My hatred for Taylor Swift is the stuff of legend. I kid you not. Ask anyone I went to college with. Taylor Swift’s songs – especially “Fifteen” – contain views of gender roles that troglodytes would be proud of. But that is neither here nor there. Today I will be aloof, dignified, scholarly, and talk about Taylor Swift, Jane Austen, and the Iliad. An odd combo, but that’s what’ll make it fun. We’ll start with Taylor; the specific song that I want to analyze is “Love Story,” from her album “Fearless.”

The most terrible thing about this song is that I absolutely love it. I’ll come back to that in a minute. First of all, I want to note the things which the movie – both explicitly and implicitly – makes reference to:

Fairy Tales. This is an implicit reference; however, we do have Taylor Swift standing on a balcony in a tower. (Rapunzel anyone?) The song’s title, “Love Story,” is also a gesture towards the fairy-tale genre, as is its opening line, “We were both young when I first saw you.

Romeo and Juliet. The classic love story, no? Swift is Juliet, Dashing Man With Very Styled Hair (I’ll call him DMV) is Romeo.

The Scarlet Letter. Not a good idea on Swift’s part. The line: “Cause you were Romeo, I was a Scarlet Letter, and my Daddy said, ‘Stay away from Juliet.'”

Jane Austen. Here I am not talking about any particular Jane Austen book, movie, or other adaptation, but rather the sort of romantic “brand” that Regency England has become, and which is often talked about under Jane Austen’s name. This sort of Jane Austen has several things: waistcoats, lovely dresses, women with diamonds and/or gold in their up-dos, country dances of the like shown in Swift’s music video. In fact, that dance is basically just a flashier, more polished, less witty version of the dance between Darcy and Elizabeth from the 2005 film (which in turn was a flashier, more polished, less witty version of the same dance from the 1995 mini-series). You’ll find the video after the jump: Read the rest of this entry »

Because I live under a rock (this rock is called Ho Chi Minh City and it is very far away from Hollywood), I had no idea that a film version of Little Red Riding Hood is in the works. It’s called “Red Riding Hood” and it stars Amanda Seyfried.

Blog Reader: Great! Can’t wait!
Dae: Fiend, stay your excitement! I have *most sobering news.*
Blog Reader: Oh no! Whatever could it be?
Dae: Catherine Hardwicke is the director.

Yep. Twilight‘s director. So it should come as no surprise that the Wolf in this movie has been re-imagined as… a werewolf.

Twilight Movie Poster with Annoying Werewolf

If he shows up in this movie, I swear I'll have a stroke

But wait! There’s more! Read the rest of this entry »

I’ve been thinking a lot about speaking lately. This is because I’ve been doing far less of it than usual; my Vietnamese is pitiful, and many of the people I interact with on a daily basis speak little to no English. It’s an odd feeling; I have this whole (crazy, nerdy, whatever) self that I am completely unable to communicate to the world. Same goes for those trying to speak with me, I guess, except their problem has less to do with “the world” and more with “that gal.”

So I’m a mute in my own life. This makes me think about fairy tales! And cultural crticism! Surprise! Joseph Jacobs – collector of English Stories from the late 19th and early 20th centuries – is my target today. Like many fairy tale collectors, Jacobs saw himself as preserving a vanishing tradition. England, he warned, was losing its folk culture due to industrialization. Also, and way more importantly, they were being shown up in the Folklore arena by the Germans and the French. SO not okay, people. But! In his otherwise rather pedestrian Preface, Jacobs says something really interesting:

Who says that English folk have no fairy tales of their own? […] The only reason, I imagine, why such tales have not hitherto been brought to light, is the lamentable gap between the governing and recording classes and the dumb working classes of this country–dumb to others but eloquent among themselves. It would be no unpatriotic task to help to bridge over this gulf, by giving a common fund of nursery literature to all classes of the English people, and, in any case, it can do no harm to add to the innocent gaiety of the nation.

Dumb to others but eloquent amongst themselves. When you first read it, it’s pretty easy to dismiss the comment as dated and classist. And in a way it is. Though Jacobs isn’t using dumb to mean “stupid;” Laura Gibbs of the University of Oklahoma believes that Jacobs’ comment refers to a lack of literacy in the non-governing classes. And this might be the case. But I think that there’s something more in Jacobs’ comment, soemthing more telling, even if there’s also a hefty dose of elitism mixed in.

