Saturday, March 31, 2012

Books: Review of Cinder by Marissa Meyer

by Marissa Meyer

“She was a cyborg, and she would never go to a ball.” 

Cinder is a cyborg mechanic in New Beijing (the city built on top of the old Beijing after WWIV). She is both a mechanic that works on cyborgs and is a cyborg herself. Cyborgs are humans who were badly injured, so they had to be augmented with robot parts. They are considered second-class citizens.

Adri, Cinder's guardian, blames her for the death of her husband, the man who brought Cinder to their family and adopted her. Adri resents her and exploits her, making her the sole breadwinner. 

The Easter Commonwealth is in trouble. A deadly plague is sweeping the land, for which there is no cure. The Lunars (people who live on the moon and have mind control powers) are threatening war unless their sickeningly beautiful queen and Prince Kai of New Beijing get married. 

Cinder wants nothing to do with it, but everything changes the day Prince Kai visits her booth, and the plague hits close to home.

This was a really interesting book! I thought it was just sweet, with some good world-building at first, with some obvious foreshadowing, but as we delved deeper into the societal prejudices of the city, and the Catch 22 that Prince Kai struggles with, you want to keep digging deeper and find out what happens. You expect Meyer to simply tell the story of Cinderella with cyborgs, but honestly, it is just a bare outline. Yes, you have the ball, the lost...shoe and other things, the "pumpkin," the abusive family. But those are small touchstones in a very complex story that doesn't end with the prince finding her and having a happily ever after. 

The Lunars were an element that made me giggle for a while. Aliens from the moon that controlled your mind? Sounds like a 1950s B movie. But as we met more of them, they became a truly frightening nemesis. 

There was also a smattering of Snow White in there, in the story of the lost Lunar princess who's place was usurped by a queen obsessed with beauty. 

Excellent storytelling! I can't wait for the rest of the series!

Books: Review of A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz

A Tale Dark and Grimm
by Adam Gidwitz

“You see, Hansel and Gretel don’t just show up at the end of this story. 
They show up. 
And then they get their heads cut off. 
Just thought you’d like to know.”

It is true. Hansel and Gretel get their heads chopped off. And then their story begins. Hansel and Gretel were the son and daughter of a king and queen. In order to save the life of a loyal servant, they had to chop their children's heads off, so the children thought that after that, they should probably go and find new parents. 

They travel through different, more obscure fairy tales with themselves as the main characters, starting with "Faithful Johanness," "The Seven Swallows," "Hansel and Gretel," "Brother and Sister," etc trying to find a better family to take care of them, and in the process, they grow up. And they deal with some pretty deep stuff. Each of them makes mistakes with deadly consequences, but they learn from them. Each of them have to make terrible sacrifices. But they gain strength, intelligence, and willpower so they can safe the kingdom and come to grips with their horrible parental trust issues. 

This was a fantastic book! The style was delicious! Each section begins as a fairy tale; "Once Upon a Time, there was a ______" It continues in that style with frequent interruptions from a very chatty narrator, snarkily judging the character's decisions, explaining to the reader the feelings the characters must be going through, and most of all, vehemently warning of the impending gore and frightening subject matter, employing the readers to take the children out of the room, etc. It is absolute genius. It warns them, but then dares them to read on, and when bad things occur, the reader is prepared and brave, and is able to go on. They are not shocked by the horrible things happening and have to put the book down. This is juvenile fiction after all. 

In the back, the writer tells the story of how someone came into his second grade classroom and read "The Seven Ravens," in which a girl cuts off her finger. After being assured that he was not fired, he realized the kids got a lot out of it, and they begged him to tell more stories, asking questions, shouting responses, and getting involved in the story telling. 

With all the discussion recently about if kids can handle dark fairy tales, I think the answer is a resounding YES. This book shows that kids can have the strength to go through dark times and come out the other side. Kids need dark stories to know that people can survive and be better for it. If they don't put themselves in the right story when they encounter a dark time, they will crumble. If they think of themselves as a hero with a possibility of winning, they will fight. 

This is my favorite quote in the book:
“There is a certain kind of pain that can change you. Even the strongest sword, when placed in a raging fire, will soften and bend and change its form. So it was with Hansel. The fire of guilt and shame was just that hot.
Trust me on this one. I know this from personal experience. I hope that you never will, but, since you're a person, and therefore prone to making horrible, soul-splitting mistakes, you probably will one day know what this kind of guilt and shame feels like. And when that time comes, I hope you have the strength, as Hansel had, to take advantage of the fire and reshape your own sword.” 
Oh and check out the trailer. It is awesome!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Movies: Snow White and the Huntsman's Dwarves' "Latent Sexuality"

(From Bill Willingham's Fables)

In a recent interview at Wondercon from Movieline Rupert Sanders made an interesting remark about the dwarves in his movie:
“The dwarves really, you know, dwarves mythologically are latent sexuality, you know, they’re half-men. So, they’re kind of, they’re about sexual awakening,” Sanders said. [Sanders explains there will be no dwarf gang bangs in his movie]. “It’s really about another group of people who have lost everything because of the [Queen's] reign, and they are touched by Snow White and they decide that they will fight for their pride again alongside her.” (Full Article)
I had never heard this before, but it makes sense. I can understand in the context of the movie how they represent impotence (in terms of power, not sexuality) and how the coming of Snow White gives them the ability to take control of their lives again. I am a bit relieved he is not playing up the sexual angle. These dwarves come off as kindly uncles (though personally in his heyday, I think Bob Hoskins was rather sexy).

Fables, the comic by Bill Willingham, certainly goes in the sexual direction. Snow White is enslaved by the seven dwarves (sons of the dwarf in Snow White and Rose Red) and is abused both physically and sexually. It is also a common theme in erotica and comedy - how could Snow White live with seven men for so long and not sleep with them? <eyeroll>.

Dwarves have been portrayed as both benevolent and malevolent from Norse myth to fairy tales to Tolkien and beyond. Often they are portrayed as characters with the desire to do something, but do they do not have the power to do it. Does anyone have accounts of sexual dwarves? It is ringing a bell for me, but I can't find it.

[EDIT: Just to clarify, I am talking about the mythological dwarf, not those diagnosed with dwarfism. Though I believe that people with dwarfism may have given rise to the myths, in this article, I am only referring to dwarves as the mythological species as represented in literature.]

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Music: Rachmaninoff's Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf Etude

Today, I discovered that Rachmaninoff wrote a piece of music called the Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf etude. It is a rather frantic piece of music, but you can definitely hear the wolf pursuing Little Red and the nasty end that they come to.

Here it is as performed by Valentina Lisitsa.

Articles: The Fairest of them All: Fashion and Fairy Tales

Fairy tale fashion
From left: Dolce & Gabbana a/w 2012; Alexander McQueen s/s 2012; Giles, a/w 2012,  (From FT)
The Financial Times brings us an intriguing article about Fashion and Fairy Tales this Spring 2012. It seems that the fashion industry has caught fairy tale fever, and the recent fashion shows have been fraught with clothes fit for adventurous princesses or glamorous queens: "The grand, bullion-encrusted capes shown for autumn/winter at Dolce & Gabbana, Versace’s slinky chainmail evening dresses and the ravaged rococo ballgowns at Giles in London could slip seamlessly into either of these films, give or take a smattering of medieval-inspired embroidery and the odd hint of armour."

