Empowering Enchantments: Unveiling the Modern Mythos of ‘Damsel’ – A Fantasy Tale Reshaping Tradition

In this revisionist fairy tale, “Damsel” challenges the traditional damsel-in-distress narrative, placing Elodie as an empowered action hero.

Damsel (Millie Bobby Brown)
“Damsel” movie poster.

“Damsel,” a contemporary reimagining of the traditional damsel-in-distress trope, ventures beyond the well-trodden path of medieval tales to craft a narrative that defies gender norms and redefines the role of its central character, Elodie. In a delightful departure from the conventional “damsel in distress” archetype, the film thrusts Elodie into the forefront, making her the master of her destiny in a pleasantly disruptive fantasy world.

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Set against the backdrop of a cash-strapped land ruled by Lord Bayford, Elodie emerges as the eldest daughter of this patriarchal figure. However, she is far from the typical lady-in-waiting; her interests lie not in posing for royal portraits but rather in activities typically associated with a more assertive lifestyle, such as bow hunting and horseback riding.

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Elodie’s initial appearance, with her impeccable hair and makeup, subtly hints at the contrast that will unfold as the story progresses. This film rejects the passivity often attributed to damsels, opting instead to present Elodie as an action hero navigating her way through a perilous adventure.

The plot takes an unexpected turn as Elodie finds herself hastily married off and sacrificed to a dragon, a twist that adds a layer of complexity to the traditional fairy tale structure. This isn’t a predictable narrative where the heroine awaits rescue; rather, Elodie transforms into a maiden with agency, confronting dangers reminiscent of a “Die Hard”-level gantlet.

The movie boldly eliminates “distress” from its title, reinforcing the message that traditional, passive damsels are no longer relevant. Elodie becomes a symbol of empowerment, challenging gender norms and echoing a contemporary call for stronger, independent female characters.

The film embraces a revisionist approach to the fantasy genre, where Elodie not only faces physical challenges but also contends with female antagonists. Robin Wright’s Queen Isabelle and Shohreh Aghdashloo’s fire-breathing dragon present formidable obstacles, challenging Elodie both mentally and physically. The decision to give the dragon the power of speech adds a layer of complexity to the narrative, allowing Elodie to reason with this fearsome creature.

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The film thus challenges the notion that brute strength is the sole solution to facing mythical adversaries; cleverness and negotiation become essential tools in Elodie’s arsenal.

As the story unfolds, the movie reveals an arranged marriage plot, with Elodie’s prince charming, portrayed by Nick Robinson. Despite the initial romantic wish fulfillment associated with such tales, the film quickly unravels the façade, exposing the dark underbelly of the kingdom of Aurea.

Elodie’s stepmother, played by Angela Bassett, expresses valid concerns, foreshadowing the impending treachery. The night of the ceremony takes a grim turn as Elodie is thrown down a dark chasm, setting the stage for a gripping adventure.

One of the film’s poignant scenes occurs when Elodie discovers a wall within the dragon’s lair, where previous princesses had left evidence of their fates. This moment of solidarity among the victims echoes themes of resistance and shared knowledge, emphasizing the strength that can be found in unity.

The movie cleverly weaves in elements of the Bluebeard folktale, making it a compelling and layered narrative that goes beyond mere spectacle.

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“Damsel” distinguishes itself not only through its narrative innovation but also through its production values. While some Netflix offerings may lack polish, “Damsel” stands out with an all-star cast, lavish production, and a commitment to the craft of filmmaking. The film harks back to a more traditional approach, reminiscent of movies made with a genuine commitment to storytelling rather than merely producing content.

Central to the film’s success is Millie Bobby Brown‘s portrayal of Elodie. The “Stranger Things” star effortlessly embodies the role, bringing to life a quick-thinking and independent character.

The movie strategically reveals Elodie’s personality, showcasing her skill in drawing mazes as a reflection of her intelligence. Armed with only a brass dagger and a filigreed orb, Elodie maneuvers through “Goonies”-like caverns, reminiscent of classic adventure tales.

In the realm of classic tales, damsels often undergo training to become proper ladies. Elodie, however, sidesteps these conventions, relying on her intelligence to uncover the secrets behind the horrific sacrifices demanded by the curse. The film subtly critiques centuries of patriarchal control embedded in such narratives, adding a layer of socio-cultural commentary to its fantastical elements.

“Damsel” succeeds in combining elements of tradition and progressiveness, offering a refreshing take on a genre that has captivated audiences for centuries. While the film adheres to some familiar tropes, its portrayal of Elodie as a role model for contemporary audiences, especially young women, sets it apart.

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The narrative might occasionally feel calculated in response to a progressive agenda, evidenced by inclusive casting and self-righteous dialogue. However, the rarity of role models like Elodie in mainstream media justifies this deliberate approach.

In conclusion, “Damsel” stands as a testament to the evolving landscape of storytelling, where age-old tropes are reimagined to reflect contemporary values. Through its compelling characters, innovative plot twists, and a commitment to cinematic craftsmanship, the film transcends the limitations often associated with small-screen productions.

Damsel” not only entertains but also challenges societal expectations, making it a noteworthy addition to the ever-expanding realm of fantasy storytelling.

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