Monday, December 3, 2012

TV: Quick and Dirty OUAT Mini-Reviews


So, reaching back to three weeks ago.... I liked Neal. I didn't expect to when I first saw him, but he was fun! And potentially a fairy tale character because he believes in magic with only a slight "take a peak in my bag" from Pinocchio. The only fairy tale character that we know of that is out of Storybrooke is Bae. But Bae must be like 100 by now. We don't actually know how old Rumpelstiltskin is. (Something that was brought to my attention the other day: Hook is as old as Rumpelstiltskin. Boom. Mind blown. I reeeeeally want them to do something with that.)

Hook was sexy and charming. But still really only that. He is a damn good token sexy pirate, but he is still not Captain Hook.

And Jorge Garcia. I was going to be so mad if they had had him come roaring in and then knocked him unconscious and then that was it. But they gave him some beautiful nuanced stuff!

Io9's Review

Child of the Moon

I actually really liked this episode. A lot of people I know, including Io9, thought it was fluff, but Ruby really needed this episode to happen. I was waiting for it. And it explained the question of how Ruby got control over her wolf-self all of a sudden. Like Hulk in the Avengers.

Gus the Once-Was-A-Mouse was adorable! I really wanted that to work, but of course we knew that he probably would be dead by the end of the episode. Ruby must be totally traumatized for life because every boy she likes gets violently killed.

I loved the deepening of the Belle/ Ruby relationship. And the Snow/ Ruby relationship. Their friendship is now much more than "hyjinks and tracking in the woods." Snow is the only one who accepts both sides of Ruby, which I thought was so cool.

Oh Charles Whitmore. You are a villany villain. And deliciously so. No one likes you. Ever. But in keeping with this show's excellent treatment of villainous characters, I do wish that we got to see more of his motivation. Yes, your son died, and you are sad about it, and this douchebag who is pretending to be your son didn't do anything you said and took over your kingdom. But we never really see his side of things. All we get is him single-mindedly wanting to destroy Charming. I want a bit more ambiguity in my villains, thank you!

But oh Charming's heart breaking as he was about to shoot Whitmore. So much feels.

Io9's Review

Into the Deep

Ok this one is a lot fresher in my mind, but has still been festering for a week or so, so bare with me.

Let me just say, Regina and Rumple working together. I loved it! They are both going through magical villain rehab, and are having a difficult time letting go of their past. They should just establish a general amnesty, like in Fables. I'm sure everyone had fairy tale crimes and vendettas.

I did love that Regina and Rumple both have chosen to be weaker. Chosen attachments and love. Evil Rumple and Regina working together could flatten Cora like a bug, but now they are vulnerable and squishy because they love. Brilliant!

The plotline with Charming going in to the sleeping curse world was awesome. And so heartbreaking. Damn Snow and Charming's chemistry just makes my heart squee. And also cry and lament.

As for dear Emma. I honestly don't know why she is there? She has done nothing so far that Snow could not have done. And Mulan. I haven't yet got behind her character. I don't know who she is. She is not Mulan from the Disney movie. She is an Asian warrior chick, yes, but other than that I know that she likes Aurora. That is it.

But oh Aurora. I have no idea when she got her heart stolen, or how Hook did it. Honestly, can everyone do it? It's getting less cool the more people can do it. BUT. Cora can control her using her heart. I love it. So diabolical and dirty. I am excited to see where that goes.

Io9's Review

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Interview: Guillermo del Toro on Fairy Tales and Darkness in Children's Movies

Guillermo del Toro (of Pan's Labyrinth and Hellboy fame) recently did an interview about his new movie Rise of the Guardians, and he had some interesting things to say about fairy tales and darkness in children's stories, both favorite topics here on Dark Forest!
What's the biggest mistake people make in telling stories about children, or for children?
Well, I think that one of the things is to actually try and create a sense of darkness in the tale. A lot of people just make this sanitized super happy-go-lucky, "bright sunshine and clouds" type of childhood movies. And you really need an element of the dark in it. In the case of Kung Fu Panda 2, we really came up with a psychotic, sociopathic villain. In the case of [Rise of the] Guardians, we have Pitch, which is an incredibly sophisticated and articulate guy that tries to control your fear. In the case of Puss in Boots, we had a bad guy who was Humpty, who was capable of changing and capable of doing a good action at the end. He was incredibly neurotic.
And I think that people don't acknowledge that kids have all these sides. Kids are neurotic, kids deal with fear, kids are confronted by really hostile impulses from the adults around them and the other kids, and you know, movies should acknowledge all this and create these fables that help them deal with those things....
What's the difference between a monster movie and a dark fairy tale?
It's a very, very, very thin difference. I think that horror stories come from fairy tales, in a way. They share a lot of similarities. I think the difference is tonal. You know, the fairy tale contains a lot more elements of magic and whimsy and the the horror story contains a lot more, sort of, almost existential feelings — sort of dread, and ultimately they are similar melodies, played at a very different key.
Is there a limit to how dark a movie for kids can get? And do you think animated films are getting closer to classic children's books, and less like cartoons?
One of the master of children's fiction is one of the guys who acknowledged fully the darkness of the world — that is, Roald Dahl. He did really brutal passages in The BFG. There's really very, very creepy and violent [stuff] in The Witches. And so on, and so forth. He really scared a lot of [kids] from that side. He is the reason why... when the line is crossed, and then it doesn't function as a children's story any more — it can become an adult fairytale. It can become a fairytale that adults can enjoy. And I think there are some of those, particularly in the Eastern cultures. Like 1001 Nights — a lot of those stories are very harrowing. And people forget that a lot of the tales that the Grimm Brothers collected, they were actually meant to be told to adults. People think, "Oh, they were children's stories" — [but] not in the beginning. They were meant to be told to adults, to entertain them. But yes, to answer your question: It can get too dark.
That was one of the challenges with [Rise of the] Guardians. We wanted to keep that balance at all times. It would still be fun, it would still be a ride.

