After watching Cinderella (the original animated movie, which was my favorite as a child), it strikes me how it solves many common problems people have with this fairy tale. Like:
Why did they try to identify the mystery girl using her shoe size? Because the bullheaded king's only clue to her identity was the shoe the Grand Duke picked up off the steps.
Why didn't the prince recognize her by her face? Because his father wouldn't involve him in the process at all, and wasn't the one going around trying to find her.
Why did the prince want to marry a lady he only met that night? Because his father was going to force him to marry someone, and he genuinely liked this woman.
Why did Cinderella want to marry a man she only met that night? Because marriage was her best and most secure way to freedom. Fucked up, but you can't say it's unrealistic for the setting of a fairy tale. She also genuinely liked him.
If they're using the slipper to find her, wouldn't it be more sensible to search for the person with the other slipper? Yes. The King is purposefully nonsensical and the Duke is purposefully terrified enough of him to carry out his orders to the letter. Furthermore, they end up doing that in the end anyway, because the Duke's glass slipper is shattered, and Cinderella brings out the one she has to prove her identity.
Why didn't the stepmother and stepsisters recognize Cinderella at the ball? Because they were dancing too far away, and then left the party to dance in private, which was possible because the King wanted very badly for his son to hit it off with someone and tried to arrange the best conditions for that to happen.
Why didn't Cinderella save herself? Because in real life, abuse victims should not have to shoulder that responsibility, and usually can't. In real life, you need and deserve an external support system. Asking for help, in this kind of situation, is very important. She is saved by others because she is loved. Because she is not alone. Because she has friends who love her, and want her to be happy and safe and free. Because in real life, people who want to help someone who is suffering are like the mice. We can't pull out miracle solutions, but we can provide companionship and if we're in the right place at the right time, we can help the person find a better life.
Why didn't the fairy godmother save Cinderella from her abusive household, or try to help her sooner? Because she's magic, and magic can't solve your problems. Quote: "Like all dreams, well, I'm afraid it can't last forever." This (and Cinderella's dream of going to the ball) is a metaphor for pleasurable things in bad circumstances. An ice cream won't get rid of your depression, but it will provide you with momentary happiness to bolster you, as well as the reminder that happiness in general is still possible for you. Cinderella doesn't want to go to the ball so she can get away from her stepmother and stepsisters, or so she can meet someone to marry and leave with. She wants to go to the ball to remind herself that she can still have things she wants. That her desires matter. This is important because the movie does a very good job of illustrating Lady Tremaine's subtle abuse tactics, all of which invisibly press the message that Cinderella doesn't matter. While going to the ball and fulfilling her dreams may not be a victory in the material sense, it is still a victory against Lady Tremaine's efforts.
Why is Cinderella's choice to be kind and obedient framed as a good thing, when you are not obligated to be kind to your abuser? This one walks a very fine line, but I think the movie still makes it make sense. Lady Tremaine never acknowledges her cruelty. She always frames her punishments of Cinderella as Cinderella's fault. Cinderella is interrupting, Cinderella is shirking her duties, Cinderella is playing vicious practical jokes. Cinderella is still a member of the family, of course she can go to the ball, provided she meet these impossible conditions. Lady Tremaine's tactics are designed to make Cinderella feel like she must always be in the wrong and her stepmother must always be in the right. If Cinderella calls her stepmother out on her cruelty, or attempts to fight back, Lady Tremaine can frame that as Cinderella being ungrateful, cruel, broken, evil, etc. If Cinderella responds to her stepmother's cruelty defiantly (in the way she's justified to), she's not taking control out of Lady Tremaine's hands. Disobedience can be spun back into her stepmother's control. She wants Cinderella to be angry and sad and show how much she's hurting. So since Cinderella is adapting to her situation, she chooses to be kind. Not only because she naturally wants to be and it's part of her personality, but because it is a form of defiance in its own way, and it allows her to keep a reminder of her agency and value. Her choice to be kind is her chance to keep her own narrative alive: she is not obeying because her stepmother wants her to and she has to do what her stepmother does, but because she wants to. It's a small distinction, but one that makes all the difference in terms of keeping her hope and identity. (Fuck, I wrote a whole paragraph about how this doesn't mean you can't be angry at people who hurt you or that you need to be kind to deserve help, and then deleted it by accident. Uh. Try again.) Expressing anger and pain is an important part of regaining autonomy and healing. Although it is commendable to be kind while you are suffering, it is NOT required for you to get help or be worthy of help. If Cinderella's recovery was explored beyond "happily ever after" she would need to let herself be angry and sad to heal. Cinderella is not only kind because it comes naturally to her, but because it's her defense against the abuse she's suffering. Everyone's story and experiences are different, and one does not invalidate the other.
Bonus round for answers that aren't part of the movie:
Why didn't Cinderella run away? Where would she go? Genuinely, in hundreds-of-years-ago France, where would she go if she snuck out of the window with a change of clothes? With her step-family, she's miserable and abused, but she's fed, clothed, and in no danger of dying or being taken advantage of by anyone other than her stepmother and stepsisters. Even if she escapes and manages to find financial security, her stepmother might be able to find her and get her back.
Why didn't Cinderella burn the house down with them inside it/slit their throats in the night/poison their food/etc.? Because that's a revenge fantasy, and this story is a fantasy about being saved. There's nothing wrong with making Cinderella into a revenge fantasy. That's perfectly fine, as long as you acknowledge that the other type of fantasy is also a valid interpretation. (I mean, the original fairy tale features the stepsisters getting their feet mutilated and all three of them getting their eyes pecked out, so go for it.)
Why isn't Cinderella more proactive in general? Because she's a child who has been abused for the back half of her life, who has had to be focused on survival because. you know. she's an abused kid.
How did she dance in glass slippers? Gotta agree with you there man, that's weird.