Joseph Jacobs

I'm a bald elitist with a large moustache, but I still may have a point.

Thing is: the idea that the underclasses – for lack of a better word until later – can’t communicate themselves may have a grain of truth in it. But it’s not because of a lack of intelligence. It’s because of the nature of communication itself. Read the rest of this entry »

I’ve been in Việt Nam for almost a month, and I have yet to take a single picture. I find myself 100% incapable of even taking my camera out in public, and even if I did, I know that I’d never have the guts to actually point it at anything.

I had this same problem when I lived in Germany. Ask anyone in my family about my time in Hamburg, and they’ll probably rant about how the only pictures I ever posted were of graffiti. I never took pictures of monuments, parks, natural wonders, anything that normal tourists take pictures of. Instead, all my photos were either of run-down buildings, tags, pieces, or sidewalks.

Graffiti Piece from MSP

Typical picture taken by me. This one is actually from Minneapolis.

Why do I suffer from an inability to take pictures – at lest normal pictures – in public? Read the rest of this entry »

Apparently, the *billions* of dollars earned by Tim Burton’s re-imagining of Alice in Wonderland is triggering something of a Renaissance for fairy-tale adaptations in Hollywood. A 3D, Zombie Apocalypse kind of Renaissance.

First off, a 3D Cinderella could be in the works. Disney just bought a screenplay – written by the adapter of “The Devil Wears Prada” – for a Cinderella remake. I would get upset about this, except for the fact that nothing could possibly be worse than Cinderella III: A Twist in Time.

Cinderella III: A Twist in Time

Time-Travelling Cinderella: Yes, Disney went there.

But wait! There’s more! Hansel and Gretel is also getting a 3D update! And here I might actually die, because the movie is set to be born under the all-watchful eye of…Michael Bay. Ya’ll, I deeply dislike Michael Bay. The man is a rather evil sexist, and I tend not to like rather evil sexists. What can I say? I used to be Collective Coordinator for my college’s Women’s Center. Being a sexist just ain’t cool, peeps.

But that aside, I shudder to think what Hansel and Gretel will be like as a “3D action-packed FX experience.” ::shudder:: Things can be interesting without explosions! I just know that I’m going to have nightmares about this. Hansel and Gretel meets every obsession our culture has. Vampires! Zombies! 3D FX! Explosions! Gretel washing a sports car in a bikini! APOCALYPSE!!!

Hansel and Gretel in 3D

This is the face of the apocalypse.

Am I over-reacting? Yes, but it’s what I do, and I like to play to my strengths.

This post is a sequel to yesterday’s post about beauty standards, whiteness, and “the uncanny.” If you haven’t read it yet, you gotta. Otherwise this post will make no sense at all.

I’m going to use this post to talk about the concept of “unheimlich” or “uncanny” specifically as it relates to the restructuring of fairy tales in contemporary adaptations. Sound complex? It’s not. I just mean this:

Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter

Like Carrot-Top Meets Mutant Muppets

Now you get it. So what’s that all about? Read the rest of this entry »

Finally, I’m settled in Việt Nam. My apartment is right next to a lovely hole-in-the-wall cafe with excellent coffee and free wifi. ‘Tis here, Dwarves and Elves, that I shall be blogging away.

I’ve been thinking about many things since I came here, but beauty standards are close to the top of the list (the top of the list? caffeine). As a Westerner living in the decidedly non-touristy District 5, I get a lot of stares, a lot of shouted greetings, and a lot of people asking me if I’m married. But the second question people usually ask is where I’m from. And people really, really want to know this about me, to the point that if I don’t tell them, don’t understand the question or laugh it off, they get upset and ask very, very urgently. Why the urgency?

First of all, this is not a question that most Americans get nearly as much as I do. Most people here are very surprised that I’m American; after I tell them that I’m from the US, they usually say that they thought I was from India. Or Turkey. Or “Arabia.” Or even South America. After I convince my interlocutor that yes, I am American and no, I didn’t move there as a child, their next sentence – 80% of the time – is: “Wow! You’re very beautiful.” And this is interesting, but not for the reason you’d think. Read the rest of this entry »

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