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Netflix’s Damsel: Redefining the Fairytale


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Netflix’s Damsel: Redefining the Fairytale

Netflix’s Damsel: Redefining the Fairytale

“Damsel” isn’t afraid to get dark. It tackles complex themes of betrayal, family obligation, and the fight for survival.



Having just watched Damsel, I must say I was thoroughly impressed. The title and Disney conditioning might lead you to expect, Elodie (Millie Bobby Brown) as a damsel in distress, waiting for a prince to save her. But this is not your typical fairy tale! Damsel is brimming with symbolism that cleverly reflects the complexities of life. As I watched it, I couldn’t help but liken the plot to child-brides marriages and how women/girls are used to save a family from financial ruin. I won’t go down that rabbit hole since Zoleka already covered it in this article.

Let’s delve into the plot. Elodie, a young woman, agrees to marry a handsome prince for a practical reason: to save her poverty-stricken village. There’s no room for love here; it’s a business transaction. Upon reaching the prince’s kingdom, they’re not even greeted by the royal family – a huge red flag, wouldn’t you say? This lack of “ubuntu” is just the tip of the iceberg.

The next morning, the royal family finally meets Elodie and her family. The prince’s mother asks Elodie to follow her heart’s guidance. Elodie can’t hear her own heartbeat because it’s racing so fast. This foreshadows the manipulation and silencing she’ll face. The dowry negotiations expose the true nature of the agreement. Elodie’s father, for a hefty sum, has essentially agreed to sacrifice his daughter to appease a generational curse plaguing the royals. She’s the unwitting scapegoat, chosen to settle a “ngozi” debt.

“Ngozi”, according to Shona people, is an aggrieved or angered spirit of a deceased person who was either murdered or mistreated during his/her lifetime

Things worsen. Elodie’s stepmother witnesses her husband’s internal struggle – sacrificing his daughter for the “greater good” or condemning the entire village. The royals have offered him “more gold than he could ever imagine,” making it clear they’re wealthy despite Elodie’s initial impression of limited means. The stepmother, driven by maternal instinct, warns Elodie of the danger. This portrayal of a supportive stepmother challenges the usual Disney stereotype. Often, young women dismiss advice from older females, but here, the elders’ wisdom shines through. As my mother would say, “Hamba sihambe umphako nguwe” which translates to (you are the sacrifice).

Of course, the wedding happens, and as expected, it’s a trap. Elodie and the prince share a dream of travelling the world. He then reveals a blood covenant ritual to honour their ancestors. After the ceremony, they toss a coin into a cave, and – shocker! – the prince throws Elodie into the very same cave with a fire-breathing dragon! She must rely solely on her intelligence and willpower to survive.

This scene again highlights the trope of the man prioritising his own needs and leaving the woman to face the consequences. Both Elodie and the prince are bound by the burden of their ancestors’ sins. Elodie trusted the prince blindly, believing his assurances of safety. He literally cast her into the abyss after uttering a hollow “I know a place.” After surviving the fall, she finally grasps the horrifying truth: she’s the sacrifice. This reinforces the idea that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Mark Zuckerberg echoes this sentiment with his famous quote, “If the service is free, the product is you.”

Elodie encounters the dragon, the unwilling participant in a dark covenant – three taken, three must be given. She’s the third sacrifice. Interestingly, during her wedding preparations, the ladies-in-waiting placed a knife and a lighter-like object in her garter. This foreshadows the tools she’ll eventually use to fight for her survival. The message here is clear: God equips us for challenges before they arise, even if their purpose isn’t immediately apparent.

Realising she’s on her own, Elodie removes her wedding ring, a symbolic gesture of defiance. She chooses to fight back, not remain a victim. This highlights the importance of taking action in the face of adversity. Our approach to problems shapes our outcomes.

The movie includes a powerful scene where Elodie discovers a wall inscribed with the names of those who came before her – a way to honour their memory. The Ndebele proverb “indlela ibuzwa kwabaphambili” translates to “the way is asked from those who have gone before,” underlining the importance of learning from the past. This movie is filled with girl power moments, which I absolutely loved.

Her father finally arrives to rescue her, albeit belatedly, and acknowledges his wrongdoing (a rarity for African parents, haha!). While her father dies, the apology is a case of better late than never. Fast forward, Elodie conquers the dragon, and they form an alliance based on their mutual betrayal by the royal family.

Brown delivers a captivating performance, showcasing both vulnerability and fierce determination. The supporting cast shines too, particularly with the refreshing portrayal of the stepmother (a welcome contrast to the usual Disney villain). Her maternal instinct to protect Elodie challenges the stereotype of the jealous stepmom.”Damsel” isn’t afraid to get dark. It tackles complex themes of betrayal, family obligation, and the fight for survival. The film doesn’t shy away from violence, making the stakes feel real.

While the plot takes some predictable turns, the film’s strength lies in its subversion of expectations. It’s a thrilling ride that celebrates female power and the importance of trusting your gut.

Verdict: A must-watch for fans of fantasy with a feminist twist.

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I'm Noni Zulu, editor of iNgudukazi Magazine and I'm proud to say that. This is a magazine that looks to empower the youth. We hope to entertain, inspire and motivate our subscribers and to help make a difference.

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