What’s with the sudden explosion of fairy tales in pop culture lately?
In TV land we have: Once Upon a Time, Arrow, Grimm, and Beauty and the Beast (although..that one I think has been axed already).
On the Silver Screen there’s: Red Riding Hood, Snow White and the Huntsman, Mirror Mirror, Hansel and Gretel, and Jack the Giant Killer.
What is it about fairy tales that draw us in, even though we already know the stories?
We know the Rapunzel will make it out of the tower and find true love. We know that Snow White will triumph and take back her father’s kingdom. We know that Cinderella’s prince will find her.
So what is it that draws us to any and all forms of these well-known stories?
A recent article in Time Magazine ‘blamed’ nostalgia escapism, saying that because the last few years have been hard in our world that we gravitate toward fairy tales because they make us feel warm. Back safe in the embrace of childhood memories. Others believe our technology has made us ripe for fairy tales again. New York Times‘ Terrence Rafferty said, “Thanks to video games, computer graphics and the general awfulness of everyday life, fantasies of all kinds have had a resurgence in the past few years”
And maybe there’s something to that. We crave an escape. We crave something familiar. We want to believe that true love always wins and that a prince will always come riding in to slay the dragon.
But the issue is the fairy tales of today have been changed. These aren’t the wide-eyed Disney Princesses that we’re use to. In Once Upon a Time, Prince Charming was having an affair. In Red Riding Hood, the heroine chooses to love a werewolf. In Snow White and the Huntsman, Snow hacks her way through a battlefield. And on and on.
Cleary it’s not only a desire for innocence and escapism that draws us to these tales. Maybe, in fact, it’s seeing new imperfections in these characters — watching them be removed from their pedestals — perhaps that’s why we tune in to these new versions. There’s more comfort in seeing Snow White stumble – see she’s like us after all — then to picture her as perfect ‘snow white’ without blemishes. To see that even with mistakes and failures, Snow can still have her fairy tale ending. And maybe, just maybe, if imperfect Snow can, then we can, too.
Lets be honest. The REAL fairy tales are far more terrifying than anything on our airwaves today. The original Little Mermaid ends with the heroine dying. The ‘real’ Rapunzel sleeps with the prince who comes to her tower and the witch tosses her out of the tower to wander the woods when she finds out Rapunzel is pregnant. Snow White was tortured by her mother, not her stepmother. The Frog Prince wasn’t kissed…the princess was disgusted by him and flung him against a wall.
Maybe, instead of moving away from the fairy tales of old, we’re getting back to them. But let’s please only go so far. Even the Grimm brothers learned to tone down their sensationalism and gore. The original stories received terrible feedback and Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm had to make changes and sanatize their first publication.
Why do we flock to these old stories in all forms? To escape? To feel safe again? To see how they’ve changed and see new twists? To believe that we too can have happy endings even when things haven’t gone according to plan?
What do you think?
Related Link – The Lizzie Bennet Diaries
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