Saturday, May 2, 2009

Fairy tale - fear and sweetness

There's an excellent piece in The Guardian about fairy tale fear. Notably, while there is an initial sad reflection on how fairy tales became too sweet, Ryan Gilbey also acknowledges that Disney - often accused of candy-coating fairy tale - did indulge in animated sequences of unsettling tension and fear. I suspect that many who glibly reference Disney as a prime culprit of the whitewashing of fairy tale have never really rewatched Disney. Snow White's flight through the forest from her stepmother, herself intent on putting Snow White's heart in a pretty jewelled chest, gave me the shivers, as did Scar's speechifying to the hyena population.

The catch, I believe, is that the best fairy tales are both fear-invoking and happily triumphant. It is the roller coaster emotional ride that gives them their greatest punch. The problem with raising the accusation of fairy tale censorship and then reasserting the darkness of fairy tale is that sometimes the happily ever after is forgotten. The moments of triumph, of joy, of overcoming the odds and defeating fear itself are just as important as the darker elements.

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