Should We Call Time on Fairy Tales?
Earlier this month, I was reading a post on Penny's blog - Reinventing the Fairy Story - in which she said:
I struggle with fairy stories that lack girl power. I'm with Fiona in Shrek 4 who said life isn't a fairytale and that she rescued herself from the tower. Miss L did get a Rapunzel doll for Christmas, but I don't want her to think life is about sitting in towers waiting for a prince to come and rescue you.
I similarly struggle with fairy tales. Or at least some fairy tales. Cinderella is particularly problematic - essentially she's a 'persecuted' heroine. Well sort of. Persecuted only in so much as she has to do housework.
I'm sure you know the story, but in short:
Cinderella is forced to act as a maid to her stepmother and two stepsisters. Then, a handsome Prince (and they're always handsome, right?) decides to have a Ball to find himself a wife. Sadly, Cinderella isn't allowed to go. Rather than figuring out a way to go by herself, she instead leans on her Fairy Godmother (what would we do without those?) to sort the dress, carriage, footmen etc. Cinders goes to the Ball, Prince falls in love with her. However, Cinders has to leave before midnight else (heaven forbid) her dress turn to rags and her carriage into a pumpkin - as everyone knows, you must always ensure you look the very best for your man.
So Cinders vanishes leaving just one glass slipper. The Prince searches the length and breadth of the land to find her. He finds her, they marry, the end. Bah!
I'm struggling to see the moral in this little tale. If you're downtrodden, the best thing to do is wait for your Fairy Godmother to gift you a nice dress then hopefully a Prince will rescue you?
Well, what's the harm? After all, we all grow up with fairy tales. They didn't do us any harm did they?
Perhaps controversially, I think that actually they did. I also think that they continue to. The problem is that I'm not sure that we're ever really given the opportunity to out-grow fairy stories. Newer versions keep on taking their place.
Let's use popular teen fiction The Twilight Saga as an example of a modern fairy tale. We're straight back to our persecuted heroine. This time she's called Bella rather than Cinders. Somewhat worryingly, she gets herself mixed up with a bunch of vampires and werewolves - some 'good' some 'bad'. She has to get rescued. A LOT.
She then is torn between two love interests. In fairness, it seems that both really love her.
Vampire Boy goes away for a while because he realises that, in order for her to be with him, she'll have to change into a vampire which is quite some commitment and he's not sure he thinks it's fair. There is much sobbing.
Then there's Werewolf Boy. With him, she doesn't have to change.
However, she decides she loves Vampire Boy more and therefore should become a vampire. The moral? If you really love someone, they'll cause you tons of pain - oh and you'll have to change in order to be with them. Awesome.
But it doesn't even end there.
Even in adult fiction, we see the rescuing theme appearing over and over again. In Bridget Jones (and I might add, countless other rom-com films and books), we learn that someone will love you even if you're not a size zero - which is nice. But we also learn that it doesn't matter if you're stupid, ditsy, clumsy and to all intents and purposes inept, a wonderful man (this time a handsome lawyer rather than a handsome prince) will still rescue from your otherwise sad and pathetic life.
Where are the role models? The strong independent women who save themselves and others rather than needing to be rescued? Sure, you might say it's just a little escapist fiction and where's the harm in it?
But I'd ask 'where's the good'? Increasingly, I'm struggling to see it. These are not the 'lessons' that I want either my son or daughter to learn.
And so my loves, over to you. Should we call time on the fairytales?