You can read the rest of the interview here at Io9. I must admit, I wasn't that excited for this movie, but it seems to be playing around with some fun ideas!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Interview: Fairy Tale Darwinism

The Huffington Post recently did a live hangout with Jack Zipes (preeminent fairy tale scholor), Tim Manley (fellow fairy tale blogger of Fairy Tales for 20 Somethings, and teacher/ writer), Donald Hasse (Editor of Marvels & Tales: Journal of Fairy-Tale Studies), and Susan Kim (Writer and Filmmaker). They discuss the evolution of fairy tales, how fairy tales are a reflection of the culture, and what makes a fairy tale stand the test of time. And Jack Zipes goes off on how the original fairy tales are not good for children. You know how I feel about that. Though Adam Gidwitz says it better

He does also touch upon something we have discussed before, how modern interpretations have a faux-feminism, saying that all you have to do to empower women is have them swing a sword around. (See The Empowerment of Snow White). Should women have to "become masculine" to have power. Is wielding a sword (or fighting in general) masculine? Personally, I think if you have a weak female character whose only empowerment is having a sword, then yes, it is a sham. However, if the character herself is strong, no matter what she does, sword or knitting, she will be empowered. Any thoughts, viewers at home?

While the discussion is a bit all over the place, and it seems like the moderator wanted to tackle a bit too much for such a small time slot, it is an excellent interview! It is so great to see such different perspectives on fairy tales together in one (virtual) room. I just wish there was more time for them to argue.

Friday, November 9, 2012

RADIO: NPR's Interview with Maria Tatar on the Origins and Interpretations of Fairy Tales

Hansel and Gretel by Arthur Rackham 1909.

NPR's On Point did a fantastic interview with Maria Tatar recently! It delves into why and how the brothers collected the tales, fairy tales in popular culture, misogyny, Antisemitism and violence in fairy tales, and personal interpretation of fairy tales. While many of you have heard these topics discussed before, this conversation is fresh and interesting.

Maria emphasizes that the Grimm version is not sacred. Our stories that we remix and reinterpret and add meanings based on our own life experiences. I love that! While I do get frustrated when people take the tales and make them something totally other than I myself interpret them to mean or kowtow to the Disney version when there are more interesting versions available, it is important to remember that we all approach fairy tales with our own baggage. There is no right version. One of the best qualities of fairy tales is that they are so malleable. We don't get the internal monologue of the characters, just the actions, so we can infuse their actions with meanings we relate to. The tales belong to all of us. We each have our own Snow White, or Sleeping Beauty, or Little Red Riding Hood.

Go to the original page for supplementary materials. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

TV: OUAT Review: The Doctor

Frankenstein for the Frankenstorm!

So, in this episode, Emma, Snow, Aurora and Mulan find everyone dead in Haven (does that mean everyone in the Enchanted Forest is dead?) except for Hook. Emma actually gets a hold of herself and does some pretty clever things, and they end up about to go up a beanstalk to meet Jorge Garcia!! (I do wish they would meet him in Storybrook instead. It would be so much fun to meet a giant who is no longer a giant and see how he is dealing with it.) But yeah, that's about all that happened with them. Kinda perfunctory, no great revelations or gripping acting.

Because most of the episode's awesomeness is given to REGINA! Huzzah, she is back and in Magic Anonymous with Doctor Hopper, the most amazing, forgiving, kind and full-hearted human being/ cricket ever. Honestly, he is so compassionate towards Regina, even after she freaks out and leaves his office. And he gives Doctor Whale a verbal beat down when he interrupts the session. Kind-hearted BAMF.

I do wish OUAT was more secretive  I feel like the Hook reveal would have been so much cooler if we hadn't already known he was Hook. Same thing with Doctor Whale. It is built up for so long, "Who is Doctor Whale?", and then we find out in the preview. It would have given us such an OMG moment if we had found out during the course of the episode. It seems like the episodes were even built that way. There was no, "Let me introduce myself, I am Victor Frankenstein/ Hook." It is always someone else towards the end of the episode saying "something something something.....Doctor Frankenstein." Or Hook dramatically putting on the hook.

I didn't really care so much about the flashbacks. We knew bringing Daniel back didn't work, because they brought him back in Storybrooke. It's nice to know that Regina tried to bring him back, and letting go of him gave her the push she needed to go fully evil, but it wasn't life-shattering. Frankenstein was fun, but it seems that they are going more for a movie Frankenstein, instead of the book Frankenstein, which makes me sad. They had such an opportunity to explore something really cool, and get people interested in the original story, but they seem to be going for the easy way out. The black and white world was fun, but a definite statement that this is not the Frankenstein story I love. Am I surprised? Not really. All the rest of the stories are based on the movies anyway.

The modern day story, however, was pretty damn cool. Whale got his arm ripped off! Nice to know the show would go there! And Regina resisted so hard against doing magic. I was proud of her. Her conversation with David as he tried to hold himself together was heartbreaking. However, my BF and I both expected her to remove his heart to stop him. It would have been painfully poetic, and still make sense, because it was the magic heart that made the life possible in the first place. Instead she just blew him away. I was happy about how Rumple did minimal douchebaggery when Whale asked him to put his arm back on. Nice continuity from last episode. You could really see the contrast between past Rumple and present Rumple in this episode.

I am curious about the hearts in the vault. She doesn't know who they belong to. Otherwise, I guess she'd try and give them back? I'm sure that other people know that they have a heart in Regina's vault, and are still under her control. Are they living people? Storybrooke people? You think someone would have said, "Hey, can I please have my heart back, now that you have turned good again?"

Second, was Victor Frankenstein a womanizer? Or was Doctor Whale a womanizer? Also, why is he called Doctor Whale?

Anywho. Entertaining episode, and Lana Parilla gets ALL THE AWARDS! Except for Most Kindhearted BAMF, which goes to Doc Hopper.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Movies: Mirror Mirror

(I'm a sucker for this shit)

I just watched Mirror Mirror for the first time and it is adorable! Julia Roberts was horribly miscast, and as much as I love Nathan Lane he was just a bit too "Jazz hand! I'm being funny!" And the direction was weird at times. But the script was actually pretty clever, and Lily Colins was so charming! And it took me a sec to warm up to the dwarves, but honestly, I think they were some of the best actors in the film. Napoleon and Grub were my fav. I wasn't sold on the whole thing until the dwarves set up Snow White's first kiss to rescue the princes from his puppylove spell, and I was hooked from there.

