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Yilan, Taiwan
I'm a Social Studies teacher and single mom from Colorado and have lived here for 9 years. Taiwan is an excellent base for us explore Asia, while living in relative (gun free) safety, while benefiting from a cheap and efficient national health care system. The people are amazing too. I have friendships that are 14 years old and I'm always making new ones.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Adult Fascination w/Fairy Tales

I'm a big fan of fairy tales, myths and legends. I was into Greek and Roman mythology as a kid, read Jung and Joseph Campbell, so I understand the deep need we have to tell stories, make sense of the senseless, the individuation progress. I get how stories, modern ones, especially in film are the same hero myth retold for the times (Star Wars) was Campbell's big example. So Hollywood doing fairy tales is nothing new.

Yet, there seems to be a theme lately, heroes, which isn't anything new, I mean I watched the old black and white Robin Hood with Richard Greene and the 80s BBC Robin Hood the Hooded Man, grew up on Indiana Jones, Superman, the A-team... We all did.  Then the whole X-Men, Heroes TV series, Bat Man, Marvel Comics characters, Spiderman.Obviously there is this collective need for a hero, for us to be a hero.

Recently however, American mass media is literally returning back to the fairy tales of our childhood, not necessarily the bubble gum Disney version. Two years ago was the amazing Black Swan,  a text book Jungian Shadow Complex + the universal Mother-Daughter (Demeter/Persephone) story in the background.

There was last year's Red Riding Hood, this year's Volvo's S60 TV ad with a Dad and his daughter as red riding hood. What is the wolf motif anyway? An animal of Artemis/Diana, of the moon, the subconscious, considered devious, like a trickster (think of the Native American Coyote stories, or the Fox character. ("Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves"--Gospel of St. Matthew). Yet the wolf is much more sinister than a fox or coyote, and yet an animal helper, intuition as teacher. For Native Americans the wolf is the pathfinder, so perhaps this fascination with wolves is American/Westerner's need for a collective path out of this mess we made.

Just the other week, I read a Red Riding book to my preschool class and the ending was totally watered down, cleaned up and thus not the real story. In this version the wolf didn't swallow the grandmother whole, so the hunter didn't need to chop him open to get her out. No, in this modern version, the grandmother was hiding in a cupboard, while the wolf put on her clothes and waited in her bed to receive Red Riding Hood with the familiar words we all know so well. I had to tell the kids as I often do the real ending or I usually tell them alternative stories that I've read (the original ones.)  Kids are smart, there is a reason that fairy tales are often gruesome, scary, they teach something life preserving. I am not for the watered down version. The Little Mermaid dies in the end, she and the prince don't marry and have a girl child, he married the other girl, a noblewoman who found him on the beach, not his real savior. I don't think kids should watch Freddy  Kruger or Halloween, but there is a place for Bluebeard.

There were two, count 'em TWO movies released seemingly back to back retelling the Snow White story. So why Snow White, why now? Mirror Mirror w/ Julia Roberts was a fun, family friendly version.  Snow  White and the Huntsman was a dark, gothic version. They both deal with a broken Mother-Daughter relationship, always a current theme, and also with the theme of female beauty and youth. Mirror Mirror "takes the piss" of the lengths modern woman will go to through to stay young. Check out this clip:

And of course Julia Robert's character is a total Cougar, going after the younger prince. (The whole recent mass media fascination w/Cougar women is another topic and yes I totally support Cougar Women--to a point.).

In the other Kristin Stewart, goth version (love Theron's costumes and crowns), there is this underlying message that our collective problems are due to weak male leadership and this vacuum of the feminine counterpart that allowed a powerful, more demonic feminine power obsessed with not just youth and beauty, but immortality to take possession. The solution becomes following the leadership of the rejected, underdeveloped, feminine, who after coming of age (meeting the Huntsman, a wounded animus and yet he is her counterpart, positive male energy + meeting the dwarfs symbolic of  subconscious helpers and the stag a pagan Celtic motif of Herne, the Green Man, god of the forest ) she individualizes and proves to be more heroic. Like Lazarus or Jesus, she dies and love calls her back from the Otherside. That version is all about the blood of the fairest, the whole topic of blood, another universal, collective theme.

All the dudes identify with the Huntsman (played by the very hot, Thor, Hemsworth), who wounded from a past relationship, drinks too much, made some bad decisions and redeems himself by preserving the young Snow White and training her in combat (helping her development) to fight the Step Mother. The ending is ambiguous but hinting (especially with the kiss) of the huntsman, (the Real Man) rather than the Duke's son (the good catch, still a good guy) of being her real love. So I guess this version would mean that our younger generation have to reject the poor male leadership of their fathers,the demonic, alien feminine energy of their mothers and heal themselves by uniting the wounded masculine and rejected feminine.

I wonder whats next on the collective horizon, certainly more rehashing of old familiar stories. What is fascinating is how its retold and when.

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