Thursday, January 19, 2012

Article: "It's Snow White's Moment. What's She Going To Do With It?"

Kristen Stewart as Snow White (Snow White and the Huntsman) by Alice X. Zhang
 Yay! An article on "there are fairy tales everywhere right now!" that did some research beyond "OMG-did-you-know-that-this-fairy-tale-stuff-is-really-wicked-nasty-gruesome-stuff!"

The writers at io9 always give me a fun read. They have clear (and sassy) opinions they're not afraid of sharing AND like using their brains too so the articles are usually written with at least a little research to back up their points of view.

Check out the research credits by Kelly Faircloth for this article: 
Sources used: The Classic Fairy Tales, edited by Maria Tatar; The Uses of Enchantment, Bruno Bettelheim; The Great Fairy Tale Tradition, edited by Jack Zipes.
When a mainstream writer posts on fairy tales and does their research beyond the online entertainment sites, you know you want to read it. Specifically, this writer is the first I've seen to consider just why it is that suddenly Snow White is the princess du jour.

It starts:
After decades out of the limelight, suddenly Snow White is everywhere. What woke this particular tale out of its coma?
Charlize Theron as The Queen (Snow White and the Huntsman) by Alice X. Zhang

After a brief catch-up on how it's been Cinderella, not Snow White, that has been the go-to fairy tale princess of the masses for decades, the writer gets to the meaty stuff:
So why Snow White? (edit InkGypsy: as in "Why Snow White now?")
Like all traditional fairy tales, Snow White has a few fixed elements. Let's use folklorist Steven Swann Jones' definition (via fairy tale guru Maria Tater): "origin (birth of the heroine), jealousy, explusion, adoption, renewed jealousy, death, exhibition, resuscitation, and resolution."
Stories from all over the world contain these immediately recognizable elements, but that list also leaves open a whole lot of wiggle room in the details of the telling. So besides the Grimm version, you'll also see variants like Giambattista Basile's "The Young Slave," where the heroine is born to a young woman who swallows a leaf. Her years-long sleep is actually due to a fairy's curse and a poisoned comb, and it's actually another woman's jealous that wakes her, when her enraged aunt goes to pull out her hair.
It gets even more interesting, so go read the whole article HERE
The Waltz from Enchanted Fan Art by Alice X. Zhang
On the note of trends in entertainment, if this is something you follow (which if you write you should, at least in a basic sense), this article HERE is also worth a look, and not just because in it's "Lessons" list it has "1) Dark fairy tales rule." There's one line quoted in the comments that writers and creators everywhere should remember when trying to promote ideas, follow public trends or predict Hollywood leanings - and this will most definitely apply to fairy tales being revised/retold too:
I'm reminded of the screenwriter who once remarked that the lesson Hollywood drew from the success of the movie TITANIC was "we need to make more movies about boats". (From commenter Chip Overlock.)
So far, it seems that Snow White isn't into the "more boats" business just yet, (thank goodness) but the time is bound to come. It may even be the case that tapping other fairy tales in the hopes they'll shine like Snow White currently does, is doing just that. Despite how difficult it is to see this happen to tales we love, I don't think this is anything to be too worried about in the long term. One of the wonderful things about fairy tales is that they ARE so old. Their substance is, well, substantial, and remains so. No matter what anyone does with them, they'll always come back, sometimes in ways you least expect (such as hit TV shows that send Disney galloping back to their feature fairy tale franchise, despite them swearing off fairy tales (again) forever.) If there's a lesson Hollywood could learn from the Snow White resurgence it might be: never underestimate a sleeping princess. ;) 
Disney's Pocahontas Fan Art by Alice X. Zhang*
* The artist featured in this post in the amazingly talented Alice X. Zhang who is  professional artist and illustrator. I included the Pocahontas piece simply because I thought her work was worth featuring by itself. I particularly love her more recent painterly portraits of celebrities and popular characters. The links under the images go to her website except for the last one which links to her blog. THERE, in her Tumblr blog, you can see her works in progress, sketches and inspirations. Not surprisingly there are a lot of fantasy-based works and images there so fairy tale people should find plenty of lovely things. :)