Yeeeees, there are problems, like how Snow White became a kickass bandit leader in the time it took for Brighton to get back to the castle and the prince to leave and reach the woods, but hey. I expected to hate it, but I admit it, I was charmed.

And the Sean Bean cameo wearing ruffles. I just..I didn't know what to do... I was very happy that he didn't die in this movie though!

(Sean, I am as surprised as you are.)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

TV: OUAT Mini-Reviews

Hello everyone!

So behind on the OUAT reviews, so I thought I'd do mini ones to catch up!

"We are Both"

I actually really loved this episode. Both the flashbacks and the present day stuff! First, lets talk about Regina. That woman is a BAMF. The moment when she is in the council chamber and the flaming seal encircles her head like a demonic halo? AWESOME! We get her delicious struggle with power in the flashbacks. While sometimes it felt a bit predictable, it was so well-acted that you did not care a bit. The moment when innocent young Regina confesses that she loved using the power, you could almost taste the need and the rush of it. It made me realize that I were in her situation, I probably would have done the same thing. Magic is tasty and addictive. If I could throw people through the air with just a wave of my hands, hell YES I would! Back in the real world, Regina's scenes with Henry completely sucked me in. They were leaning-forward-on-the-couch moments. While often I wonder if the actress feels like she is acting against a brick wall when she has scenes with Henry, the scene where she offers him magic and he turns her down, and the scene were she lets him go just took my breath away. I did not expect such strength from Regina. This is exactly where I hoped the character would go. Let's watch it again, shall we?

Meanwhile, poor Prince Charming is trying to fix everything and lead the town all by himself (with fantastically proactive and practical help from Ruby which made me love her even more). He also wants to find his family, but he is stretched to the brink between helping the town and saving his family. We get a beautiful cameo from the Mad Hatter who is reunited with his daughter at last. A really great moment. What made the episode for me was Charming's speech at the end, when everyone was trying to leave town and forget their fairy tale lives. Why? Because they are afraid of Regina and her magics. Seems silly to me. BUT, the speech was awesome! How our weak parts help inform our strengths. He makes it ok for them to live in basically a fairy tale town. Both of their lives are legit, and they don't have to all go crazy like Jefferson. (I also loved the small moment when Charming admitted that David had read Alice in Wonderland. That must be interesting! You now know the fairy tale stories of a lot of townsfolk, not just as people but as ancient tales.)  Anyways, solid episode. I leave you with the speech so you can be inspired throughout your day:

Here is the Snarky McSnark review from Io9 who was not as charmed with Charming as I was.


"Lady of the Lake"

SO did not care about what was going on in the Enchanted Forest. Yes, Snow is a BAMF again, and that is fun (the arrowshooting into the troll's eye was sweet, if over-dramatic). But Emma. Emma, Emma, Emma. I realize that you are out of your element. You probably read "the wrong sort of books," as C.S. Lewis calls them, for this type of an adventure, since you favor guns over swords. However, I have never had less respect for you than when you shot a gun into the air for no reason while hiding from BLIND TROLLS! Maybe it was a fault in the editing? The fight between Aurora, Snow and Mulan was clearly already done before Emma arrived on the scene. The only thing I liked about this plot like was the beautiful and powerful moment at the end where Emma realizes what Snow gave up for her, and when Snow lets go of her dreams for a normal happy family. If felt like Emma finally started to let go and show some real emotional honesty. And Ginnifer Goodwin can really do no wrong. (starts at 2:12): 

The second plot line, Snow's infertility curse, was beautiful and touching. It didn't hurt that she looked gorgeous in every frame. It did feel like the curse really was there and gone poof, and oh we never really had to deal with repercussions of the curse itself. But I loved the deathbed mother-in-law/ daughter bonding.

Third plot line, Henry lies to his mom about wanting to have lunch with her. The little bastard. After what she did last episode? I was so proud of her for handling it well. "I will send your Grandfather to rescue you from my vault of evil because we seem to still have trust issues." Anyone want to address that she still has a vault of evil? No, we'll just leave it there.

Behold, Io9's delicious takedown of Emma in this episode.


"The Crocodile"

YES! No Emma, very little Henry! Lots o' Rumple and Belle and sprinklings of Ruby! 

To be honest, I didn't really care about the Rumpelstiltskin wife back story. I mean it was fine and informative, but it didn't excite me too much. Hook was ok. I kept thinking he was BBC Robin Hood in eyeliner. But I was not as excited about him as I thought. Frankly, I was more excited about Chris Gauthier as Smee! I love him and I am so glad he has a job after Eureka was canceled! The rest of the plot was rather predictable. Even though I knew Rumple was the Crocodile, I did love his "tick tock" and discussions of time. It made me go "ahhhhhhhaha, yes." I AM looking forward to the Hook in Neverland backstory.

I was a little irked that Hook is really kinda just Hook by name. The original meaning of Hook for me in the J.M. Barrie Peter Pan was this arrogance and incredible insecurity that comes with growing up. The tick-tock of the Crocodile is time chasing him down. In this, he is just generic dashing pirate who lives by a code and happens to have a hook for a hand. Not certain why he is going to Neverland in the first place. He is not a pirate who looks afraid of growing old. And he hasn't grown older or turned into the Hook I know and love in the present day meeting with Cora. So..... what happens to him in Neverland? And granted, yes, most of OUAT's characters' stories and meanings have changed. It's just that they were fairy tales and very open to interpretation because the original text did not say much about them. Hook, on the other hand (haha), was very well-drawn and had definite meaning. This isn't even the Disney Hook. It seems like they thought "ooh, pirates are sexy! Let's have a sexy eyeliner clad pirate. Who is a literary pirate? Let's call him Hook." Any way. /rant

Meanwhile, in Storybrooke, Belle does exactly what I want her to do and leaves Rumple until he changes his ways! Go girl! And it has the desired effect! He goes around town and adorably asks for help from everyone who hates him, and asks Charming for dating advice. Belle and Ruby have a nice heart to heart, another scene that proves to me that Ruby is the most awesomest of characters. Then Belle gets kidnapped by Smee, the most adorable kidnapper in the world, and sent down a mine cart ride to oblivion until Rumple saves her. And Belle gets all sassy about how it's her life and she can do what she wants! Three snaps in a Z formation! Then, we have the most beautiful scene this season, I think, where Rumple gives Belle the library. Bitches love libraries. Honestly, I teared up a bit at all the book porn. I actually cheered at the beautiful circulation desk. And Rumple finally opens up to Belle, and she doesn't let him off the hook so easily. But she wants to go have a burger with him. And all was well with the world.