The article goes on to expound upon the connections between fashion and fairy tale and the nature of transformation:
"Essentially, fashion is the ultimate fairy tale – every show is a Cinderella story, transforming the models from mere mortals into a designer’s fantasy. Or maybe that should be Snow White. After all, the story of a woman perpetually questioning who is the fairest, with a watchful and even vengeful eye on the competition, has a wry parallel in the youth-obsessed, beauty-fixated fashion industry.
 Over the past few years contemporary fashion and Hollywood’s interpretation of tales Grimm and not-so-grim have come closer and closer together. From haute couture to high street, fashion has increased its levels of fantasy and the fairy tales themselves become more real. Kristen Stewart, who plays the heroine in Snow White and the Huntsman, is according to the film’s costume designer, Colleen Atwood, “Much less kind of princess-y and more of a ‘badass’ girl.” On the other hand, last September’s Rodarte show, with its puffed-sleeve evening gowns by designers Kate and Laura Mulleavy, was an unashamedly girlie paean to Disney princess dresses.
Haute couture is the source for many of the clothes that real-life princesses and 21st-century crowned heads wear, as well as being a designer’s playground when it comes to experimentation and fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants invention. “Mr Dior said he wanted to ‘make women dream’,” says Bill Gaytten, head designer at Christian Dior. “That fantasy element is important. You want the clothes to inspire as well as empower.” Cue, for example, Dior’s millefeuille ruffled and embroidered evening wear....
The darkness of fairy tales is possibly what draws fashion to them: the doomed heroine, of course, but also the evil queen or stepmother who, truth be told, is much more fun to dress. “I like something when it has a very definite undertone of something that’s quite dark or evil,” says British designer Gareth Pugh, whose designs frequently have a gothic, fairy tale edge. Kate and Laura Mulleavy sought the same effect when designing their costumes for Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan (2011). “The story of Swan Lake unfolds as a tale of the transformation of the maiden into a swan,” say the designers. “We were inspired by the idea of metamorphosis, specifically the dichotomy between perfection and decay.”
It’s not only in the high drama worlds of haute couture and out-there costume design that fashion is in thrall to the idea of fairy tale.'The notion of fashion as a fairy tale plays a big part in our planning,' says Judd Crane, Selfridges director of womenswear. 'It’s about shopping as art.' Think about it: with the Shoe Galleries, Selfridges has the largest women’s footwear department of any store in the world – 35,000 sq ft of retail retifism. Could there be anything more Cinderella than that?" (Full Article)
Anyone who has seen my Pinterest Clothes Board knows that I most heartily agree that fashion and fairy tales are intimately connected. I am hoping the runway fashion for this Spring has fairy tale elements spill over into more wearable and affordable day-to-day clothes!

Music: Scheherazade's Playlist from Flavorwire

(From Zazzle)

Flavorwire has, yet again, given us a wonderful fictional character playlist. This is the music they think Scheherazade from The Arabian Nights would have listened to:

Listen to the Playlist.
“The Circle Game” — Joni Mitchell
Many of the stories within the One Thousand and One Nights revolve around the inevitability of fate, so we think Scheherazade would appreciate Joni Mitchell cooing that we’re all “captive on the carousel of time.”
“The Mariner’s Revenge Song” — The Decemberists
This captivating sea ballad, the story of a son avenging the wrong done to his mother by a roustabout mixed with Moby Dick, would keep us on tenterhooks if it was stopped in the middle, too.
“Holland, 1945″ — Neutral Milk Hotel
Not only would we argue that any girl who’s well-read and well-bred as well as wise and witty should be into Neutral Milk Hotel, this song is the jewel of the album Jeff Mangum wrote after reading Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl and beginning every night to dream of rescuing her via time machine. Not only would that be a good story, but we think Scheherazade’s diary would be just as inspiring.
“Alice’s Restaurant” — Arlo Guthrie
This 18-minute talking song is one of the greats. It’s a lot of Arlo Guthrie talking and only a little bit of a song, but we don’t think Scheherazade would mind. After all, every minute counts.
"First Few Desperate Hours” — The Mountain Goats
The album from which this song is plucked, Tallahassee, would surely be on heavy rotation on Scheherazade’s iPod. While strains of the story of the Alpha couple ran through The Mountain Goats’ songs until this point, Tallahassee was completely devoted to them, telling the final story of their dissolution. We think, as a lover and master teller of stories herself, Scheherazade would love to pick through the lyrics and piece together the tale — and then, maybe, tell it.
“Lifter Puller vs. The End of the Evening” — Lifter Puller
Another song from a narrative concept album, this time about all the punks who hang out at the Nice, Nice. But we think Scheherazade would be most drawn to this track, just for the idea of it — after all, it’s always Scheherazade vs. the End of the Evening, when that means the end of her life.
“A Boy Named Sue” — Johnny Cash
One of the most well-known narrative songs of all time by an inarguable master, we think our girl would definitely have to give it a listen or two.
“Long-Forgotten Fairytale” — The Magnetic Fields
The Magnetic Fields are masters of the anecdote, but this song seems more like the song of Scheherazade falling in love with her captor king than a tale of others that she might tell. Or maybe it’s both at once, the colors blurring.
“Sometimes I Forget” — Loudon Wainwright III
Another one of the confessional songwriting greats, this sad song is a perfect subtle story of loss and heartbreak. After all, not all stories can be happy ones. (Full Article)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Movies: Angelina Jolie talks Maleficent

(From Geektyrant)

Io9 tips us off to an Angelina Jolie interview where she gives us a glimpse into the Maleficent movie:
"It's not anti-princess, but it's the first time they're looking at this epic woman...I hope in the end you see a woman who is capable of being many things, and just because she protects herself and is aggressive, it doesn't mean she can't have other [warmer] qualities. You have to figure out the puzzle of what she is. It sounds really crazy to say that there will be something that's good for young girls in this because it sounds like you're saying they should be a villain. [Maleficent] is actually a great person, but she's not perfect. She's far from perfect... In general, it's a very good message to say, "let's look at something from the other side." But then also, what our challenge will be - and the script writer [Linda Woolverton] has already cracked it - is not to simplify it, not to just reverse the story but tell a bigger story that doesn't point the finger [at Princess Aurora] either. It doesn't flip it." (Full Article)
I am fascinated by this movie.  As the self-proclaimed "Mistress of All Evil," she is one of the few Disney villians who doesn't have a clear motive, aside from just being evil. Yes, she says she should have been invited to the party, but what does the Mistress of All Evil want to be at a baby's christening for?

The hook might be in her response when Merriweather says she wasn't wanted. She seems genuinely surprised. The rest of the scene, her feelings are veiled under a zen superiority and biting sarcasm, before the curse and maniacal laughter ensues.

I think there is a lot to mine here, in a character that most of us just took for granted as EVIL. I love that they are not vilifying Sleeping Beauty, just expanding the story to include Maleficent's point of view. 

It is also kind of refreshing after all the talk of Evil queens in the Snow White adaptations, and how women fall in to the categories of virginal innocent heroine, or slutty evil bitch. (And this one).

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Article: "Passive and Dumb" Heroines?

The New York Post recently printed an article about how Snow White went from being "passive and dumb" in the older interpretations to a girl-power icon in the three recent incarnations of the fairest of them all (Full Article).

I always kind of cringe at the "passive and dumb" interpretation. It is always assumed that Snow White was duped three times by the same woman in disguise, selling a comb, a corset, and then an apple. Fool me once, am I right? No one ever thinks of mitigating factors, like perhaps she was left alone in the house all day, and not allowed to talk to anyone. The other times she is surrounded by men. Maybe she desperately needed someone to talk to. Speculation, yes. Or, she was SEVEN YEARS OLD, and we should cut her some slack. I think perhaps my favorite interpretation comes from the mini-series 10th Kingdom (which I will post separately on later). Snow White tells an incredibly faithful re-telling of her story to Virginia, the heroine, and adds a little bit of the "why" at the end in a way that tugs at my heart every time.

