(10/16/02 10:59:09 am)
| fairy tales - unrealistic??|
Do Anyone has any opinion on the following questions?
1. Are fairy tales so unrealistic because our society has changed? or have they always been unrealistic? Is it the nature of fairy tales to be unrealistic?
2. How have films replaced the role of Children's Literature in our society? How does this change affect the transfer of cultural codes? How does the capitalist nature of film production affect the "literature" being produced?
3. What effect does the modernization of Cinderella in Pretty Woman have on our societies morals, ideals, norms? How do the actions/choices available to women change in the modern version? How does the profession of the modern Cinderella affect the "fairy tale"?
(10/16/02 12:17:22 pm)
Are these essay questions for a course? If not, apologies. But if so it is best to let the board know this is the case, so answers don't inadvertently write your essay for you . . .! Again, apologies if these are not essay questions. They are interesting questions and pertinent ones, too.
(10/16/02 1:02:50 pm)
| not essay questions|
These are not essay questions. However, they're the discussion questions from my film class that I would like to seek different opinions from you all.
(10/16/02 5:04:59 pm)
If there is one fact that can be discerned from fairy tales, it is that while times and circumstances (both real and imagined) may change, people do not.
(10/18/02 6:33:55 am)
The "unrealistic" aspect is, I think, a mistaken approach.
The stories are fantastic in that unnatural events occur in them, and impossible creatures appear in them. But they are extremely realistic on an emotional/visceral, or dream--level, which is why fairy tales are so potent regardless of the cultural context from which we peer at them. It's why people like Midori on the board here can point to an African tale that bears remarkable resemblance to a story out of the 18th century French salons, but which will be just as potent as any of those, though I have no direct experience of the culture out of which it comes. I don't have to, because the "unreal" fairy tale is flying below the radar of civilization, however you care to define that.
(10/18/02 7:39:44 am)
| the prince who turns into a frog|
I would have to disagree with Greg to some extent. The imagery and emotional and dramatic conflicts embodied in fairytale and myth are not necessarily universal, or easily translatable. An example I've used is the NWC story of the handsome suitor who marries the chief's daughter and takes her away... to his home under the lake with the other frogs. It's an important, powerful and tragic story but the point of it not, I think, immediately accessible without explication. Among other things, you have also to know that frogs are regarded uneasily and are often associated with malevolent sorcery. The dramatic crux is not the marriage but the return of the grandchildren to the chief's house, where they are callously killed because they are in frog form.
The history of anthologizing Native North American traditional oral literature has been one of frequent and sometimes egregious misinterpretation. I would be surprised if this is not true elsewhere in the world. Which is not to say that stories can't speak across cultural boundaries -- but what is heard may not be what the original storyteller had in mind. A classic article about some of the perils of cross-cultural literary (mis)-communication is Laura Bohannon's "Shakespeare in the Bush."
I would agree that fairytale-type images and transformations are powerfully attractive at something like a dream level of consciousness. But that's a separate issue from understanding the *story*.
One other thing: re African stories -- African and European traditions (and genetics!) are much closer than people expect, and much closer than European and, say, New World traditions (and genetics). Not something we, fixated on skin color, are conditioned to expect... but of course until the drying of the Sahara there was continuous cultural interaction. Just for example, look at all the sacred king stuff... very much African.
(10/19/02 6:23:23 pm)
Regarding the third question on the list, I don't consider Pretty
Woman to be so much a modernization of Cinderella as a bastardization
of it. Tcby, if you look at the history of the Cinderella tale (which
you can do with this link: www.endicott-studio.com/forashs.html),
it is a story (prior to Walt Disney and his ilk) about a fiesty
young woman who seeks her own salavation -- sometimes through her
dead mother's aid, sometimes through the aid of the "fairy
godmother" figure who was a typical part of the French court
tales, but always with spunk and initiative of her own. Fairy tales
generally (and I know that I blunder by ever trying to generalize
about these diverse tales) involve meeting and overcoming challenges
and dangers. The heroine of the older Cinderella tales used her
wits and her courage to win her happy ending. What does the prostitute
heroine do to win her prince in Pretty Woman? Nothing. She is beautiful,
we're told that she's "good" beneath the cinders of her
vocation, and she's in the right place at the right time. That's
a Disney-style tale, not a proper Cinderella, and it always saddens
me that modern audiences think that stories about pretty girls who
marry rich Prince Charmings are what the tales are all about.