Io9 lends its usual flair to their Crocodile review

And WHO IS EXCITED ABOUT NEXT WEEK?? We know who Doctor Whale is! And guess what? It is as awesome as I thought. These two sneak peaks excited me ooooh so much. The first one really only for the first 5 seconds of the clip, but they are sweeeet:

The second one for the thrilling plot points revealed:

Halloweeeeeeen! MUHAHAHA!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Movies: Another Beauty and the Beast

Oh for the love of god.

We have another Beauty and the Beast movie coming out (according to Maria Tatar's blog Breezes from Wonderland), this one starring Vincent Cassel and Léa Seydoux. The director, Christophe Gans, says "Although I will keep to a form of storytelling of this timeless fairy tale that is in keeping with the same pace and characters as the original, I will surprise the audience by creating a completely new visual universe never experienced before and produce images of an unparalleled quality. Every single one of my movies has presented me with a challenge but this one is, by far, the most exciting and rewarding.”

This is in addition to the Emma Watson Beauty and the Beast movie, the CW TV show and the ABC TV show. While doing multiple versions of the same tale makes it more possible for at least one of them to be good, one wonders if "East of the Sun and West of the Moon" or "Cupid and Psyche" might have been a better Beauty and the Beast tale to adapt at this point.

Tumblr Goodness: Fairy Tales for Twenty-Somethings

Classic fairy tales rewritten for tweeting, texting twenty-somethings

Yesterday, both Io9 and Flavorwire pointed us in the direction of a hilarious Tumblr blog called Fairy Tales for Twenty-Somethings, where our favorite fairy tales are facing quarter-life crises. It is my new favorite thing!

Here are a few and yes, a lot of these are not fairy tales, but they are funny, so I do not care:

Alice in Wonderland (Children's Book):
The crazy thing is that eventually even Alice began to doubt whether what she’d seen down the rabbit hole had ever really existed. And it didn’t make her sad, there was nothing overly dramatic about it, it was just that now she understood how the world actually worked.
But then she was tagged in a photo by an old friend, by the White Rabbit. It was a faded picture of her and the Cheshire Cat, and, wow, it just brought her right back.

The crazy thing is that eventually even Alice began to doubt whether what she’d seen down the rabbit hole had ever really existed. And it didn’t make her sad, there was nothing overly dramatic about it, it was just that now she understood how the world actually worked.
But then she was tagged in a photo by an old friend, by the White Rabbit. It was a faded picture of her and the Cheshire Cat, and, wow, it just brought her right back.
The Prince and the Pauper (Children's Book):

The prince and the pauper unfriended each other on Facebook because neither one could stand the other’s political status updates.
The prince and the pauper unfriended each other on Facebook because neither one could stand the other’s political status updates.

Beauty and the Beast (Traditional Fairy Tale): 
Beauty wanted to bring the Beast to meet her friends but she was nervous because they all had these super-hot boyfriends who worked in finance. She loved the Beast for who he was, she really did, but her friends were shallow and judgmental.
“Maybe you should get some new friends,” Siri advised.
 Beauty wanted to bring the Beast to meet her friends but she was nervous because they all had these super-hot boyfriends who worked in finance. She loved the Beast for who he was, she really did, but her friends were shallow and judgmental.
“Maybe you should get some new friends,” Siri advised.
King Arthur (Legend):
After pulling the sword from the stone but before becoming king, Arthur went on a cross-country road trip / vision quest. He crashed on friends’ couches or, on a few nights, the back seat of his car. He went to Burning Man, stayed in the mountains of Montana for a few weeks, and learned to build a cigar-box guitar from some guy on the street in New Orleans.

When he finally arrived home, a wiser man, he thought, “That shit was awesome. I gotta find a way to do that all the time.”

After pulling the sword from the stone but before becoming king, Arthur went on a cross-country road trip / vision quest. He crashed on friends’ couches or, on a few nights, the back seat of his car. He went to Burning Man, stayed in the mountains of Montana for a few weeks, and learned to build a cigar-box guitar from some guy on the street in New Orleans.
When he finally arrived home, a wiser man, he thought, “That shit was awesome. I gotta find a way to do that all the time.”

The Tortoise and the Hare (Fable):
The tortoise and the hare met for coffee. They each casually mentioned their recent successes, secretly hoping to appear better than the other. As they walked their separate ways home it hit them at the same time: There never was a race. There is no destination. There is no winner.
The tortoise and the hare met for coffee. They each casually mentioned their recent successes, secretly hoping to appear better than the other. As they walked their separate ways home it hit them at the same time: There never was a race. There is no destination. There is no winner.

Little Mermaid (Literary Fairy Tale):

the little mermaid was a human now but sometimes at an upscale party someone would say to her, “that’s a very unusual accent. where are you from?” her past haunted her. she could never escape who she used to be.

the little mermaid was a human now but sometimes at an upscale party someone would say to her, “that’s a very unusual accent. where are you from?” her past haunted her. she could never escape who she used to be.

The Ugly Ducking (Literary Fairy Tale)
the ugly duckling read obscure works of literature in other languages and listened to indie music even the guys in the record store had never heard of. if i’m not going to be prettier than anyone, she thought, i’m at least going to be better than them.