Embedding has been disabled, so here is the link: The 10th Kingdom: Virginia Meets Snow White.

Everyone always rails about the anti-feminist message of fairy tales: Snow White was docile, stupid and domestic, and then looked good dead. Sleeping Beauty was conned into pricking her finger and then was asleep for most of the story. Cinderella cried when she was abused, and had her fairy godmother do everything for her. Very rarely do we talk about the good qualities of these characters, or allow them to have normal human frailties.

Snow White was thrown out of her home at a young age, hunted, managed to convince the huntsman not to kill her, and had to survive in the forest until she found the dwarves. She had to live with the shadow of "going to be murdered" while cooking and cleaning, and being left alone all day.  (And btw, cooking and cleaning, not a bad thing. People always thing those are the sign of the evil patriarchy, but I quite enjoy doing them.) Snow White earned her keep. She learned the value of work, after living her life as a princess. Each time the evil queen came, Snow White grew more clever with how to handle strangers. At first, she doesn't suspect the woman with the ribbons. The woman with the comb, she refuses to let in to the house at first. Finally, she watches the woman with the apples eat a bite of the apple first before she takes a bit. Seems pretty shrewd for a 7 year old.

Sleeping Beauty was naturally curious. She explored the castle, and when confronted with an activity that she did not know, she asked to be taught. A great quality, in my opinion. She just suffered from her parents'mistakes.

Cinderella is the most remarkable of all. She was horribly abused by her stepmother and stepsisters, and yet managed to be true to her kind and good self. An amazing feat. When you are confronted by evil every day, it is hard not to turn evil and bitter to protect yourself. And crying is not a weakness. It is a natural human reaction in the face of despair. When given the opportunity to change her stars, she doesn't hesitate, and grasps it with both hands.

While I love the more active heroines, like the girls from East of the Sun, West of the Moon, Donkeyskin, or Wild Swans, I think we shouldn't discount the more traditional princesses from being positive role models just because they don't swing a sword, or go off adventuring.

Music: Fairy Tale Inspired Music Videos

(From Thundrah)

Heidi over at SurLaLune Fairy Tales Blog has been doing a month of fairy tale-themed music. While most of the posts are songs about fairy tales, the two guest posts [EDIT: one by our friend Gypsy over at Once Upon a Blog!]that caught my attention were the ones whose music videos used fairy tale imagery to express the emotional journey outlined in the songs.

The first is "Black Sheep" by Valentine (see full post with more songs). The lyrics tell the story of a girl who is living life in the fast lane, but seems to have made all the wrong choices. You picture limos, clubs, back alleys, shady deals, mascara tears, people basking in her glow, and then shunning her. Valentine takes that song in the music video and transplants it to the fairy tale world. Juxtaposed with images from Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland and Beauty and the Beast (and probably others I didn't catch), the story becomes about a girl who is trying to change her life. She has a rich lifestyle, but it seems to give her no pleasure. She chooses to go off into the woods. She goes through the mirror at the invitation of her younger self, trying both to get back to who she used to be and find a new life, a new way of looking at the world (loving the Beast, living in the woods):

The other is "Call Me When You're Sober" by Evanesence, a song rumored to mark the break up of Amy Lee and her boyfriend, and the resolution for the band to clean up their act (Full Post). The lyrics tell the story of a girl who is conflicted by the break up of a mutually destructive relationship. She knows its the best thing, and that they are not good for each other, but her heart whispers "How could I have burned paradise?" The video has Amy as a powerful and captivating Red Riding Hood sitting at a booze-littered table with her lover. Judging by the fur and predatory stare, he is the Wolf. She pets real wolves while in a large chair, exerting her control, and then divests herself of her Red Riding Hood cloak, rejecting the advances of her lover. She goes from a place of subjugation, to a place of power, blowing the bottles off the table as she advances on him. It is an interesting exploration of the Red Riding Hood/ Wolf dynamic as a mutually destructive relationship that she needs to get out of before they destroy each other (presumably by being eaten, or killed by having rocks sewn into the stomach.):

Monday, March 26, 2012

Movies: The OTHER Disney Dwarves (Burpy, Hotsy, Baldy...)


We have come to know and love the seven dwarves from Disney's Snow White (Grumpy, Dopey, Sneezy, Sleepy, Happy, Bashful, and Doc). But how did they choose those names? Io9 introduces us to the 40 bastard brothers of the seven dwarves whose names didn't make the cut:

1.) Awful
2.) Baldy
3.) Bashful
4.) Biggo-Ego
5.) Burpy
6.) Daffy
7.) Deafy
8.) Dippy
9.) Dirty
10.) Dizzy
11.) Doleful
12.) Dopey
13.) Dumpy
14.) Flabby
15.) Gabby
16.) Grumpy
17.) Hickey
18.) Hoppy
19.) Hotsy
20.) Hungry
21.) Jaunty
22.) Jumpy
23.) Lazy
24.) Neurtsy
25.) Nifty
26.) Puffy
27.) Sappy
28.) Scrappy
29.) Shifty
30.) Shorty
31.) Silly
32.) Sleepy
33.) Snappy
34.) Sneezy
35.) Sneezy-Wheezy
36.) Sniffy
37.) Snoopy
38.) Soulful
39.) Strutty
40.) Stuffy
41.) Swift
42.) Tearful
43.) Thrifty
44.) Weepy
45.) Wheezy
46.) Wistful
47.) Woeful

The Disneywiki profiles a few of these strange characters:

"WHEEZY: Stubby. Always behind or last in processions. Fatter and shorter than the rest.
JUMPY: (voice: Joe Twirp) Excitable. Goosey type. Talks fast. Mixes his words, as "See's aleep in my sled."
BALDY: (voice: Cliff Arquette) Bashful. Floppy ears. Giggles. Twists buttons. Gets red in the face.
—Story outline for October 22, 1934, for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs[1]"
" JUMPY: He is in constant twitchy fear of being goosed, but is not goosed until the last scene. Whenever he hears a noise behind him, he starts, and his hand automatically protects his fanny. He is als exceedingly ticklish. He is always helping Sleepy finish his sentences or explaining to Snow White just what Sleepy is trying to say. Type of dialog:
Sleepy: As a rolling stone gathers no... (Falls asleep)
Jumpy: (Laugh) Slood old geepy. He means a stolling rone mathers no goss - a goling mone stathers no ross - a molling gone rathers no - oh, dab!
Sleepy: (To Snow White) Now you know."
 "AWFUL: The most loveable and interesting of the dwarf characterisations. He steals and drinks and is very dirty. The other dwarfs have impressed on him that he is a soul beyond redemption. This fact he never questions. He feels powerless against the evil in him and accepts his damnation cheerfully. He is the perpetual fall guy for the others. He is blamed and punished for everything that goes wrong and, even when punished for somebody else's misdeed, he takes his medicine with a cheerful "I deserve it." He is very clever, a faithful dog absolutely devoted to the other dwarfs, who seem to him far above him. He speaks in short, jerky sentences, like the Practical Pig, but his voice is a bit more chipper and cheerful. There is always understanding between him and the dwarfs' animals. Awful is always afflicted with irresistable urges againt which he is helpless.
—Story draft for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, made in November 1935.[3]"
 "Deafy is a happy sort of fellow - he always tries to make clever remarks, but he misinterprets other people's attitudes toward him. He feels, lots of times, that they are saying something about him, or that they have made some remarks, which they haven't at all - he takes exception to the most ridiculous things. Throughout the picture Deafy and Grumpy are always clashing. Deafy will pick up one word of the conversation in the early part, and whereas the conversation topic might have changed completely, he still sticks to the first thing that he heard, and in this way we hope to get some comical situations out of Deafy.
—Story draft for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, made in early 1936.[3]" (Full Article)

I personally would have liked to see Big-Ego, Hickey, Hotsy, Jaunty, Neurtsy (what?), Shifty, and Soulful. It's nice to know that Dreamy and Stealthy from Once Upon a Time weren't that far off!

