|Red Cap American McGee Wine Label by Ken Wong|
In this article posted by the New York Times, we have the writer arguing this:
The world from which fairy tales and folk tales emerged has largely vanished, and although it pleases us to think of these stark, simple, fantastic narratives as timeless, they aren’t. 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. But the social realities on which the original fairy tales depend are almost incomprehensibly alien to 21st-century sensibilities; they reek of feudalism. And the lessons they’re supposed to teach our young don’t have much force these days. Kids learn to be skeptical almost before they’ve been taught anything to be skeptical of.Really? This sounds like someone who was raised on a diet of Politically Correct (remember those?) and Fractured Fairy Tales without having the benefit of a classic canon collection to compare them with.
I think it's the first time in a while, particularly in this time of pop-cultural fairy tale focus, that I've seen fairy tales being called outdated and useless. It's not a new accusation. It's the argument I've heard throughout my life as to why my time would be better spent pursuing the study of other things. (Obviously, I don't agree.) I do hope the normally more balanced and critical NYT follow up with an article from someone who argues the opposite (and with more substance).
The writer's concern seems to revolve around how cringe-worthy so many "fairy tale films" are and while I understand his point I think he's actually missing the real one. He says:
...the characteristic tone of fairy tales and folk tales, which is derived from oral storytelling traditions, is awfully difficult to replicate on screen.
|Rapunzel American McGee Wine Label by Ken Wong|
It also would have helped to define the "characteristic tone" he's talking about. I don't think he means the wonder aspect of a tale, which is what actually makes it a fairy tale, but that is the elusive thing. Fairy tales aren't magical stories full of unicorns and pixie dust. That's fantasy. Fairy tales are everyday stories with an element of wonder. The focus is different and it's that wonder factor amid the mundane that makes all the difference. The tough thing is that people tend to retell (resell?) fairy tales as fantasies so it gets confusing.
|Snow White American McGee Wine Label by Ken Wong|
When I got to the comment in parentheses: (Was there really so much insult humor in the Middle Ages?) I had to shake my head. Because yes, there was. There really (really!) was. Apparently the writer missed his Shakespeare and Chaucer classes.
There is, however, one interesting sentence I wanted to point out, even though it's rather throw-away in the body:
The TV series “Grimm” and “Once Upon a Time” are, surprisingly, more thoughtful than any of the recent fairy-tale movies have dared to be. Maybe the succession of weekly episodes more closely approximates the regularity and one-thing-after-another quality of bedtime stories.Bedtime stories. Hmm. I think there actually might be a connection there, just not necessarily in the way the writer implies. Fairy tales aren't chapters in a novel in which they all go "Into the Woods" so to speak, but there is a definite feeling of accessing a unique world just out of sight from story to story, even if Rapunzel is not ensconced in the same woods Red Riding Hood's grandmother lives in (although this is part of the premise of both Once and Grimm). What do you think? Is there a connection between the qualities of having fairy tale bedtime stories and watching weekly installments of fairy tale TV shows?
You can read the whole article HERE.