The ugly duckling read obscure works of literature in other languages and listened to indie music even the guys in the record store had never heard of. if i’m not going to be prettier than anyone, she thought, i’m at least going to be better than them.

Chicken Little (Folk Tale):

chicken little knew she was supposed to be in a good mood while out with her friends, but she just didn’t feel it. she had this certainty that something was wrong even though she couldn’t name what it was. then she started going to therapy and realized all these things about her childhood she’d never thought of in that way. she also started doing hot yoga.
chicken little knew she was supposed to be in a good mood while out with her friends, but she just didn’t feel it. she had this certainty that something was wrong even though she couldn’t name what it was. then she started going to therapy and realized all these things about her childhood she’d never thought of in that way. she also started doing hot yoga.

The Emperor's New Clothes (Literary Fairy Tale):
the emperor bought a new fedora but all his friends thought he looked really stupid in it.
 the emperor bought a new fedora but all his friends thought he looked really stupid in it.
Cinderella (Traditional Fairy Tale):
when cinderella left the ball right before midnight, the prince stood in the doorway and watched her go. “i’m so stupid,” he said to himself in bed that night. “did she want me to kiss her? maybe i should’ve kissed her. fuck, i should’ve just kissed her.”
 when cinderella left the ball right before midnight, the prince stood in the doorway and watched her go. “i’m so stupid,” he said to himself in bed that night. “did she want me to kiss her? maybe i should’ve kissed her. fuck, i should’ve just kissed her.”

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Article: "In Defense of Real Fairy Tales"

Recently, the fairy tale blogosphere has been abuzz with a recent article by Adam Gidwitz, the author of A Tale Dark and Grimm and now In a Glass Grimmly. It is in response to the constant complaint that fairy tales are too scary for children, a favorite point of contention for me. He is enthusiastically in favor of reading original fairy tales to children and draws from personal experience:

While adults wring their hands over whether children should be exposed to the real Grimm, young people themselves have no such ambivalence. In my visits to schools I have witnessed the introduction of Grimm tales to thousands of children—elementary students in urban London, middle schoolers in rural Texas, high school students in suburban Baltimore—and the reaction is always the same: enthusiasm that borders on ecstasy.
Which is, I admit, a little strange. Grimm fairy tales are 200 years old. They do not feature guns or robots, they do not involve cliques or internet slang, they do not mention LeBron James or the WWE. They are not televised or computerized. They are the most primitive form of entertainment still in existence. How do they bewitch an auditorium full of tweens and adolescents? Why, contrary to adults’ expectations and apprehensions, are fairy tales so perfectly appropriate for these children?

He discusses how children LOVE violence and gore:
The children I meet literally cannot believe that Cinderella’s step-sisters dismember themselves to get the slipper to fit. And they really cannot believe that adults have been peddling the sweet, anodyne version of the story all this time, when there was another version that was so much cooler.
He talks about how fairy tale violence is much more digestible than real violence:
The explanation, I think—and this is the second reason that the real fairy tales are uniquely appropriate for children—is that the tales are not at all realistic. I once taught a six-year-old girl who suffered from insomnia. Her affliction was cured when we discovered that her mother let the girl watch the eleven o’clock news. This first grader could not sleep because she was watching accounts of fires, assaults, and deaths right before bedtime. But she loved Grimm fairy tales. For fairy tales signal clearly to children—through simple, matter of fact descriptions of unearthly events and keystone phrases like “Once upon a time”—that the land of the fairy tale is decidedly not the external world.
Lastly, he spoke about my absolute favorite reason why fairy tales are so important to read to children, complete with violence and gore:
The land of the fairy tale is not the external world. It is, rather, the internal one. The real Grimm fairy tale takes a child’s deepest desires and most complex fears, and it reifies them, physicalizes them, turns them into a narrative. The narrative does not belittle those fears, nor does it simplify them. But it does represent those complex fears and deep desires in a form that is digestible by the child’s mind. Sometimes I refer to this as turning tears into blood. Allow me to illustrate what I mean.
I often share the Grimm tale “Faithful Johannes” with groups of students. In this tale, a father decapitates his two children to save the life of his faithful old servant Johannes. This done, the old servant places the children’s heads back on, and they leap and frolic and play as if nothing at all has happened. After sharing this tale, I typically ask kids, “How would you feel if your parents cut off your head to save an old friend of theirs? Imagine, of course, that you came back to life—but they didn't know that you would. How would you really feel?”
What amazes me about kids’ responses to this question is that, not only are their answers always the same, from Los Angeles to London and everywhere in between, their answers almost always come in the same order. Maybe it has to do with the order in which I call on children. I usually call on a serious looking girl first. Her answer is almost always, “I would feel betrayed.” Next, I call on another girl. “I would feel angry.” Then, I call on a boy who looks like he’s going to jerk his arm out of its socket, he’s raising his hand so strenuously. “I would cut off their heads, and then I would shoot them with a machine gun, and then I would…” I let him indulge in his patricidal fantasy for a few more sentences, and then I say, “So you would want revenge?” And he says, “Yeah, revenge.” And then, usually fifth or sixth, a boy or a girl will say, “I would feel like maybe my parents didn't love me enough.” Which silences the room. Finally, I say, “I hope none of you have ever experienced any of those feelings. But I know I have. And maybe some of you have, too.” And the kids nod their heads and stare.
“Faithful Johannes” takes a host of amorphous, ambiguous, and uncomfortable feelings and puts them into terms that children know intimately—the terms of physical pain.
This is the exact approach that Gidwitz takes when he writes his books. A Tale Dark and Grimm (see my review) begins with "Faithful Johannes," and then follows the path of the betrayed children until they find some peace.  While the tone of the story is glib and gory, he packs it full of visceral emotional lessons and experiences.