Movies: Q & A with Snow White and the Huntsman Director Rupert Sanders

snow white huntsman charlize theron set photo 

A recent Q & A with Snow White and the Huntsman director Rupert Sanders on Screenrant has made me a bit more confidant in his interpretation of the classic tale, and more hopeful that Kristin Stewart can pull off her role. 

On casting Kristin Stewart: 
Yeah, I think we were looking for someone who was obviously a great actor first and foremost but also someone who’s incredibly physical. Everyone thinks she is Bella from Twilight. I think she’s such a good actor that she encompassed that role so well that people think that’s how she is. When you meet Kristen, she’s so far away from that character. I’d first seen her in ‘Into the Wild’ and I was really blown away. I remembered that she was the girl from ‘Panic Room,’ ‘Welcome to the Rileys,’ ‘The Runaways,’ and now ‘On the Road.’ She’s one those actors who does these smaller films and then she does these big movies and she’s really managed her career so well in that way. She’s incredibly spirited and very kind of wild and also she’s got this kind of this alchemy to her. You’re not quite sure what it is about her but on screen she’s just incredible. And when you see her act you realize why she is such a huge movie star and why she’s going to continue to get bigger.”
 On Charlize Theron's "very real" performance:
When you’re playing an Evil Queen you can go into pantomime very quickly. I think what she did so well and what really we all felt was the best kind of root for the character was that she wasn’t playing pure evil. I don’t think anyone’s born pure evil. Things happen to them growing up that make them who they are and I think that’s very true with her backstory that you see later in the film. She’s a very disturbed character who’s desperately got to find this heart because she needs to live forever. It’s as simple as that. She’s dead on the inside but she’s determined that she will avenge her family and the tribe that she was with that was constantly brutalized by kings and other kingdoms. She’s determined that the world will feel the suffering that she felt and she will stop at nothing to do that. She’s driven by some dark machinations but she’s also incredibly wounded and fragile underneath that. You can relate to her, because we understand the things she’s gone through and why she’s become evil. She’s not just sitting around with a white cat on her lap and hacking people’s heads off. Her evil comes because of how distorted the character has become. So she plays it very real and I think that’s really the success of the character. She’s incredible to watch."
On why he chose "Snow White":
“I think it’s because it’s the best fairy tale. I don’t like them when they get too princess-y. I don’t love balls and sleeping beauties, that kind of thing. I think the great thing about ‘Snow White’ is those images have scarred me since I was a child with the Queen, the mirror, the taking of the heart, the huntsman and the enchanted forest. So really, my goal was to re-appropriate those myths and those symbolic devices. Each of those ideas is so deeply psychologically embedded and that’s why the stories have lasted so long. People still have a thirst for them internationally. So it was a great opportunity to go back to that source material and create something very new and contemporary with it but in keeping with the Grimms fairytale version of it. We’re not polishing it up to make it something that it isn’t.”
On the tone and imagery of the film:
"One of the first things that I did was I went out and found a group of fifteen contemporary artists around the world and I’d give them an idea and they’d start to sketch it. I’d call them again, we kept up this kind of constant accumulation of imagery in which we created a bible. And then I made everyone who came into the film read the bible, understand the world and understand the mechanics of the world, the physics of it, why the dark forest is what it is, why the enchanted forest exists. What is the spell? What are the three drops of blood? What’s the symbolism? What’s the mythology? So once everyone had that, I think they really were able to go into a very rich world that was already kind of designed for them. Knowing that as an actor is like getting into costume. Once you know the world you know how your character fits into it.” (Full interview)
It seems that Rupert Sanders did his homework. He tried to delve deeper into the fairy tale itself and ask questions of it to come up with his expanded version of the story. He was haunted by the dark images of the story as a young boy, and has never seen the Disney Snow White. While I know many would argue that Snow White is very princess-y, as she has things happen to her, rather than taking agency, I think the story could be interpreted in several different ways. I agree with Rupert Sanders that it is almost as dark a story as The Juniper Tree. Many people just see the Disney version overlaid on the tale. Read the Grimm's version over at SurLaLune, and you be the judge.

Check out some additional footage that looks pretty damn awesome (with a worrying psychodelic Lisa Frank forest in the middle): 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

TV: Review of Once Upon a Time's Episode: Heart of Darkness


Well this episode was kinda...meh. I was expecting the series to shoot off after the great Little Red episode, and the promise of dark-i-tude that was the trailer for this one: 

Alas, it was a bit bland for me. Still, there were some really cool moments!

We started off with Charming and Red being pursued by King George's Army, and Red badassly Hulking (or wolfing) out to give him a head start. She seems to have come to grips with her wolfy self. If you are as confused as I am about the time line, here, this is really helpful.

Meanwhile, Snow White hums "With a Smile and a Song" while sweeping and enchanting birds. I was nearly livid until she used her bird charming to try and smash the bird with her broom, and get it out of the house. The dwarves, lead by Jimminy Cricket (yay, he's back!) stage an intervention, saying that she has become , basically, a huge bitch. She berates them all, and decides she's off to kill the Queen! The terrible Queen of Fairytale Land. 

It turns out she is under the influence of Rumplestiltslin's forgetting-the-love-of-your-life juice, which not only makes you forget, it gives you a large hole in your heart like..guess who?... the Evil Queen. 

Charming tries to heal her with true love's kiss, but it doesn't work until he is willing to give up his life so she won't go down the dark path of murderdom from whose bourn no traveler returns. She kisses him and remembers him and all is hearts and stars until King George's men arrest Charming. They have the heart-wrenching "I will always find you" moment as the episode ends. I really love Snow and Charming. I am really getting sick of Mary Margaret and David.

In fairy tale land, Mary Margaret takes the opposite journey of her fairy tale counterpart. As the evidence piles up against her, she spirals down into a pit of bad. Henry (god, I wish this kid was a better actor) sits at Granny's drowning his sorrows in a cup of hot chocolate when August (the writer) plunks down next to him and reveals he is here to make Emma believe in fairy tales! As cool as that reveal is, it's a bit of a let down when you build up mystery and then casually go "Oh, it's this! Thanks for watching." I was expecting to work a little more for a big reveal like that. The Rumplestiltskin-still-remembers-fairy-land reveal, for example. That one was nicely done.

Anyway, David visits Doctor Hopper (yay!) to recover his lost memories through hypnosis. He remembers the mystery 8 min conversation with Katheryn about how she was sad, but hopeful and moving to Boston. And then he remembers Snow White (not Mary Margaret) in the woods saying she was going to kill someone. Which is fun! I think Regina's fucking with him, making him forget the phone call, and that, plus hypnosis, is stirring the hidden Charming memories up to the surface. But then, David visits and doesn't believe Mary Margaret is innocent and she kicks him out. 

