making excuses. When he's assuring her that it's alright and claims that he's probably just not up to date on the latest dance steps. He showed her kindness and it actually confused her at first because she's never known genuine kindness, which is probably another reason why she was rude to Cinderella when she was politely telling her good morning. She unfortunately mistakes kindness for true love. Charming does like Anastasia but I think it was more of as a friend and not true love like he felt for Cinderella.
This also brings up an actually very peculiar but also very unique, interesting, and heartwarming relationship between Anastasia and the King. There's a relationship you never thought you'd see or even think about. It reminds me of Toph and Iroh from Avatar: The Last Airbender, it's an odd relationship choice but it actually really works. Anastasia is once again afraid of having to gain someones approval but it turns out that the King loves that Anastasia is a horrible dancer. Why? Because it reminds him of his late wife, she used to step on his feet when they danced too, but he loved her anyway because she took very good care of his heart. He even gives her the Queen's most prized possession, a seashell that they found while walking along the beach the day they met. Their hands both touched it at the same time and when their hands touched they knew they had found true love. He helped Anastasia realize what true love really is and even treated her like his own daughter.
Lastly, her redemption. When Charming brings back Cinderella, Lady Tremaine turns Anastasia into Cinderella. So Anastasia is about to have everything she thought she ever wanted: riches, a prince, power, jewels, her mother's approval, and now is even drop dead gorgeous. She has everything she thought she ever wanted but she's not happy because she's not herself and she wants someone who loves her for who she is, not as someone else. She's not even sure if she'll be happy or if she even loves Charming. It's not until she touches his hand and realizes she doesn't, causing her to say "I..... don't..." at the wedding. She reunites Cinderella and Charming by putting their hands together. She even turns herself back into her true form, saying goodbye to the conventionally beauty she had been jealous of since she was a little girl. She in the end earns Cinderella's forgiveness because that's the kind of person Cinderella is. She's more of who we should be rather than a relatable person. It's very big of her to forgive Anastasia because a lot of people wouldn't. It's not good to hold a grudge and we should learn to forgive those who have caused us pain, whether or not they want forgiveness or not, because you'll feel SO MUCH better and you'll be the bigger person. Cinderella shows this message perfectly and Anastasia feels bad for what she's done but doesn't ask for forgiveness because she knows she doesn't deserve it. That's made clear with how she offers the King back the Queen's seashell because she says she doesn't deserve it. But she's shown to deserve forgiveness because "everyone deserves true love."
Once Upon A Time In Wonderland
Just so you know, I'm not going to talk about the Anastasia Tremaine from the live-action Cinderella because there is no complexity or layers to her. This Anastasia Tremaine (played by Emma Rigby), I will talk about. She's the only reason I watched this inferior spin-off, though at the time she was just the Red Queen and it wasn't until one of the last five episodes that they revealed her to be Anastasia Tremaine by bringing up that she thought that if the prince had chosen her instead of her step-sister that her mother would of loved her. Coincidence? I THINK NOT! I think it's awesome that they're portraying her as sympathetic and complex even outside of the Cinderella sequels. What's odd is that in the original TV series, Cinderella actually wasn't one of the main characters and has only appeared in a handful of episodes in all four seasons but Anastasia is one of the main characters in the spin-off.
Lady Tremaine continues to cause a lot of emotional problems for Anastasia by criticizing her for being with the one she loves, saying she knew she wasn't queen or princess material but that she should have at least landed a nobleman, basically calls her a disgrace, disowns her, and says that when (since she believes that Anastasia will come crawling back to her) she comes back to bring a bucket because she'll only be welcomed back by being a servant cleaning her chamber pot. This caused Anastasia to make bad choices in Wonderland, such as leaving her true love for the Red King and not going back to her love before the wedding (like she intended to after having second thoughts), because she felt that she had to prove herself, that she needed someones approval, and feared that she would die a nobody that nobody cared about. She even uses that pain to help her learn magic and for once feels empowered.
She starts off in the show as one of the two antagonists, the other being Jafar (played by Naveen Andrews), who are trying to get Alice (played by Sophie Lowe) to make all three of her wishes from her true love/genie, Cyrus (played by Peter Gadiot). The reason for this is because they need three certain genie lamps in order to change the laws of magic (you can't bring back the dead, you can't make someone love you, and you can't change the past) but they can't do that until Alice as made all three of her wishes. Anastasia wants to change the laws because she wants to change the past and stop herself from ever leaving her true love Will Scarlet/The Knave of Hears (played by Michael Socha), who is the Once Upon A Time counterpart of The Baker and was actually Alice's traveling companion. She reforms and joins the heroes side. At the end of the show she goes from the Red Queen to the White Queen, with her White King, Will, by her side ruling Wonderland in peace and harmony.
Anastasia is an amazing, complex, sympathetic, developed, and tragically underrated character. She's one of my favorite fictional characters and one of my favorite Disney characters. I actually love her more than all of the Disney Princesses, except Ariel, of course. I hope I have helped people see that there is more to Anastasia than they think and that her reforming isn't completely out of no where. Please comment and let me know what you think.