He drives it home by discussing how children put themselves in the mind of every character. The fairy tale characters are consciously empty vessels into which we pour ourselves:

In most fairy tales, the great wide world takes the form of a forest. Bruno Bettelheim, the great psychoanalytic interpreter of fairy tales, explains, “Since ancient times the near-impenetrable forest in which we get lost has symbolized the dark, hidden, near-impenetrable world of our unconscious.” Forests are where our fears turn into wolves, our desires into candy houses, where our fathers turn us loose to fend for ourselves, where the emotional problems we face at home are physicalized, externalized, and ultimately conquered. Where tears are transformed into blood.
This physicalization of emotion is so powerful for children because every child has fallen and bruised himself. Every child has felt hungry, even if only in our well-fed, First World way. Every child has had a cut that has bled. And so every child knows that the bruise stops hurting, the food does eventually come, the blood clots, scabs over, heals. When a child reads about emotional pain—betrayal and loneliness and anger at parents—in terms of blood, he comes to understand that those pains too will heal, that salty tears also dry.
He quotes G.K. Chesterton  who states something rather comforting about fairy tales, and rather depressing about realism:
G. K. Chesterton, in defending fairy tales from Victorian do-gooders, explained, “Folklore means that the soul is sane, but that the universe is wild and full of marvels. Realism means that the world is dull and full of routine, but that the soul is sick and screaming. The problem of the fairy tale is—what will a healthy man do with a fantastic world? The problem of the modern novel is—what will a madman do with a dull world?” Children are indeed healthy men in a fantastic world. From their perspective, they are the only ones who make any sense, and everyone else, adults in particular, are shadowy incomprehensibles. (I tend to agree with children on this point.)
In the end, he advises us to trust our children. They know what is good for them and what is not. If a book is too scary or too much for them, they will put it down. If a book is good for them, as many sleepy parents will attest, they will demand it again and again.

This article is probably the most concise and well-stated argument for scary fairy tales that I have ever read. It sums up my feelings on the matter perfectly!

Books: Grimm Takes for Young and Old by Phillip Pullman

SurLaLune turned my attention to the fact that Phillip Pullman's version of the Brothers Grimm's fairy tales has come out! Check out the really beautiful book trailer!:

From the sounds of it, Pullman has really added some twinkle to the language of the stories. While still maintaining their fairy tale structure and rhythm, he has added tiny details that give you a sharper view of the story and appeal to your senses. The Telegraph states that the stories "have a swift yet stately sense of movement, the storytelling stripped down to the very basics. They manage to be gripping, even if their structure has a hypnotic regularity." However, Pullman has added "sprinklings of wit."

It is going on my Amazon wish list! 

TV: The CW's Beauty and the Beast

No, I have not watched it yet. I feel very reluctant to watch it, as I feel that the story is of a beauty and a beast, not a beauty and a hot guy with a scar. I could potentially be sold on the beauty and a guy who occasionally Hulks-out.

That is the question: is Beauty and the Beast about a woman seeing someone's inner beauty and falling in love with it despite his appearance? Or is it about a woman who changes a person who acts beastly for the better? This show seems to be leaning towards the latter, but for me, that gets into borderline "You can change him" and "Even though he abuses you, he still loves you" territory. (see my feelings re: Belle and Rumpelstiltskin in OUAT). I think the Disney Beauty and the Beast strikes the balance between the two interpretations pretty well, same with La Belle et La Bete by Jean Cocteau.

Either way, Io9, yet again, has offered a deliciously snarky review of the first episode called "The Sexpocolypse that is The CW's Beauty and the Beast:"
"The CW's Beauty and the Beast is a masterpiece of the art of sexy sex. Everything on this show was "sexy." At first we thought this was just a lark — but when The CW starts rolling out the pursed-lipped hospital ID cards, and sexy daylight streaming police offices, on top of sexy ladies fight-moaning in sexy slomo, we realized... this is intentional. We're going to have so much fun with this show, you guys."
 See the rest of the delicious snark here, complete with spoilers. I will watch at least the first episode, I swear, but I am so behind that it might take a while.

In the mean time, see what George R.R. Martin, the original show runner for the 1980s Beauty and the Beast TV show, has to say about the new incarnation.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

TV: OUAT Thoughts: Broken

Once Upon A Time is back and better than ever — thanks to one giant twist!
Snow/Mary Margaret is a BAMF!

Ok, I watched it, and I thought it was pretty great!

First, the intro. I thought I was watching the wrong show. We are in New York following this new guy around? But then it turns out he knows about Storybrooke, cuz he receives a postcard from there saying only "Broken." How can the carrier pigeon leave Storybrooke without getting killed? We do not know. Who is this guy? All signs point to Bae, but there are some interesting Peter Pan theories out there, since he is a man who looks like he is not happy with his grown up life and has some rather interesting apartment decorations. Also, the intro definitely reminded me of this classic from Lost. Best season starter ever.

Second, LUUURVED the Snow/Mary Margaret and Charming/David amalgams  Everyone seems so much more alive and proactive. And sassy. By far the best moment: when Snow admits to having a one night stand with Whale, and silences Charming's protests with "We were cursed," and moves right along. AND Snow, without hesitation, creates and uses a home made flame thrower. Badass. There are good points being made around the interweb about how suddenly everyone abandons small town laws and morality and goes directly back into fairy tale world dramatic gestures and medieval justice. And I kinda like it. It's like everyone has been released from whatever was holding them back as people. They can be fully themselves, make bold choices, take stands, and really live their potential. (Yes, Megan, it's called a curse was broken. I know, guys, but it is cool how it affects them.)

Third, I was so happy they did not spend too much time on the "Regina is evil, she is the reason for this, lets kill Regina" stuff. It was background for the far better emotional stuff that was going on with everyone. Snow even says, "Mr. Gold can wait," dealing with family is more important.

Fourth, Doctor Whale, you frustrating and intriguing bastard. Charming does not know who he is, and Charming is not his prince, as Whale says. This means he comes from another land than Charming (perhaps a fictional Geneva with secret lab castle?). Oh and I am sure tons of slash fiction was born from this image:

Dr. Whale vs. Charming
"You are not my prince." Make out, already.