Oh yeah, and Mr. Gold will be her lawyer, and Emma thinks Regina's behind this, but she's gonna work really really hard to save Mary Margaret. 

But THEN, Mary Margaret finds one of Regina's keys under her jail blanket, and is able to escape from jail. Which I thought was stupid, b/c nothing says guilt more like running away. AND it will cast doubt on Emma's impartiality. Lots of people on the fandom are cheering Snow on for taking control of her own destiny, but I feel its just falling into Regina's plot once again.

Anyway, the THEMES! I loved the theme that, as Regina says, "Evil isn't born. It's made." Regina (as I am guessing from "The Stable Boy" promo shots) wasn't much different than Snow when she started out. Then the big everything-is-Snow-White's-fault betrayal happened, and evil Regina was born.  It's fun to play with the idea that Snow would become Regina's replacement if she killed Regina.

However, I think it was a bit of a cop out that Snow was under the influence of a potion. I think it would have been much stronger if Snow had come to that place on her own. That the darkness and hatred of the Queen consumed her, and she chose to take that road of her own free will. 

I misunderstood the potion's influence, though, at first. I thought it had removed ALL love from her life, rather than just making her forget Charming. Why else would she be mean to the dwarves? But eventually I saw that this is how she would be if she had not met Charming when she did.

The mission seemed to come out of no where at first, but then a minion tells Snow the Queen is traveling to her summer palace, Snow flushes and snarls "That palace was built for my mother" with such passion, that I was sold. Crusade away, Snow, you obviously mean it. I can see how the removal of her love of Charming from her life gave her no spark of hope for the future, and just made her dwell on the past, so that all she could see was the wrongs done to her. When she finds her love again, she's focused on saving him, rather than killing the Queen. But I still think the feelings fueling the murder mission should be there underneath. Snow will not act on them, as she is a good person and has hope now, when she had none before, but she should still feel them. 

Anyway, next episode, "Hat Trick," introduces Alice in Wonderland into our realm of fairy tales (a tiny sore point with me, as I think it is a children's novel, not a fairy tale). I am very excited that someone else remembers fairy tale world and is trying to convince Emma. That is the most exciting dynamic of the story for me. How and when these folks will regain their fairy tale memories. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Tumblr Friday: Disney Princesses have Issues


I know Anastasia doesn’t belong (though it’s awesome in it’s own right), but I almost peed myself laughing..
(From Disney Princess Project on Tumblr)

(From Jerhovlive on Tumblr)

And, of course, the SNL sketch The Real Housewives of Disney:

Ignore Lindsay Lohan. Focus on Kristin Wiig and her flamboyant Prince Charming. 

Article: How and Why to Tell Fairy Tales

(From The Prisma)

massmouth blog and news, a blog devoted to the art of storytelling, has written two articles specifically about fairy tales. The first one details how to tell fairy tales and gives us some important points to remember:

Just because it's a fairy tale doesn't mean it's a simple story. Many of the these stories are dark, frightening, or at a minimum explore some of the more challenging times of life (childlessness, parental abandonment, learning who you are, adolescence, etc) so spend some time with the story and decide how you want to tell it. Do you want to focus on the happy endings? Are you more interested in the voice of a minor character?
Understand where the story comes from. Myths come with a cultural context, so you should have some understanding of where the story comes from and what it means in context. Some myths are still considered sacred stories, so think carefully about where you stand on telling a story that has sacred meaning to other people. Always tell living myths respectfully.
Explore why the story appeals to you. Myths and fairy tales are rife with symbols, so it's worth spending some time understanding why a particular story appeals to you, what the symbols mean to you. This can be the work of years, so please tell the story, but just don't be surprised if it has unexpected meaning for you.
If you change the story do so carefully, without stripping the heart out of the story. The Disney version of The Little Mermaid overlooks her death at the end, entirely changing the meaning of the story; if you choose to change a story make sure you understand why you're doing it and how the meaning will be altered. Be especially careful about changing myths, since these may be living sacred stories. If you modernize the story make sure you honor the original text in whatever way makes the most sense to you.
Select the right story for the audience. This is a tenet no matter what kind of story you're telling. Be wary of using accents unless you're very good at them, and if you choose to tell stories from a particular culture to that culture and you're not of that culture make sure you treat the stories with utmost respect and be prepared to get some feedback. (Full Post)
 I have never devoted much thought to the art of telling fairy tales before, but these rules are excellent! They give focus to the tale, but also a detail and texture you might not have found by simply telling the story as-is. This method encourages the teller to be highly respectful of the source material while making it their own.


The second, and more recent, article talks beautifully about why we should tell fairy tales:

"Fairy tales are potent for retelling and healing. When we tell the story of our own broken youth, we can tell it as a fairy tale and make it easier to both state and hear. We can talk about the dark and process those experiences without frightening ourselves any more.
Fairy tales help us understand that the values of once upon a time aren't so different from our values now. We still yearn for love, for fiscal comfort, for a better life for ourselves and our children. We want to overcome the ogres, move to better pastures, be cared for as best we can. If those values, carried across time, still endure, then perhaps values across cultures can be similar as well. Fairy tales help us break boundaries of time and culture.
And fairy tales feed our imaginations. The wondrous is matter of fact in these tales, so we are encouraged to look for wonder in our own lives. We are given permission to see the world as one of possibility. Einstein also said 'Imagination is more important than knowledge.' If you believe that, as I do, then fairy tales are one of your most potent tools to feed your imagination. 
It's important that we keep these stories in circulation, even the disturbing ones, because they tell us so much about what it is to be human. They allow us to talk about dark and scary things through metaphor (how many wolves have you met today?) and find ways through the woods in the safety of our own homes. They help us understand that yes, there is a woods, and yes, there is a wolf, but if we are wise or kind or clever, we will survive. They offer us unexpected solutions to the oldest problems. They remind us that strangers can offer kindness when we are kind in return. They teach us that we do not need to be alone." (Full Post)
This seems to be a reoccurring theme on my blog lately, in the post on Medicine and the post on The Real Fears of Fairy Tales. It is important to reiterate especially now that that appropriateness of fairy tales for children is being called into question.

Video: Red: An Adorable (and Bloody) Love Story

Remember the dark and gory Red video I posted last week, the story of Little Red Riding Hood engaging in bloody battle with the wolf and emerging traumatized but victorious? Well this Red video is a little different. It's about young love between a girl and a wolf-boy. She's having none of it, until an unexpected and rather strange foe forces them to team up. I never thought a bloodstained kiss could ever be cute.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

TV: Animated Grimm Fairy Tales Comics Kickstarter Campaign

(Image from Comic Vine)

For those of you who don't know the Grimm Fairy Tales comic books, this is what Wikipedia says about them: 
"Grimm Fairy Tales is a horror comic book series by Zenescope Entertainment that presents classic fairy tales, albeit with modern twists or expanded plots. It began publication in June 2005.
Each issue of Grimm Fairy Tales has two parts: a frame story and a fairy tale. The frame story revolves around Dr. Sela Mathers, a Doctor/Professor of Literature who has been given the ability to help people by showing them fairy tales with a lesson about their life. She struggles with the fact that people ignore her advice and ruin their lives anyway, and begins using her ability to dispense justice instead (see issue #15 "The Three Little Pigs"). Sela's nemesis is Belinda, who has the same ability as Sela but uses it for evil.
The other portion of the story is a twisted version of a classic fairy tale. The fairy tales are often violent and end in depressing ways, warning the readers to change their lives or suffer a similar (sometimes, worse) fate."
 As you can see they are dark, gory and boob-tastic. Seriously, all their chicks are dressed that way.

