Fairy tales. How do you feel about them?
Me personally, I’m eighteen, I’ve grown up with them. Mainly Walt Disney’s versions but nevertheless you get the gist. Now for me they’re basically part of me. You can put any Disney princess film on and I’m gonna immediately melt and watch it and reminisce. The music and beautiful paintings all just transport me back to a simpler time of childhood innocence. A time where I wasn’t aware of the patriarchy or capitalism or racism, or any other stupid bullshit thing that humanity has caused or created.
In terms of feminism…
I didn’t know what feminism was until I was about fifteen to sixteen. I was in year eleven of high school and I remember just being curious about what the word ‘feminist’ actually meant. I ended up googling it, because I had only negative connotations of the word. I somehow had got the impression that it was linked to deviousness or was somehow a negative thing. This result came up;
“Feminism is a range of political movements, ideologies, and social movements that share a common goal: to define, establish, and achieve political, economic, personal, and social equality of sexes.”
Obviously found via wikipedia because where else would my little student self go in the search of answers? Anyway, I literally read it and went yep. I agree with that. I think I am therefore, a feminist.
But anyway, at primary school I didn’t like it when the boys would insinuate that a girl couldn’t run fast or do anything they could do. However I wasn’t the best at proving them wrong as I was the picture perfect definition of a ‘girly girl’ when I was young. I was very quiet and shy and I was always ‘ladylike’ and talked properly and always pronounced everything correctly. I loved ballet, colouring in and reading and playing house or with barbies. I was obsessed with princesses and fairies and was convinced I was adopted and that secretly I had royal blood. And so I wasn’t armed with the tools to take down the patriarchy and twist gender roles because my personality completely conformed to them unintentionally (not that I knew then).
Crap messages conveyed to girls…
So obviously, as you may have guessed, I was a major Disney fan. Belle was my favourite Disney princess because she looked like me and prince Adam gave her his fucking amazing library which would be the exact way to win my heart. Give me a friggin library and leave me alone to read! But in terms of fairy tales I now look back and cringe at what crappy female role models my parents and society presented to me. Sleeping Beauty who literally sleeps and lets her man fight a fucking dragon. Snow White running away to then just clean, definitely not my idea of a fun getaway. The crystal clear dependence on men makes me sick to the stomach now, when I watch Disney films and other old shows I used to love with my ‘feminist goggles’ as Hannah Witton would say. (Click here to see her and Dodie Clark’s awesome video on feminism.) Obviously when I watch old stuff now I don’t look at them with my feminist head on, I ignore the bullshit and just use the films to wrap me up like a comfort blanket.
Changing Fairy Tales…
Recently there’s been talk about changing fairy tales though and I think this is a little extreme. The daily mail has written an article on how parents are changing traditional fairy stories so that they become ‘politically correct.’ According to the article a study has shown that a quarter of parents change traditional endings to make them more appropriate.
I think that fairy tales are simply old examples of literature with morals wrapped up in them to scare and influence children. The obvious example is ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ and her being warned not to go into the woods, she breaks the rules and bam, everyone gets eaten by a wolf. It’s just a really questionable way of getting your children to stay safe while completely scaring them shitless.
I get that these stories are now maybe inappropriate but we have to remember that they are fables. They posess a hidden moral in order to teach children a lesson. So apparently according to the article, ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ is changed by parents most often and yet the moral of that story is basically stranger danger. This clearly suggests that we simply need new stories to convey the lessons we want to teach our children because those lessons haven’t changed, simply the way we want to convey them has.
So changing them I find a little tedious. We all know how the stories go. It’s like how the film industry is just banging out re-dos of all the classic franchises to make easy profits. Try coming up with some new fucking ideas and surprise the world. (Although I have to admit, my favourite film ever is the new remake of Beauty and the Beast with Emma Watson! Omg its so good!) We don’t need Cinderella rewritten where she gets herself out of her situation on her own and doesn’t need a man, it’s like fanfiction. We need to leave her be! In her time she couldn’t have escaped because she was a peasant girl. She wouldn’t have found an easy job that would have paid well. She would have probably lived in poverty or become a prostitute, let’s be honest. So let’s give her a break, she did the best she could. A hot prince comes along with a load of money and offers you an escape from abuse and exploitation! You’re going to take it. Yes, if it were written again and set in 2018 then Cinderella would have had a different path.
However the point is that they’re historical texts now. According to my googling, one of the most popular versions of our Cinders was written in French by Charles Perrault in 1697! 1697 I tell you! Our girl went under the name ‘Cendrillon’ back then but are we fucking joking?! 1697! We need to just stop cramming these old ass stories down our children’s throats and get some fresh shit in here.
The brothers Grimm started writing in 1812! These are clearly old books. Shakespeare is taught in high schools everywhere. Here in the UK it’s stuck like glue to the English Literature curriculum. And man are his plays full of some particularly sexist bullshit, but no one is screaming to change them.
They don’t need re-writing because we have to accept that the authors were writing in a completely different time. That’s the beauty of literature; it can transport you to a completely different world to the one you’re living in, be it to the future or past. Therefore I wish to conclude that I believe fairy tales do not need rewriting. They simply need to be put back on our bookshelves and our authors of today need to bang out some awesome new books for our kids filled with equality and acceptance. Marvellous books that future generations can grow up with, but even when they grow up and look back at the books and films they had they’ll probably cringe at the outdated views captured in them because society evolves and times change.