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You hear it everywhere, don’t you? People describe things like “Twilight” as “dark fairy tales.” Romantic comedies are always “fairy tale romances.” Any book with love, magic, a fairy, a prince, even *a pony* must be called a fairy tale. I think it’s written somewhere in a Very Important Book. Does this make me shudder? Yes. What do I think we should do about it? Absolutely nothing.

I think that one of my pet peeves is when purists in any given field start whining about how the Great Unwashed Masses are “doing it wrong.” “They just don’t understand” seems to be the sentiment. Why can’t they realize that the fairy tale is a historical, literary form which sprang up from a combo of French Salons, “blue books,” German bourgeois culture, with a little folk culture mixed in? Now what’s so hard about that?

Here’s the thing: I think that the over-use of “fairy tale” should actually be studied as an interesting phenomenon rather than decried as something silly. People are using the words because they mean something, or because they think they should mean something. So what exactly is that “something,” anyway?

Let’s look at two of my favorite example of this phenomenon. I know you’ll like the first one: it’s that timeless Julia Roberts movie Pretty Woman

Pretty Woman

The Fairy Tale of Our Time

You remember that scene from Pretty Woman , right? That one where Richard Gere asks Julia Roberts what she wants from him, and she gives him that whole spiel about the prince and the white horse rescuing her from the tower. “I want the fairy tale,” she says. Usually, this is the point in the film when I have a stroke. Read the rest of this entry »


Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays, dear readers! We here at Lit.Scribbles are off celebrating the spirit of Christmas, but cunningly wrote this post in advance and scheduled it to be published today. No matter what you celebrate – we’re of an interfaith family ourselves – we hope you’re having a lovely season.

Of course, it wouldn’t be the holidays without Gregory Maguire. In fact, it wouldn’t be a fairy tale blog without Gregory Maguire, now would it? NPR had Maguire write a new take on Hans Christian Andersen’s classic The Little Match Girl, which he calls Matchless.

Matchless by Gregory Maguire

Matchless: Heartbreak for the Holidays

First of all, Andersen’s original tale is about a little match girl who happily freezes to death while seeing visions of her grandmother in heaven. It’s heartbreaking:
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Remember when I posted about what looked like a discrepancy between the early Fragonard-style Rapunzel 2010 concept art and the new stuff that had recently been put out? I concluded then that the new stuff that we were seeing might be old stuff; I thought this because I had been out of the loop for a while, and I know zilch about animation.

But now it appears that some of that art actually comes from the film’s new direction, which goes hand in hand with its newly revealed style. Armed with this new knowledge (knowledge is power!) we can reconstruct a timeline for the evolution of Rapunzel concept-art.

Stage One Story: “Rapunzel Unbraided.” Concept: Girl gets pulled into Rapunzel-world from the modern world and gets turned into a squirrel. Oh, wait! This sounds like “The Princess and the Frog”…but with squirrels!

Stage One Concept Art: Rapunzel Unbraided

Rapunzel Unbraided

The Answer, My Friend, Is Blowing In the Wind

But times change, and we move on to Stage Two!
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You know, I can’t seem to write anything without using a colon. Academics love them! Ah, woe is me, gone haplessly pretentious…

The subject of today’s post suffers from the same thing, actually. “Hapless” is a pretty descriptor for Hans Christian Andersen, whose life was a sad one that was often beyond his control. Andersen penned some of today’s most popular tales – like The Red Shoes and The Little Mermaid and so I think it makes sense to start asking questions about Andersen himself. What was the man like, and how did his life affect the stories that have been told to countless children? What lessons are these children getting from these stories anyway?

Hans Christian Andersen and the Ugly Duckling

Hans Christian Andersen: Friend to Local Wildlife. Also gigantic books.

As I’ve discussed elsewhere, Andersen was a pretty dependent character, most of his life centered around gaining the approval of his patrons, the Collinses, who never let him forget that he was beneath them. This sadly turned Andersen into a rather timid figure, as the German poet Heinrich Heine noted:
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So there are (at least) two fairy tale art exhibits out there now: one in New Orleans and one in Brooklyn. Since I divide my time between Massachusetts and Minneapolis, I don’t get to go to either of those places, and will blog about them instead. Ah, sweet blogging!

First off, the New Orleans Museum of Art has an exhibit entitled: “Dreams Come True: Art of the Classic Fairy Tales from the Walt Disney Studio,” which runs November 15, 2009 – March 14, 2010.

Of the exhibit, NOMA helpfully says:

Visitors to the exhibition will encounter themed rooms showcasing artwork related to specific animated features. Arranged chronologically by year of release, the rooms will feature, in order: Silly Symphonies, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and The Princess and the Frog. Film clips will accompany the artwork to demonstrate how individual sketches and paintings lead to a finished celluloid masterpiece. An adjacent Education Area will highlight Disney’s long association with music and also will serve as a mini library for animation research and storytelling programs.

There’s also a publicity plug for “The Princess and the Frog” underneath, which of course also has artwork displayed. Sigh. Disney. Sometimes I just get tired of getting tired of you.

But that’s not the only fairy tale art exhibit that’s up nowadays!
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As you all are probably aware, Disney’s The Princess and the Frog came out on the 10th. Or the 11th. Or…*not yet,* depending where you are. Here in Nowhere, MA and Nowhere, MN, we have yet to see the film, since the outside world doesn’t come in here often. But, we’ve been reading reviews, and preparing to see it on the 23rd, after which a review will go up.

Here’s the thing: I’m concerned about this film. I means it! Concerned. For one thing, I’m worried about gender and racial stereotyping. Tiana, for example, dreams of success…by owning a restaurant. Restaurant ownership is good. It’s also traditionally feminine: cooking, cleaning and sewing are OK things for women to do. Like Giselle in “Enchanted;” she opened her own business, to be sure, but it was a clothing store. Wassamatter, Disney? Don’t women become doctors, lawyers, actors and candlestick makers anymore?

Also, there’s the racial stereotypes to contend with. I haven’t seen the film, so I can’t judge, but isn’t it interestingthat a film which has been marketed as a breakthrough for having a Black princess actually has her spending most of the movie as a frog? Oh yeah, she gets turned into a frog. When she kisses Prince Naveen (he of the ambiguous ethnicity). Clip below

So what do we make of this? Is it OK that our heroine spends the almost entire time as a frog? Are Mama Odie and Doctor Facilier going to be 2D stereotypes? And what are the critics saying?
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Psychoanalysis is no way of life. We all hope that our patients will finish with us and forget us, and that they will find living itself to be the therapy that makes sense.
– D.W. Winnicott, “The Use of an Object and Relating Through Identifications.”

Ok, so remember that post I did about fairy tales and psychoanalysis a few days ago? Well, I’ve been thinking about the topic some more. A lot more, actually. And I want to revisit the last part of that post, in which I posit that there is a way for people to relate to fairy tales that is not destructive; this way involves relating to fairy tales in a Winnicottian sense. That is to say: fairy tales can be used by individuals as objects.

Yeah, I know. This sounds a little heady to me, too. Also because I’m not a psychoanalysis type of gal. But! I realized today that Joss Whedon’s TV show Dollhouse actually has an episode that would be perrrrrfect for analyzing this phenomenon! It’s called “Briar Rose.”

Dollhouse: Briar Rose

Successful Use of a Fairy Tale

Ready? ‘Cause this is gonna get pretty fun.
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Warning: this blog contains fairy tales (which may be unsuitable for grouches), a flying pig (which may be unsuitable for realists), and textual analysis (which may be unsuitable for chemists). You stand warned.

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