Anyway, the folks at Zenescope have partnered with Titmouse (responsible for many adult swim cartoons)  on a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for an animated cartoon of Grimm Fairy Tales! While one part of my brain is going, "This is horribly misogynistic and degrading," the other part is going, "Oh, but it's fun!" You be the judge!

Exhibit: “The Charm was Broken, Illness and Injury in the fairy tales of Mary de Morgan”

The University of Alabama at Birmingham's museum is having in intriguing exhibit called “The Charm was Broken, Illness and Injury in the fairy tales of Mary de Morgan.” While I am not as familiar with Ms. deMorgan's work, the connections that Valerie Gribben and Michael Flannery make between the world of medicine and the world of fairy tales underline a few of the issues we discussed in The Real Fears of Fairy Tales:
The exhibit features the work of de Morgan and examples of centuries-old medicine, magic and myth, drawing on the venerable medical texts housed in UAB’s Reynolds Historical Library. Because once upon a time, when the world’s medical sophistication was somewhat less than today, magic and medicine were more closely intertwined.
One panel in the exhibit, drawn from a Reynolds Library text, promotes unicorn horn as a powerful cure-all of ailments from stomach disorders to poison. Another points out that rapunzel, an English herb whose name was appropriated by a long-haired fairy tale heroine, was thought to be good for pregnant women.
Mike Flannery, associate director for historical collections at UAB, says that at the time that many fairy tales originated, disease was poorly understood and never far away.
“Disease was an ever-present, sort of ominous cloud that hung over every family,” says Flannery. “These fairy tales are stories to convey the reality of life to children and in some ways to assuage the fears of parents regarding diseases that then were death sentences but today are largely treatable.”
Flannery says fairy tales gave people a target for their fears. Witches, goblins and trolls became the manifestation of diseases that had no cure, such as consumption. We know it today as tuberculosis, but 200 years ago, it was the cancer of the day.
“When you live with the uncertainty of life and death, when you live in a world where 30 percent of children born won’t survive one year, you have to come to grips with that reality in some meaningful way,” he said. “This is a literary genre that helped them do that.”
Gribben says that while training to be a physician, she’s met many characters that resemble prototypical fairy tale figures in clinic exam rooms and hospital corridors. She’s seen the Abandoned Prince, the Evil Stepmother and the Lecherous King.
“Fairy tales and medicine both deal with the things that go bump in the night,” said Gribben. “It’s the unknown, the dark forest, the shadowy world. When you go to a hospital you enter the realm of the sick — the ill, and it’s a transition from the outside world. I think medicine is about reaching deeper and having compassion for everyone around you even if they don’t look like you or sound like you. I think fairy tales and medicine both deal with the human spirit and the human condition. ”

I love the idea of medicine as good magic, and disease as the monster, the spell, the dark forest. Fairy tales were a way for families to wrap their head around the inexplicable, amorphous danger that was disease, and they still are a great way to frame fighting an illness in the modern age. You tell yourself a story to face the danger, the fear, the uncertainty; you must battle your way through the dark forest to free yourself from the evil spell. 

TV: Interview with Meghan Ory, Little Red in Once Upon a Time has an interview with Meghan Ory, Ruby/ Red on Once Upon a Time. While most of the interview is fluff ("Will there be a romantic interest for your character?" - seriously? After "Red-Handed," that is all you can think to ask?), there are a few interesting bits:

"You've done a lot of work with Ginnifer Goodwin, she's kind of a scene partner for you, which of her characters would you say she's more like?

Ginnifer is such an amazing actress she's not really like either of them. I think Ginnifer just IS Snow White. When we were shooting on the top of the mountain, there were all these birds around, and I'm not even joking: one of them landed ON her hand. Everybody's just like, 'Okay, you actually ARE Snow White, the reincarnation of Snow White.'"

What were some of the psychological fairy tale connections that stayed with you?
"A lot of Red Riding Hood is about warning young girls from predatory men, to see the wolf was losing your virginity back in the day, so I thought that was really interesting. I read a quote from Charles Dickens who said 'Little Red Riding Hood was my first love, and I thought if I could have married Little Red Riding Hood I should have known perfect bliss.' She's like the image of innocence and purity and all of that, before she meets the wolf and goes through her transformation, and I thought that was really cool and its an interesting history to be a part of." (Full Interview)

I'm glad that at least Meghan Ory and Gennifer Goodwin did their fairy tale research! It's very encouraging.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Interview: Once Upon a Time Creators Respond to Show's Disneyfication


Once Upon a Time creators Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis were at Wondercon and chatted with the audience about their hopes for the future of the show. Spinoff Online has an article about the panal. (Full Article). 

They responded to the accusations that the show is "light and fluffy":
"Although Once Upon a Time may be filled with fairy tales, magic and true love’s kisses, the one thing the television drama is not, creators Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis told Spinoff Online, is light and fluffy.
“I constantly read people that are like, ‘It’s so light, like Disney!’ [The Evil Queen] ripped her father’s heart out to enact a curse, and [Belle] cut her fiancĂ©. How much darker can you get? Throw in cancer?” Kitsis said over the weekend at WonderCon in Anaheim, California."
On their relationship with Disney:
The show has also incorporated multiple nods to ABC’s parent company Disney, from Belle (Emilie de Ravin) sporting the same name and dresses as the heroine in the animated Beauty and the Beast to Mickey Mouse’s hat from “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” short in Fantasia appearing in the background of a recent episode.

However, the drama’s dark tone has led to some tensions with Disney, most notably when one of Snow White’s dwarves was stabbed in a courtyard.
“Obviously at first when they heard there was eight dwarves and we killed one, they wanted to talk to us about that!” Kitsis laughed.
“We had a discussion,” Horowitz said.
Despite that, the creators said working with Disney has gone smoothly, and they have the company’s full support to mess with or incorporate parts of their mythology wherever they see fit.
“They’ve been great, they’ve been very supportive,” Kitsis said. “Even in the pilot, I think it was the first time they showed Snow White giving birth or wielding a sword on TV — this was the beloved franchise of Disney and they said, ‘OK, go have fun!’ We’ve had Disney references from the beginning, even in the pilot when Emma wishes on the blue star, because we can and because they’re fun and we’re fans of Disney.”
That balancing act between the show’s darkness and the lighter Disney moments is one of the main challenges of writing Once Upon a Time, the two admitted.
“It’s tricky, but it’s what’s fun to us about the show, which is to tell different kinds of stories but have them fall under the umbrella of one tone,” Horowitz said.
It sounds like the process is rather schizophrenic. Adam and Edward want to create a dark, edgy fairy tale and Disney wants the light and fluffy. And it is light and fluffy, did you watch the Dreamy episode, Adam and Ed? Pink jellyfish dress. While the creators think they can have that tonal discrepancy, I think that is what is putting a lot of audience members off.

What do you think? Does it work? Or does it tonally clash?