Edited by: Terri at: 10/19/02 6:25:58 pm
(10/19/02 8:38:57 pm)
| A quick comment on Cinderella|
One other thing about Cinderella - it was not a tale of rags to riches, but rather riches to rags to riches. There is no indication in the Pretty Woman scenario that the main character had been of that level of society forced out of it (and into prostitution) only to regain her former status. Not really Cinderella, perhaps Pygmallian (stone statue comes to life through the misguided love of her sculpture).
(10/20/02 11:17:02 pm)
| Re: A quick comment on Cinderella|
Good point, Jess. It reminds me that one of the critiques of Walt Disney's Snow White, when it was released, was that he put the heroine in rags at the beginning of the story, which borrowed Cinderella imagery and implied that she was a kind of servant girl who won her way (through beauty and good house-keeping skills) to a rich marriage. Like Cinderella, however, Snow White is actually a story in which upper class privilege is lost (when she's thrust out of the family castle) and then restored. I recall a quote from Disney printed somewhere or another in which he suggested that Americans audiences would better empathize with Snow White if her artistocratic childhood was downplayed.
(10/22/02 8:28:59 am)
| Pretty Woman, redux|
Not to beat the horse to death...my understanding of the evolution (if such it can be called) of this film is that it began as a much more gritty, realistic story that Ms. Roberts was championing, and that in the tradition of contemporary Hollywood, it was revised and revised and revised until all that remained was pure marzipan.
Given than Hollywood cannot make a functional fairy tale (not even when handed a nicely honed story in advance--i.e., "Confessions of an Ugly Step-Sister"), maybe these fairy tale story-to-film comparisons are hopeless coming out of the gate.
Which reminds me, has anyone else heard the rumor (and I hope it's a joke) that Disney is "recasting" Snow White, replacing the dwarves with Shaolin monks to make a live-action Hong Kong-style movie?
(10/22/02 10:18:08 am)
| Snow White and 7 Shaolin|
This is true.
(10/23/02 4:35:35 am)
| Pretty Woman|
The core plot of Pretty Woman is certainly unadulturated Consumer Romance, but (as I try to suggest in a pitifully short entry on PW in the Oxford Companion) the film is framed with allusions to the commercial dream-making of the industry that produced the film. If I recall correctly, the first words you hear in the film (if you listen closely during the opening party scene) are something like "It's all about the money." The final scene, offering a view of the movie industry itself, underlines the irony. Of course, it's not very effective or convincing, given what's really being sold in the film. So even the ironic frame rings hollow.
(10/23/02 5:00:20 pm)
| Of course fairy tales aren't real.|
1. They were written as object lessons or entertainment. One's belief system can affect reality from person to person, but that is entering the realm of myth and religion.
2. I agree with Kate - sounds to me like essay questions from a literature course. All these questions, especially this one, have very complex answers, and should be researched in books or on the net.
3. Might as well ask if aliens and alien abductions are modern day faerie phenomena as perceived by a more sophisticated citizenry. Stories, fairy tales, myths, etc., change all the time. The central idea and its main parts are usually there, though. I don't think "Pretty Woman" is going to revolutionize the Cinderella story. "Ever After" put an interesting twist on it, and was a far better film than Pretty Woman, which I dismissed as typical Hollywood fluff. I mean, c'mon, Julia Roberts and Richard Gear? Can it get any worse?
