I read a headline today asking (or was it telling?) me that fairy tales are ‘too Grimm for Children’. Speaking as a mother of two little girls who are more than happy to mix My Little Pony with zombies in their playtimes, I don’t think so. Personally, I’m more worried about the many, many portrayals of little girls as helpless victims that need rescued from danger because they’ve been taught by years, no generations now, of indoctrination that tell them that they need to rely on a handsome Prince to solve their woes. The D word. You know what I’m talking about.
The problem with Fairy Tales is not that they are ‘too gruesome’, it’s that they have been written down. Folk tales were originally an oral tradition, passed on down the generations and undoubtedly changed over time. Until the likes of Charles Perrault or the Grimms wrote them down, any previously told versions would just be lost. Keep in mind that these stories had to be passed on orally and therefore had to be memorable; it’s why we have repetition and refrains, it’s why stories have to have a thrill. Remember that boring story? Though not. I’m pretty sure that 15th Century grannies tutted as they heard their daughters passing on tales that no doubt reflected some passing 15th century fad instead of what they had been told. Art reflects the fears of society, and as the fears of society changed, so does art. While we now have a written record of folk tales from the late 17th Century until now is great as a snapshot into the past, it’s a double edged sword. We feel uncomfortable at the blood and guts. We feel uncomfortable seeing it written down. We feel uncomfortable with the past. Yet we don’t feel uncomfortable seeing the way that women are treated in 20th Century renditions of these tales on screen to us. We don’t see that these modern versions are just addressing the fears of the time, and that one of these fears is the little girls that are watching these sugar laden fantasies that want to keep them ‘in their place’. For a long time, we quite liked it. You’ve only got to look around a toystore to see that since feminism started as a growing movement toys have become increasingly gender stereotyped, to the point that last Christmas the onslaught of pink in a toy store made me feel physically sick and gave me a headache. And we should be feeling uncomfortable with it. Thank goodness we now have campaigns like Pink Stinks and Let Toys be Toys pushing the issue.
My question to you is not ‘are fairytales too Grimm’, but ‘what is it that we are scared of?’. Are strong, independent women really our current fear? Or is it just a hangover from last century? Look deep in yourself and realise that we still want our children to be healthy and safe from the darker side of society, and not the other way around.
I started out this morning to write a review of Lari Don’s Little Red Riding Hood, but it somewhat morphed into something else. Oops?