Music: Little Red Riding Hood's Literary Mixtape from Flavorwire

Flavorwire has a Literary Mixtape series where they create playlists for fictional characters. Along with Sherlock Holmes, Scarlett O'Hara and Jane Eyre, they have Little Red
"Little Red Riding Hood begins the story as a paragon of virtue — wandering through the woods on an innocent mission, and easily led astray by the pretty flowers in the forest. In many ways, this is a fitting Valentine’s Day story — a virginal young girl ventures into the woods in an alluring cloak of the deepest red. Her innocence is stolen and her body compromised by a wolf of a man, before she is rescued by another, princely figure who rescues her. Like vampires, wolves (or werewolves) have a sexual, romantic connotation, ravishing their victims, taking them into their arms and mouths. Anyway, we’ll stop. We think Little Red Riding Hood would be struggling with her innocence post-wolf incident, clinging to the youthful, pretty songs she picked flowers to, while opening her world to new things. Also, we really think she’d be into mostly female singers, for some reason. Girl power and all that. Here are the songs we think our Little Red would get lost, get eaten, and get revenge to."
In light of our recent posts regarding Little Red (Red-Handed, Red), I love the interpretation that she has to come to terms with who she was before the events with the wolf, and who she is after.

Her songs include:
"The Woods" -- Stars
This is a song for getting lost in the woods, especially with a companion that might just eat your heart. “That day we walked a little deeper / Breathless, lost and too alive to stop” Plus, all little girls (and many big girls) love Stars.
“Fool That I Am” – Etta James
Ah, the classic song of an innocent woman fooled by a seductive man who did nothing but hurt her. Don’t worry, Etta, Little Red will avenge you.
“Werewolf” – Cat Power (Michael Hurley cover)
This kind of sexy, kind of scary version of Michael Hurley’s classic song of the wolf might be just the kind of thing that the newly wise to the world Riding Hood would listen to after her liberation from the wolf’s belly, perhaps while lying on her bed and rolling the events of the fated day around in her head.

“Kiss With A Fist” – Florence and The Machine
Revenge music — perhaps a soundtrack for that time that Little Red filled up the wolf’s body with stones and let him die.
You can listen to the songs right on the page, thanks to a Grooveshark Widget.

Article: The Real Fears of Fairy Tales

(Photo by Thomas Czarnecki) had an interesting article today about the various adaptations of fairy tales coming out recently, and how many of them are "going back to fairy tales' horror roots." It looks at Red Riding Hood (with Amanda Seyfried), the recent Red video which I posted yesterday, Snow White and the Huntsman, Grimm (which has been gory from the start) and Once Upon a Time (which has started to take a nicely dark turn). She contrasts it with Mirror, Mirror, and it's picture perfect sets, costumes, and people. While this was the aesthetic for a while (Ella Enchanted, etc),  that style seems plastic now, next to the gritty, frightening fairy tale adaptations coming out.

In the midst of this, Thinkprogress asks a very important question:
And Once Upon a Time and Grimm are nodding at a question it’ll be important for fairy tale storytellers to consider if this trend is to continue. In the absence of the dark woods, the arbitrary nature of feudal lords, the horror of high infant mortality rates (at least in the developing world), the wolves that steal the sheep, what are our terrors? And which stories are the best matches for telling them? The persistence of crime dramas would suggest that the big city has replaced the big woods, that serial killers are our ravening beasts. But I’m not sure we have myths to embody the new fears generated by a world that’s much larger than the village, or the disembodied terrors of the digital age. (Full Article)
While the question is excellent, I disagree that we don't have myths to embody modern fears. Myth is full of world-sized disasters, and plenty of disembodied dangers. I am not certain I understand what she is referring to that myth or fairy tales cannot encompass. Modern fears are often no different from the fears of any age: fear of loss, fear of unknown enemies in our midst, fear of the world ending, fear of disease, fear of having things stolen from you, fear of losing your livelihood, fear of being alone. While the specific circumstances may have changed, the basic wrenching fear is there, be it fear of a person stealing your bag with all you have or a person hacking your computer and stealing your identity, fear of a terrorist attack or being killed by highwaymen; losing a loved one by being hit by a car or run over by a horse, a city wiped out by nuclear attack or by Greek fire.

I am always fascinated to see how people use old myths and stories to address modern fears. It ties us all together, to our roots in the past, to the whole modern world, to the universal fear, the universal loss that we all share. When someone dies, that family is not alone in grief; it is added to the lament of the world. To the cries of Hecuba, to the tears over Baldur, to laments for those who died in the Plague or the Holocaust, or Hiroshima.

InkGypsy over at Once Upon a Blog, responds to the issue very eloquently:

"You already know how I feel about this. I don't know what I would have done without fairy tales as a kid. What I have to wonder is: what would horrify someone from, say the Grimm's time (pre to mid 1800's) about our world? I would suggest our modern society isn't quite as different as we'd like to believe. People dress differently, connect and travel differently and technology is different but the same essential issues plague us today as much as they ever did. Predators of all kinds troll both our streets and online paths, con men stoop to taking advantage of the poor, the elderly and even children and where does the most child neglect and abuse in the world? Right under our noses. (I've blogged on this before - see additions to the post in red, including the links - but it bears repeating.) Currently the US leads the developed world in deaths in children as a result of child abuse. (See HERE for some scary recent statistics which I gather have not improved since the time of publishing, including a link to a news report which lays it out clearly.)
When you look at the tales in this light how can people think fairy tales have nothing to offer people, especially children, today? This is a very sad reason for the tales to be told, I know, but if they give hope and help save lives, that alone should be reason enough to keep sharing them. Though I sadly don't think this will ever go away there are many other reasons to keep telling fairy tales as well. I can only hope all your reasons are good ones too, but just in case they're not, and just in case it helps, you can be sure I'll keep telling these fairy tales with both the darkness of the woods and the hope of the way through that they offer." (Full post).
She also makes a solid point about how the horror of fairy tales is not a literary trope. Fairy tales don't tell horror stories, they illustrate reality. Just because we don't see it, doesn't mean it is not happening:
"One final note: the premise of the article is that fairy tales have their roots in horror. I would argue that, that isn't actually the case. They have their roots in dealing with the realities of the time, which because the gore is often so "seen" then, we regard it as horrific. Unfortunately one of the main differences between then and now is we're better at hiding the gore (both visceral and psychological) from plain view. Just because we don't see people bleeding in front of us every day doesn't mean it isn't happening and it doesn't mean there isn't horror present. Fairy tales just tell it like it is. I find that very refreshing. It helps me know when a wolf really is a wolf. There's nothing quite like a heads up on that."

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

TV: Interview with Robert Carlyle on his Role in Once Upon a Time

Robert Carlyle Image 1

The Daily Record posted this wonderful interview with Robert Carlyle, who talks about his experience on Once Upon a Time, his character, his family, his childhood in Glasgow, and fairy tales. (Full Article)


On where his portrayal of Rumpelstiltskin came from: 
"Instead, he was inspired by son Pearce to perfect a role he calls 'the most theatrical of my career'.
Robert, 50, said: 'The voice came from my wee boy Pearce, who is six. He always walks around the house going ‘dehdehdehdehdeh’ in all these strange voices.
'Pearce goes into a wee world of his own when he’s playing with his toys. So that’s what I based the character on. This real childlike thing.
'That’s what Rumpelstiltskin is… he’s like a kid. So I thought, if I can find some kind of voice like that but also make it kind of creepy and bizarre.
It’s also a bit freakish when Rumpelstiltskin has that childlike quality then suddenly can turn and get very dark.'"

Why it is 'the most theatrical role' of his career:
 “These characters are very much larger than life so the playing of them has got to be that way too. You can’t walk on with a naturalistic performance. It just wouldn’t work. At drama school I did a lot of work with masks. You put one on and it frees you in a way. You’re able to change everything about ­yourself.
“So I look in the mirror and don’t see myself any more. That, ­combined with Commedia dell’Arte – Italian high end farce – and the way I move and strike poses as Rumpelstiltskin is where all that comes from.”

