Jul 25, 2011

I know all parents mess their kids up to a degree, but it's not supposed to be this intentional

So I've discovered several things today.

1. The revamp of Beavis and Butthead wherein they pan shows like Jersey Shore, et al, is probably something that I will watch. I don't know why. Raincoat Jed likes to send me links to things that spark my interest, like anything that involves the quote, “If they did this chart long enough, they could find out how herpes began.”

2. I don't know if it's because I'm getting older, but apparently my body hates corn chips like Godzilla movies hate continuity.

3. I noticed that someone posted a link to this gem:

"Two classic fairytales have been re-imagined or “sweetened” rather for today’s tots: , “Rapunzel,” by Sarah Gibb and “Twelve Dancing Princesses” by Brigette Barrager. According to The New York Times, these authors have assumed a “gentler” narrative for these gorgeously-illustrated picture books. Yet, despite tactics to make these stories more kid-accessible, sexist attitudes about women and passivity remain.

Pamela Paul at The Times observes:
'As Gibb would have it, the princesses are passive innocents and unaware of the spell – sleepdancing, as it were. They can be rescued only by the handsome young cobbler, Pip, who toils away mending their worn-out shoes. This ends — can you guess? – in a joyous wedding between Pip and the princess Poppy. “And, of course, they all lived happily ever after.” Very attractively, though inactively, so.'

I find it quite telling that sex and violence have been removed from these tales but stereotypes about women remain a kosher part of storytelling. There may no graphic scenes in these picture books but children learning that “passive” princesses can only be rescued from spells by a “handsome young cobbler” is just as damaging. Revamp indeed. Reads like the same old trajectory to me."

First of all, I’ve read the original “Twelve Dancing Princesses.” It is quite possible that it’s been “softened” because there’s not many parents who want to read a story to their daughters about a bunch of chicks who sneak out to party every night. This does not bespeak sexism.

In fact, it looks an awful lot like:

Yeah, that stamp? It may show up a lot.

As another (female) commenter put it:
“So…you wanted them to actually tell a different story? Should only the aggressive princesses have been saved? Should they have scorned the man, and belittled him, before declaring him worthless and then rescuing themselves? Perhaps the prince should have been nerdy and sensitive and passive to his ball-busting career princess, maybe even changing HIS last name this time around? Don’t you think you’re reaching a little to find the insult in this? What kind of damage does this cause again? Let me get this straight: you believe this encourages little girls to believe that passivity is required in order to win the affections of a handsome man…which is wrong…but you wouldn’t assume that this story teaches little girls that magic spells are real, right?? Why does it teach one concept, but not the other? Why not assume that little girls would learn that dancing is bad because you have to be rescued from it? Why wouldn’t they assume that the story is telling them that dancing is fun, and handsome men are lame for interrupting?? Its just so arbitrary to assume that ALL little girls will discern THAT particular message from a story.
Let’s just re-write all books. That way no one’s feelings will be hurt. Like the Third Reict (sp). Any and all stories and books that portray the women as anything less than demi-gods worthy of only the highest respect must be altered or destroyed, along with the authors. Let’s start with the Bible. Then we’ll move on to Shakespeare. After that we’ll change all the history books.”

Second, I love Grimm Fairytales (the originals) because they're so dark and frankly weird. The original Rapunzel, for instance, has Rapunzel getting knocked up by the prince (mazel tov, it's twins). The witch comes back, throws Rapunzel out and blinds the prince. They're separated for a while, but Rapunzel is the one who finds him later (along with their kids) and restores his sight. Then they live happily ever after.
If there's a moral to that story, it's that you have to go through a lot of bullshit in order to get your share of happiness; and let's face it, if you tell your kids that when they're young, it'll come as much less of a surprise later.

If the author of articles like this and the one at the Times is going to cherrypick just one story here and there that they think depicts a princess or two as too "passive" as being sexist, then it's not just reaching, it's bad reporting. If there's a parent out there who really finds the more modern, sanitized fairy tales to be so offensive, then just read your kids the originals.

By the way, the original Grimm's Brothers version of the Pied Piper has the townspeople refusing to pay the piper after he rids the town of rats. So he plays a different tune and leads all their children dancing away into a mountain, whereupon they are never seen again. Vengeance complete, the piper presumably goes on his merry way while the parents wail in grief.

Now, I'd probably read a toddler something about dancing princesses simply because small children just don't analyze things the way adults do. You know why? 'Cause anything that poops itself and likes Barney is not, I repeat not, going to be lecturing in Oxford about the intricacies of literature any time soon.

But I guess if you prefer fairy tales to teach your kids the fine principles of "an eye for an eye and possibly also a leg just to be thorough," then, you know, you have options. Original fairy tales, Rambo movies, religion.

When the children hear about Jesus and how lovin' and carin' he was . . . how he gave his all to God's children and how it got him nailed to a tree, it will be amazin' to see whose eyes light up with hope and whose burn with newfound survival instincts.
--Fred MacIntire, Something Positive
Speaking of S*P, Milholland also did this awesome take on Sleeping Beauty. Also, by quoting his characters and linking to stuff he’s done that I think is cool, I’m not saying that he shares any of my opinions or that I actually know him in any way. Do not pester the Randy just ‘cause of this blog, OK thank you.
Though he replied to me once on Twitter and it totally made my day ‘cause he’s awesome.

Note: If anyone gives a crap about what the rapunzel plant is, it’s an old name for Rampion (Campanula rapunculus), which is apparently a sort of salad green.

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