Friday, March 9, 2012

NBC's Grimm Tackles A Princess & the Dragon Story

Tonight's episode is called "Plumed Serpent" but with Juliette being abducted by a fire-breathing creature it's pretty clear Nick has to rescue his princess from the dragon - literally.

With Pixar's Brave "I'll rescue myself" heroine on the way and Snow White in armor coming to theaters as well there is a lot of focus on the idea of "We finally have a princess that doesn't need a prince to save her!" I'm very happy to see this trend with regard to family movies and potential role models for girls. Even the mousiest and most retiring women I've met (and I've met a sad few) seem to harbor this secret wish they were stronger, sassier and could hold their own. (I say "even the mousiest" because, though you'd think they'd be the ones to faint if they ever saw a real weapon, I've found these women, even more than the rebels, are the ones fantasizing they could pick it up and use it.) I remember the first time I realized this. It helped me understand that despite all the apparent equality women have today, many still feel powerless and wish they didn't.

But while I'm cheering as much as everyone else about the heroine in Brave in particular, I have to say this one thing - and it's a touchy subject: Is it so bad to be rescued when you really need rescuing?
Elenor Abbott
When it comes down to it, everyone needs rescuing sometime (even our beloved kick-some-serious-butt Buffy!) and that includes every guy I've ever met. To NOT be rescued when you really need it is devastating but here's the thing: rescuing is rarely a one-man show. At the very least some cooperation is required from the rescue-ee. (And don't get me started about rescue-ees who don't really want to be rescued...) The problem I have is when people insist girls/women need to be rescued all the time and don't give us the option to participate (also known as "help"). Women may not always come in swords flashing with the tactical savvy of a well-trained samurai but just because we're not Navy Seals doesn't mean we're helpless either. What's worse than people assuming this about women is when women assume this about themselves. THAT'S the part I have a problem with.
Corey Godbey
The whole objection to having princesses waiting to be rescued is actually two-fold: the first, rarely discussed, part is where the princess allows herself to be put in the position of needing rescuing in the first place. Crap happens to everyone and even the smartest and most on-guard person can be forced into helplessness against their will but what we really want - need - is for girls and women to take ownership (and responsibility) of their situations as much as possible and stop being quite as vulnerable and therefore not need as much rescuing. The second part, where the "action" happens, is rarely as cut and dried as "you helpless/me rescue" - ask anyone who has ever been a victim of violence - but it's often portrayed that way in entertainment. Ultimately this does us all a disservice.
Edward Burne-Jones
Ideally we want everyone - men and women - to take whatever responsibility they can for their own safety and for the safety of those they care for, on every level. There will be times when we could all use a rescuing hand but that doesn't mean we have to be passive about it. It's like opportunity: it should be taken when it comes but you need to be prepared for it, because after that, the rest is up to you.

I'm aware this is the second post on the topic of women and violence (or women and passivity) in two days but I hope it's clear I'm not against "chicks with weapons". (Heck, I have a couple!) What I'm concerned about is having people - men and women - be forced into one extreme or other without allowing them to find their own balance according to their personality, strengths and weaknesses, which differ for everyone. Equally as important is taking responsibility for yourself as much as you can, no matter what situation you're in.

*steps down off soapbox*

I'm curious to see how this hot-button topic of a princess in need of rescue is handled in Grimm this week. I hope there are some twists, some surprises and that there's more to this episode than killing the dragon to save the girl.

Here's the promo note: the original link apparently expired after the show aired so I'm replacing it with a YouTube version of the same):

I'm sure there are a bazillion excellent articles on the topic that have probably said things much better than I just have  - or perhaps made arguments on the other end of the spectrum that should be considered - so if you know of one feel free to put the link in the comments so we can all have a read. 

In the meantime I have to go do my workout and sharpen the tip of my foil... :)


  1. Thanks for this little tidbit, I also love how fairytale heroines are beginning to hold their own but I also agree that it isn't a totally horrible thing for someone needing to be a rescued. I think there will be an old-timey quality to Grimm's new episode (I didn't get to watch it tonight!) that we haven't seen in awhile and I for one am looking forward to it. God knows it will at least be better than Once Upon a Time's last episode.

  2. I don't know about you, but I enjoyed the episode tonight. Monroe pointing out that Nick was the dragon-slaying rescuer took some of that edge off of it. Not to mention it was Monroe (and, ultimately, Juliet) who did the rescuing/escaping.

    I have a lot of thoughts about this topic in general and I hope this makes sense: Everyone needs to be rescued at one time or another. And everyone needs help rescuing someone. There are other ways for girls and women to be empowered without having to pick up a weapon. Just look at The Paper Bag Princess. :) I think that if you use your strengths, whatever they may be, you can rescue yourself 9 times out of 10.

  3. @rosesarered definitely a "days of yore" vibe to the Grimm episode. I liked it. Easily waaay better than Once Upon A Time's last ep.

    @pambelina I enjoyed it too - and agree about the Munroe comment. Like your comments on rescuing too. It's a hard topic to write on without appearing to be at one extreme or the other, it seems (I wrote my post two different ways before I made it live), but it seems we're on the same page. :)

    I do like that Grimm is finally showing a good balance of current story and overall series arc. The language/writing/vernacular used is consistently more solid and the characters are more settled and dimensional. I've noticed the procedural work, too, is more spot on and believable which helps everything. Though the focus isn't as strongly on individual fairy tales at the moment I think the show is doing a better job overall at a fairy tale vibe now than it was when we saw specific tales being handled (though the Hansel & Gretel one was very good). I'm sure they'll zero in on specific tales again but this time round I'm more confident in how they will be handled, that they may have something to add. The urban fantasy "vibe" is stronger than it was (ie beyond sci-fi monster of the week) and the world building is definitely more solid. Though it's not everyone's cup of tea I'm definitely getting more solid viewing and entertainment value from this show (ie. I'm not wasting my time watching it) so I'm definitely happy about that. We'll have to see how things continue to develop,

    On the rescue front I liked that this episode was a little more layered in who needed rescuing from what - from the abduction through to individual torment and a situation in which Nick knows there's now a real urgency to finding a solution if he doesn't want to hurt Juliette. I also liked Juliette's right hook. :)