Books: Phillip Pullman is Adapting the Grimm's Fairy Tales

His dark materials … Philip Pullman has had fun adapting some of the Grimms' lesser-known tales. 

The Guardian reported today that Phillip Pullman, author of the His Dark Materials series, is adapting fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm! The collection, Grimm Tales: For Young and Old, will come out on September 6th, and will include well-tread favorites, as well as lesser known tales (thank god)!: 
This is a project the His Dark Materials author has been working on for a while – he mentioned it to a fansite a year ago, telling Bridge to the Stars that 'this isn't a book for children only', and that he was 'telling the best of the tales in my own voice, and I'm finding it a great purifier of narrative thinking, rather as a pianist relishes playing Bach's preludes and fugues as a sort of palate-cleansing discipline'...
Pullman has chosen his 50 favourite stories, 'from the quests and romance of classics such as Rapunzel, Snow White and Cinderella to the danger and wit of such lesser-known tales as The Three Snake LeavesHans-My-Hedgehog and Godfather Death', and is retelling them in 'clear as water' new versions, complete with commentary on each story's history and background." (Full Article)
 He may also include The Juniper Tree and The Shoes that were Danced to Pieces. Phillip Pullman is a fantastic writer and I am really excited for this collection! I will be excited to see how he balances adaptation with 'clear as water,' and I hope the commentary is as delicious as I am imagining.

Other articles about this:
Pullman Rewrites Grimm's Tales for Penguin Press at The Bookseller
Coming This Fall: Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm by Phillip Pullman at SurLaLune FairyTales Blog

Performance: Into the Woods at CenterStage in Baltimore

Into the Woods
by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine
directed by Mark Lamos

Mar 7–Apr 15, 2012 at CenterStage in Baltimore
"What happens after Happily Ever After, after all? In Sondheim and Lapine’s beloved musical retelling of the Grimm classics, a parade of familiar folktale figures find their way “Into the Woods” and try to get home before dark—under the guidance of Mark Lamos, who dazzled us with A Little Night Music in 2008."

The Big Picture and the Close Up wrote a lovely review of the show and the nature of fairy tales:
"Into the Woods (in revival at Center Stage in a co-production with Connecticut’s Westport Country Playhouse) is one of that handful of musicals that can truly be called profound.  And small surprise, because its subject, the folklore passed on from parents to children under the deceptively superficial name of fairy tales, is equally profound.  Fairy tales are timeless because the kitchen drudge who yearns to become a princess, the little girl vanquishing a wolf encountered on the way to grandmother’s house, the simpleton who sells the family cow for a handful of magic beans, and their kindred, are archetypes of each of us, at various moments in the trajectories of our lives.  As such, there is actually nothing superficial about them.  By mashing up these stories, composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim and book author James Lapine demonstrate the common dynamics in these tales that enable them to speak so powerfully to us." (Full Review)
Watch the beautiful trailer:

This will always be one of my favorite musicals, though I am often confused as to what they are trying to say at the end. I will do a full review of the Bernadette Peters version in due course, but I wanted to post this in case anyone in the Baltimore area was hankering for some live fairy tales!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Articles: In Media res Devotes a Week to Fairy Tales

Last week, in Media res: a media commons project devoted a week to posts on Fairy Tales as format. "In Media Res is dedicated to experimenting with collaborative, multi-modal forms of online scholarship. Our goal is to promote an online dialogue amongst scholars and the public about contemporary approaches to studying media. In Media Res provides a forum for more immediate critical engagement with media at a pace closer to how we experience mediated texts." (About) The articles included: 

"Fairy Tales and the Sophisticated Viewer" by Lindsey Kempton: This article discusses how the treditional format of fairy tales is too simplistic for a modern audience, but they have the ability to be easily adapted into sophisticated narratives. 
"Traditional fairy tale narratives are not made for today’s TV. Among a steady increase of smart, narratively complex shows that utilize attributes of the televisual medium, such as seriality and reflexivity, to their fullest, the conventional fairy tale falls flat. Their structures are too linear, too episodic, their worlds too limited, and their characters too static. At the very least, fairy tales’ self-contained stories and one dimensional protagonists would have to be altered to work for TV.  But savvy contemporary TV audiences that embrace, and to a certain extent, expect complicated narratives would yawn at a simple retrofitting of the tales. More significant changes on a narrative and structural level are required to entertain today’s sophisticated viewers."

"A Dream Walking: Desire and Fantasy in Catherine Breillat's The Sleeping Beauty" by Michael Bessozi: Michael examines this very strange and trippy French movie, a combination of Sleeping Beauty and The Snow Queen. 
"Instead, much of the film centers on the internalized desires of tomboy Anastasia (based loosely off of tsarina Anastasia, considered a tomboy in her day). Her dream becomes a quest utilizing elements of Anderson’s "The Snow Queen" to save her brother, yet this heroic journey is disrupted by the inevitable kiss. The film deemphasizes the curse of sleep as Anastasia looks forward to her fantasy adventure and the ability to skip through adolescence. Her awakening is even less dramatic as Breillat makes no separation from the waking world, fantasy, and the passing of time. Instead, Breillat centers on the need for reformulating desires.... By updating the provincial nature of the tale, The Sleeping Beauty suggests that the failure of dreams to contend with reality is not tragic, but inevitable."

"Anime Fairy Tales: Fighting Fate and Convention" by Amanda Landa: This article tells of the anime film Princess Tutu, a fairy tale about a duck who falls in love with a prince and is transformed into a ballerina by Drosselmeyer; it incorporates elements from Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, Giselle and the Nutcracker.
"Ahiru (meaning duck), is a duck in love with prince who has lost his emotions and memories. Ahiru makes a wish to be near her love, and through Drosselmeyer, a doomed storyteller with magical powers, she becomes magical-girl-cum-prima-ballerina, Princess Tutu. It is soon revealed that Drosselmeyer has trapped all the characters in a storybook tragedy. The players resist their former roles and struggle against what seems to be inevitable. Princess Tutu is the only one who can enact real change, using selfless love and determination to fight the doomed fates of those around her."

"The Root of Evil--ABC's "Once Upon A Time" Makes Evil Characters More Human " by Mattie Tanner: This article briefly examines the Evil Queen and Rumpelstiltskin in OUAT, and the character's origin stories have delved deep into what makes a person "evil."
"Evil no longer becomes an abstract idea that is the opposite of good, but rather the people that have embraced evil did so because they saw no other way or were hoping to use this evil power for good. These two characters become more human to us through these portrayals, making us feel sympathetic towards them, and allow us to hope that perhaps they don’t have to be destroyed entirely like they are in the original fairy tales, but that they can be changed for the better and be redeemed."

"Grimm: Old School Genre Dressed in the Latest Fashion" by Lisa Schmidt: Lisa laments the recent proclivity to analyze a genre trend (zombies, vampires, etc) by trying to find the horrible cultural trauma that gave birth to it (terrorism, recession, etc), and look at it simply as a fashion. She uses Grimm as an example. 
"I have something of a bee in my bonnet regarding this type of genre criticism.  Of course genres have relationships to their surrounding cultures but this all-too-easy “cultural anxiety” commentary offers little actual insight into the reasons that certain kinds of stories arise and return.  I want suggest that we consider the idea of “fashion,” by which I mean that sometimes story-telling trends develop without a traumatic socio-psychoanalytic origin story.  A trend can manifest in a given season for no other reason than that it seems to be the popular (and profitable) thing."

I discovered this project through Once Upon a Blog here and here.