(10/24/02 7:10:34 am)
| So what do you mean by realistic?|
If "realistic" means "showing people as they are," fairy tales aren't unrealistic (are they?).
If "realistic" means "this could actually happen" ... there never WAS a time when a frog could turn into a prince! So they never were realistic.
I suppose we're unlikely to run into huntsmen and woodcutters these days, but that relates to exotic locale, not realism.
What does realism mean here?
(10/24/02 2:25:49 pm)
| On the other hand|
All you need to read is a few gruesome news articles such as this:
to realize that some fairy tales - like Bluebeard - are all too well grounded in reality. Even stories like Snow White have elements of reality in them. British history, for example, is full of stories of the nobility killing or imprisoning one another for power and the crown, only to have some bizarre justice in the end.
(10/25/02 6:26:06 am)
The more I thought about this, the more I disagree that there is a societal change that makes these fairy tales seem less real. I could pull apart each one of the Perrault stories, for example, and show you the "modern" counterpart or how it reflects modern sensitivities. In some instances, science has replaced magic...but in general, one has to look to the underlying values being expressed in the stories: greed, curiosity, virtue, patience, perserverance, justice, etc. These are universal while some of these values (i.e. virtue) are weighted more heavily sometimes than others there aspects of them that still exist. It is our reaction that may change. You could do the same for any tale, not just Perrault. Realism? Yeah, what exactly do you mean.
Oh, and just for the record...my town was built by woodcutters and
fishermen (not hunters, but hunters of the sea). I doubt seriously
if any of these burly guys and independent gals would like to be
called an anachranism.
(10/25/02 7:03:14 am)
Please excuse the grammatical chaos in the previous entry.
(10/28/02 6:59:33 pm)
| Fairy tales and a changing society|
I was reading an essay on www.endicot-studio.com
(if you haven't been there, it is worth your time) that discussed
the particular power of fairytales. The hero or heroine faces great
difficulty. When they are able to surmount their trials, they come
out a better person. I don't believe that our changing society is
so very different from the people who first told and wrote these
tales. All people encounter hardships, and I think that fairy tales
are designed to give people hope, to allow them to dream.
(10/29/02 9:49:55 am)
| Realism et al|
<<1. Are fairy tales so unrealistic because our society has changed? or have they always been unrealistic? Is it the nature of fairy tales to be unrealistic?>>
I have to agree with people that have commented on the use of the word "unrealistic." Part of the general rule of the genre is that it is one that involves some element of fantasy, at least in the original conceptions of the tales. But I would not call them completely unrealistic, due to the fact that they do deal with various real issues (i.e. jealousy, revenge, rivalry, etc).
<<2. How have films replaced the role of Children's Literature in our society? How does this change affect the transfer of cultural codes? How does the capitalist nature of film production affect the "literature" being produced?>>
I find this truly disturbing, actually. I grew up literally addicted to books, and to see so many kids constantly in front of the television instead is saddening. I won't say I didn't watch Disney films as a child, because I did, but I also read the stories being made into film prior to seeing them.
On the nature of film production, the higher publicity given to independent films is offering people a greater variety in what to watch, but the generic Hollywood blockbuster still dominates. Once again, this is not to say that Hollywood blockbusters don't have their good points. They're entertaining, they're diverting, whatever, but some of the best films I've seen recently were in and out of the theatre within a few weeks, if not days.
<<3. What effect does the modernization of Cinderella in Pretty Woman have on our societies morals, ideals, norms? How do the actions/choices available to women change in the modern version? How does the profession of the modern Cinderella affect the "fairy tale"?>>
I wouldn't call "Pretty Woman" a modernisation of Cinderella at all. There are numerous films that can be referred to as "Cinderella stories," but I'd not call it any sort of retelling. I, personally, was very fond of the Drew Barrymore version, "Ever After," but I tend to relate more to period films as a rule.
I'll stop rambling now.