Fifth, I was touched that Henry did not want anyone to kill Regina. I didn't really understand the whole character turn around, "YOU ARE NOT MY MOTHER" to "She is still my mother, please don't kill her." And then again "I never want to see you again!" But hey. I don't really expect much from Henry. 

Sixth, Yay! Emma didn't talk that much! Her one awesome moment was the subtle touch that awakened Regina's magic again. I cannot wait for them to explain that. Of course all the Swan/Queen slash writers are exploding with explanations. Seriously, the stuff writes itself.

Seventh, Gold and Belle. I was not as happy about it as I thought. I knew he was going to fuck it up, and that made me sad. It made me even sadder that Belle came back. It came across more as Stockholm syndrome, or "I must stay in an abusive relationship because he needs me" than "I will change you into a better man." I usually fight for Beauty and the Beast relationships, but Gold wasn't passionate and angry and let his feelings run away with him. He was cold and calculating and knew what he was doing, and he still did it. I worry that she will get hurt.

Lastly, Mulan, Prince Phillip and Sleeping Beauty. I must admit, I was not sold on that storyline when I saw it in the promos. It looked frikkin boring. And the storyline itself kinda was. But I was impressed by Aurora's acting. She charmed the pants off me. Mulan is a bit humorless and uninteresting, but hopefully she will warm up as she and Aurora, and maybe Emma and Snow create an awesome girl questing squad. OH huzzah for the CGI not sucking!  

These are just my thoughts, and if you want a hilarious and more detailed recap, see Io9. They do an excellent job.

Monday, October 1, 2012

TV: OUAT execs want to "move beyond fairy tales"

The doors to other worlds in Wonderland.

I KNEW IT! I knew it!

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz admit that they are planning to expand the Storybrooke universe beyond fairy tales:

Here’s what I find interesting about the characters you’re adding this season. Mulan is a Chinese historical figure. Captain Hook is an early 20th century literary creation and Lancelot is a fifth-century possible historical figure. Those aren’t fairy-tale characters.
KITSIS: Go back and look at the pilot when you see Henry’s book and the book flips [through the pages of illustrations from different stories]. Also the episode with the Mad Hatter when you see all the doors [to other worlds]. If you Tivo-pause those doors there are some that look different than what you might think.
HOROWITZ: Fairy tales are ground zero. They’re the first stories we hear … Will Chewbacca show up in Storybrooke? Probably not, because that’s a Lucasfilm property.
KITSIS: But he’s welcome to!
While sad for those of us who were hoping to see less-well-known fairy tales in Storybrooke (though I gave that up when I first heard the name "Maleficent"), this opens up whole new universes for the writers. Now that they have re-framed the show to focus on storybook characters, not fairy tale characters, us fairy tale nerds can just move on, and stop clinging to the "but that's not a fairy tale character" line, and embrace it.

AND it means Dr. Whale as Victor Frankenstein is even more likely!

Sorry, folks. I will have real content soon, not just OUAT stuff. Its just been really busy, and OUAT came out last night, so the internet is abuzz. I have yet to see it, but I will let you know when I do.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

TV: Once Upon a Time Rewatch

Well, well, well. Who'da thunk it. Once Upon a Time was much better the second time through.


1) I was not hung up on what I wanted the show to be (an amazing exploration of actual fairy tales in a modern setting), and watched it for what it is (a first season of an adventure story about story book and Disney characters). This time I was not surprised and outraged by the singing of Heigh-Ho, nor the name of Maleficent. I knew Henry would be annoying, that there would be massive cheese, sprinkled with brilliance, and that Emma's face would never change from that bewildered look she always has. And because I was not hung up on these things, I enjoyed it more!

2) Watching it one episode after another, I realized how slow the show was NOT. Waiting from week to week, it often felt like plot lines were dragging on forever. Oh for the love of GOD, how many times would Regina and Emma bicker about the kid. When will David and Mary Margaret make up their frikkin minds?? But I was shocked that boom! Episode 2, we find out about Regina's father, boom! Episode 7, Graham dies. Episode 8, we find out about Rumplestiltskin's background. The major plot points just keep on coming.  And even within the long, drawn out stuff, there are subtle changes in the arguements Regina and Emma have, or the stages of accepting parenthood that Emma goes through, or the issues that David and Mary Margaret address. Waiting a week for each episode, it just seems like they are rehashing the same things, but juxtaposed, one after the other, you catch the differences.

Favorite Things This Time Around:

1) "That Still Small Voice:" I love me some Jiminy Cricket/ Doctor Hopper. He knocked this episode out of the park. His struggle with his conscience in the collapsed mine, and his complete pwning of Regina really make his performance one of the best in the series, I think.

2) "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter:" Honestly, the first time around, I wanted this episode to be the beginning of everyone starting to remember their fairy tale lives, and trying to reconcile them with their Storybrooke lives. I thought that would be really compelling, and I was so disappointed when this didn't really happen. However, this episode stands out as one of the greatest episodes. There are actual stakes, and the evil queen actually does something evil. Snow White's letter to the queen is beautiful and moving. And Jamie Doran's performance in the last few moments of the episode are heart-wrenching.

3) "Skin Deep:" While last time, this episode was a bit ruined for me by the Disney references (Gaston and Chip), it is honestly one of the best episodes of the season. You have two knock out performances by Emille de Ravin and Robert Carlyle. Emilie de Ravin is rediiiiculously charming, and only she can deliver the "you're in love" monologue in the "Dreamy" episode and make it actually sound deep and important. And Robert Carlyle has this moment:

...followed by this:

It just kills me every time I watch it. 

"Red-Handed" and "Hat Trick" used to be my favorites, but they kinda lost their shine. "Red-Handed" had the amazing moment where Red realized that she killed Peter, and "Hat Trick" has this shot:

But the episodes themselves were not that strong. "Dreamy" was even worse than I remembered it. I feel like early, to mid-season were actually the stronger episodes.

