Now, some of you may basking yourselves, “Lady Tremaine? Who’s That?” Well, Lady Tremaine is the name of the evil stepmother from Cinderella. She was the second villain to appear against a disney princess and at first glance did not look like much. She lacked the magical abilities of both her predecessor the evil queen and her immediate successor, Maleficent. Yet, she is not any less frightening or powerful than those ladies. In fact, it is because of her humanity that she remains such a relevant and powerful adversary. The most alarming thing about Lady Tremaine is that she lacks motivation. She is not the Evil Queen, trying to keep her power and authority, and she is not an evil witch wanting to send a signal to the total family. She is just an Evil Stepmother, the only reason she has for for putting Cinderella through unspeakable horrors is that she is related to her. Take away the ball, fairy godmother, and talking mice, and Cinderella is the story of a horrible old broad that takes advantage of a poor fatherless girl and forces her to serve the broad and her two daughters. Of all the disney villains, she is the only one with an actually malevolent mind. She does not care about Cinderella and when the opportunity presents itself, she does not hesitate to take advantage of her.
The strange evilness of the character aside, I want to talk about her importance to cinema. It is important to remember that Lady Tremaine is a disney character, the main antagonist in a film meant for children. It is also important to remember that Cinderella is considered one of the most classic disney films of all time. It was Walt’s personal favorite and you would be hard pressed to find anyone that has not seen it. This means that, since 1950, all children have been shown this remarkable terrifying woman at a a young age. Personally, I remember being quite scared at the scenes where Cinderella is locked in her room or is forcefully abused for even thinking she could get to go to the ball. I could sit here and make an argument that Cinderella is just a metaphor for the class system or something, but I don’t want to. What I would like to mention is that in the original story, she never gets redemption. To go even further, she never shows signs of remorse. The only thing she feels bad about is that herself and her daughters were unsuccessful in faking the glass slipper to be there own. No where does the film show that regrets hurting Cinderella, she just envies Cinderella’s newfound success. In a society where kids films constantly preach doing good and acting good, where every villain either realizes the error of their ways or is punished, Lady Tremaine teaches kids that evil will exist and evil will always think itself good. It is for that reason that the Lady will go down in cinematic history.
Obviously, Lady Tremaine went on to inspire thousands of other Evil Stepmothers, much to the dismay of stepmothers everywhere. Even Disney’s later film Tangled has a villain with the same basic characteristics. Of course, Mother Gothel is no where as manipulative with Rapunzel as the Lady is with Cinderella. The character also inspired similar trends that would be visible for nearly a century after. Kids villains no longer needed to be larger than life, as seen in films like Mulan, Toy Story, Pocahontas, and Tarzan. Those with supernatural baddies, Sleeping Beauty, Princess and the Frog,and Aladdin, still had a unique human factor that had been missing in the Evil Queen. She is one of the best disney villains ever, and through her millions of incarnations she will always be the most Evil Stepmother of all.