I wanted to reach this subject some time ago but it seem that I got busy with other things (that is to say school started and the timetable being as idiotic as it is, doesn’t leave me enough time to actually do something productive). The topic for today is: fairytales gone bad. And by the time I finish this blog, you shall see why I say that.
The modern concept of a fairytale is, in my opinion, misinterpreted by both the children and the adults. Parents, much preoccupied with money and taxes, would rather have them watch a Disney movie than read their own children a bed time story, like in the old days. Not all though, there are still some old fashioned parents out there…somewhere. A 3-4 maybe 5 to 10 year old child is left in front of a television enjoying the colors and voices of the characters on the screen. Nothing wrong in that image at the first view, but moving along to a more deeper meaning of the enlisted situation, we actually see a recreation of a well known fairytale. Lets’ say “The little mermaid” for this example. Ariel gets to marry the prince and they live happily ever after, they even have a child, Melody, thus resulting in a second movie. Now, the original version of the tale :
~ The little mermaid drew back the crimson curtain of the tent, and beheld the fair bride with her head resting on the prince’s breast. She bent down and kissed his fair brow, then looked at the sky on which the rosy dawn grew brighter and brighter; then she glanced at the sharp knife, and again fixed her eyes on the prince, who whispered the name of his bride in his dreams. She was in his thoughts, and the knife trembled in the hand of the little mermaid: then she flung it far away from her into the waves; the water turned red where it fell, and the drops that spurted up looked like blood. She cast one more lingering, half-fainting glance at the prince, and then threw herself from the ship into the sea, and thought her body was dissolving into foam.~
That’s right suicide, and if you’re not getting my point yet, I’ll plainly tell you: Modern fairytales have a childproof nature. There’s always a happy ending and the princess always gets her prince (that is why the Brothers Grim lost in front of the new cartoons). Parents would not allow their children to be exposed to the cruelty (even fictional) of the real world transported into tales.
Children have their own imaginary world, where they can be anyone they like, they save the princess and their own fairytale is over and can start at any time they like., just like in the movies they saw. But what if, for once, they fail to save the princess? What if something happens and they don’t manage to kill the dragon or the evil lord? No, but that can’t happen now can it? It never happened in a Disney movie. Beginning to see my point?
They idealize a perfect society where good always triumphs over evil. Who will tell them that the real life isn’t the same? Who would tell a child that the little mermaid killed herself because she could not marry the prince? Because Ariel didn’t do it, Bell got her prince and Snow White escaped the evil mother.
“Yet the hold these stories have on the imagination of children is so compelling that it becomes difficult to conceive a childhood without them. Growing up without fairy tales implies spiritual impoverishment, as one writer after another has warned.”
Children need role models in their lives, they need imagination and creativity, but the movies they grow up with may just not be the right ones. Even if they try to be as ideal and moralizing as they can, movies are not always that innocent either. For example: have you ever noticed that the hero is a spitting image of an ideal of masculinity? Buffed chest, muscles, brave and handsome? Every other character that doesn’t look the same automatically becomes an outcast or is lost in the great hero’s shadow.
Similarly, female protagonists are idealized by their physical beauty and they are the ones that manage to defeat the evil queens and lords.
In the classic tale of “Beauty and the Beast”, Gaston (even being the antagonist) was the most loved man in the village, and the three blonde girls that kept following him, the three looking almost if not exactly the same, is the perfect example of a subliminal message. The three girls are portrayed to look almost the same, just to indicate the fact that most girls think and act the same when it comes to a buff, tough and popular man, especially one that ignores them, since Gaston had his eyes on Belle. Discrimination? Maybe, and there is more to come. Remember “Lady and the tramp”? Remember the Siamese? The two cats showed stereotypical Asian features such as slanted eyes, buckteeth and very heavy accents. In the well known “Jungle Book” the movie from 1967, the gorillas and orangutans sound like black people. Brunette, Mallory and Wood enunciate that children become aware of race, gender, disabilities and ethnicity between the age of two and five.
I am not saying that children should be exposed to everything that happens in real life, but making an ideal society is not the best option at hand. Let them see that good doesn’t always win and that the princess doesn’t always get her true love. The best example I have here is the first “Lion King” movie.
Simba’s dad had to die for the story to continue, but that’s not the point that we should see there. He died protecting his loved one. The essential message in that part of the movie should be that life isn’t always fair and sometimes we have to make great sacrifices. Of course, children see that as they grow up and discover the outside world.
Although there are some people out there who try to embrace the dark side of the fairytales too. A perfect example for this should be: Snow White: A tale of terror.
It is not entirely faithful to the source, but it managed to capture the other side of the tales, as they were in the past, the main character still being the innocent and sweet girl that defeats the evil stepmother. I would fairly recommend parents to read at least one of the more “pleasant” stories from The Brothers Grimm, to their children and introduce them to the not-so-pink-and-beautiful-world, because:
“The princess shall not die but only fall into a deep hundred-year sleep” says the twelfth wise woman. For the being of the child is immortal; it can be enchanted but never destroyed.”