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Sunday, May 10, 2020

Revisionist Fairy Tales - Edited, Expurgated Stories Of An Impossibly Ideal Life

Many of us remember only the gory bits of old fairy tales.  How the Wicked Witch tried to fatten up Hansel, but when he escaped was thrown into the oven and baked to death; how the Wicked Wolf dressed himself up as Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother whom he had eaten, and lay in bed enticing the sweet young girl to come closer and closer and closer until he could open his jaws and eat her; how in Snow White the evil queen is forced into a pair of red hot shoes and made to dance in them until she falls down dead; and how another wicked wolf huffs and puffs to blow down the rickety house of the three little pigs in order to find and eat them. Others of us dream of princes and princesses, Rapunzel, Prince Charming, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty.

Image result for images hansel and gretel

As always and inevitably, the difference in appreciation is political.  Conservatives see the world as one of wolves, victims, and heroes.  Liberals see it as flawed and indeterminate but hopeful and progressive. The twain shall never meet.  The Brothers Grimm certainly had the former in mind when they concocted their scary tales for children.  Each tale had a moral message about wickedness in the world which wasn’t special or extraordinary, but simply there.  

It is no surprise that some reformers are out to sanitize the worst of these stories.  Despite the holocaust and the ovens of Buchenwald and the importance of remembering them as reminders of man’s basic inhumanity; despite an understanding that most children of disciplinarian parents would like to shove them into the oven and burn them to a crisp; and despite the fact that most women would like to be ravished by a wolf – a predatory, primitive, sexually determined male in a world of feminized men, progressives prefer to sanitize the truth and photoshop the obvious.

Image result for images little red riding hood sexual wolf

The best renditions of the story of Dracula – the Klaus Kinski and Frank Langella versions – are highly erotic and sexual.  Herzog who directed Kinski, admitted that graphic sex added nothing to film – it was merely titillation, and audience appeal – and he never resorted to it. Yet the seduction scene of Kinski and Isabelle Adjani is pure sex.  Dracula approaches the sleeping Nina, and is about ready to kiss her neck, drink her blood, and come to orgasm through the act when the cock crows, the sun rises, and he must die.  Frank Langella’s Dracula is smooth, sophisticated, cultured, and essentially male.  His maleness and his sexuality is not disguised or hidden in the vampire mystery.  Dracula may have been consigned to an eternity of deaths and rebirths, but throughout his desire for human blood is nothing less than the desire for female flesh.

Image result for images langella dracula

Over 500 years since Petrarch and the invention and advent of chivalric love; and after as many years of experience disputing the very existence of romance, romantic love, or mystic sexual communion, little girls still dress up in princess costumes.  They of course don’t do this on their own.  Their mothers, disappointed in love, trapped in dark, cavernous marriages, but still idealistic and magically hopeful, encourage their daughters.  There can be a Prince Charming in your future – if you play your cards right – and from that educational assumption comes another, quite different, generation of fairy tale – that of strong, determined, willful women who understand men’s weaknesses and can use them to conclude ‘successful’ marriages of wealth and fortune.  The fairy tale of feminism is the story of a daughter of a patriarchal father, wife of a sexually entitled husband, and sister to a morally sanctimonious enforcer brother who defies them all and goes out on her own on a libertine adventure.

Image result for images petrarch romantic love

Even D.H. Lawrence, master of sexual dynamics and no Victorian romantic, valued feminism and female liberation but within a heterosexual dyad – the sexual union of man and woman, the convergence of male and female wills, would amount to spiritual epiphany.  Yet in is idealization of male-female concourse  he was no different from his dime-store romance writers.  There was indeed such a thing as romantic love, but one which was a little harder to achieve than a simple one of Lady submitting to Knight.

We give up romance, fairy tales, and melodrama with great difficulty.  We hold on to Hans Christian Andersen, the Brothers Grimm, Dracula, Lady Chatterley, and ‘As The World Turns’ with equal desire.  The world cannot be simply a matter of emotional balance sheets and supply and demand.  There has to be a better world out there, and pure, unalloyed romanticism is the expression of this hope, vain as it might be.

So, the expurgation of children’s fairy tales is applauded.  Why diminish hope by acknowledging a big, bad wolf? Why admit the existence of hateful, murderous thoughts? Why not show the world as what it could be rather than what it is?

Don’t look to the East for progressive hopefulness.   The world simply is as it is, flawed, damaged, and crude; and the only goodness is ‘on the other side’.  Christians acknowledge the pervasive, insidious existence of evil, know that all fall prey to sin and faithlessness; but that forgiveness is possible.  Hindus make no distinction between good and evil, both part of God’s Creation; and the sooner one realizes the indistinction between the two, the better.  

Those who love the goriest features of Grimm’s fairy tales, who get the sexual potency of the weird and unknown, who dismiss idealism as progressive namby-pamby treacle, and for whom life is unvarnished and without Christmas ornaments or Easter Bunnies, are in the know.

There have been and continue to be popular fairy tales in American life.  Who can forget the wonderful, uplifting, Pepsi ‘We Are The World’ and Benneton multi-racial posters of the 80s? Fairy tales of togetherness, community, and neighborliness? Fuck the perennial wars of civil strife, sectarianism, and territorial hegemony  Nothing but blips in inevitable social progress.

Most liberals and conservatives would rather ‘Little Bo Peep’ and ‘Mary Had A Little Lamb’ than political flim-flam.  These nursery rhymes are innocuous, inclusive, and universally expressive of a desire for a softer, gentler, Springtime mood. What could be bad? But even the best, most innocent, and most childlike evocative rhymes get co-opted.  ‘White fleece’? Racist and inhumane.  Bo Peep’s sheep were finally released and allowed free range.  Mary, Mary of Quite Contrary was reduced to kitchen gardens and washing in a male-dominated age.

Image result for images little bo peep

Community, communalism, neighborliness, social integrity, and caring are fairy tales – hopeful anodynes to a world without idealism; and so the fairy tales like Hansel and Gretel where infamy and abuse get punished, not with a slap on the wrist but incineration are the best, and revisionism should be resisted.

No one can stop mothers from dressing their daughters in crinoline and faux lace or stop them dreaming of Prince Charming, but beware of The Big Bad Wofl

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