Notes on Snow White's character development: 

The first time through, I was a bit jarred by Snow White, who had told the Huntsman that she forgave Regina and was ready to die so that the kingdom could have peace, and then suddenly decided to assassinate the queen in "Heart of Darkness." Now that I am more familiar with the timeline, it kinda makes sense. First, Snow White is the innocent, kind daughter of a king. Then, then she goes into the woods with the huntsman, where she tries to run away, and stops, realizing that he knows the woods more than she does, after which we have the moving letter writing about how she was willing to die. THEN, we get Snow White surviving in the forest by herself, until we get to episode 3, where she is planning to assassinate the queen with her shrinking dust. She then states that "no one knows the forests like I do." She gives up her shrinking plan after meeting Charming, and then spends the rest of her time thinking about him, meeting the dwarves, getting her heart broken, telling him she doesn't love him to save his life, and then she drinks the potion. After that, she goes back to plan A: killing the queen. While I still think it is a bit of a stretch to sat that drinking the potion means she turns into a huge bitch, she went to the dwarves and lived with them because she was distraught.  So I can see that, since she no longer had the emotional bond that drew her to them in the first place, she feels stifled after being so incredibly independent.

Things I am Looking Forward To in Season 2 (now that I have completely given up the idea that this is a show about fairy tales):

1) Captain Hook. He is one of my favorite villains of all time because he has such delicious neuroses. He has an amazing speech in the original book about how no little children want to play Captain Hook, they all want to be Peter Pan. He is a horrible murderer, a fop, and huge ball of insecurity all at the same time. I hope the show does him justice. I am excited for Episode 4, which is titled "The Crocodile."

2) The dual personalities. This is what I was waiting for all along in Season 1: people waking up and realizing who they are, but still having their Storybrooke life in their head. I hope there is a lot of wonderful delving with that, and it is not just passed over to dwell on "Regina did this to us!"

3) I hope Regina gets a bit more non-evil stuff to do, since we now know she really loved Henry. All she wanted was to win for once, she said. Lets hope she is able to get a little happiness, and we can move on to Hook being the main villain of the season. I also hope Rumpelstiltskin doesn't throw Belle by the wayside for magic again.

4) Snow/ Mary Margaret and David/ Charming finally getting together and being happy. As cheeseball and frustrating as their relationship was, the final moment of the season finale when they finally found each other made me want to shout (a la Buffy), "Your love is a beautiful love!!!"

5) WHO THE HELL IS DR. WHALE???  What do we know about him? We know his name is Whale. He is a doctor who actually seems to care about his patients. He was in Regina's pocket. He is also a letch who is attracted to Ruby, and has a one night stand with Mary Margaret. We also know that he likes to do the unexpected (as he tells Mary Margaret one episode). We know he has the Halloween Episode which is called The Doctor. "Whale" points to Monstro, but honestly, I think that would be stupid. However, every Storybrooke character who has a noun for a name (Gold, Blanchard, Hopper), the name is a clue to their character. Anyone know any other fairy tale Whales? There are a lot of rumors going around, but honestly, the only one that makes sense to me is Dr. Frankenstein (Victor, not the monster). Yes, it is not a fairy tale. Neither is Captain Hook, Pinocchio, the Queen of Hearts, or Mulan. If we are indeed branching out to storybook characters rather than fairy tale characters, I think Frankenstein is our best bet. He is an unorthodox doctor who has a Halloween episode. Apparently in the official OUAT facebook game, Dr. Whale is described as having a "god complex" and thinks he is a "victor." Pun? Maybe. (See more reasons why people think he is Frankenstein). IF this was legit, straight up fairy tales, I would think it would be awesome for him to be the doctor in Godfather Death, or one of the Three Army Surgeons. However, they have yet to introduce an obscure fairy tale character.

Thoughts? Theories? What sayest thou, internet?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Infographic: Joseph Campbell's The Hero's Journey

I'm interrupting my apparently rampent bitterness at fairy tales in pop culture today (my last few posts are really kinda cynical!), to bring you something that makes my heart go "weeeee!" It goes "weeee!" for two reasons: 1) it is an infographic, and I loves me some infographics and 2) it is about Joseph Campbell and the stages of the hero's journey. I am a huuuuge sucker for Joseph Campbell and his Hero's Journey and his Masks of God and his "Follow your Bliss" and his wise life lessons based on myth and fairy tales.

So here is the infographic, discovered by me on SurLaLune, who discovered it at Modern Mythology (a blog that deserves further exploration on my part), who credits The Royal Society of Account Planning:

If you are unfamiliar with Joseph Campbell, or are a huge fan and would love to see a documentary about his ideas, here is the trailer for Finding Joe (which I have yet to see, but looks awesome!):

Also check out The Power of Myth book/ documentary, and the rest of his work!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

TV: CW is doing an Alice in Wonderland series

(I hope it is at least as good as Malice In Wonderland)

So this is happening....

Here is an excellent commentary by our favorite blog, Io9:

"The CW is adding yet another fairy tale series to their list of new shows. First, it was the Beauty and the Beast reboot, then a Sleepy Hollow series, and now an Alice in Wonderland show tragically named Wunderland.
The Hollywood Reporter notes that director McG (who has a long track record with successful television — movies, not so much) is partnering up with The Playboy Club's Chad Hodge to produce and write this Alice-inspired series.
"The drama will center on a young female detective in present-day Los Angeles who discovers another world that exists under the surface of this ultra-modern city."
Remember, "female detective" is television code for "a woman who punches people." The pilot will be an hour long. We're not sure what to think about this yet, as the best fairy TV series ever was The 10th Kingdom which has yet to be topped. If this pilot gets made, it will be the fourth fairy tale show on television (and the second fairy tale show on CW starring a lady cop)."
Aaaand double points for thinking The 10th Kingdom is the best fairy tale series of all time, because it is the truth! If you don't know 10th Kingdom, watch it now. You will be glad you did.

Anyways, color me not really excited about Wunderland. Beauty and the Beast, the other fairy tale show on the CW, has missed the whole Beast part. It looks so lackluster that I have stopped reading any news for it. It's gotten to the point that rather than being excited about the new fairy tales movies and tv shows coming out, I am begging them to prove to me that they can do a good one. However, I am doing an OUAT re-watch, which I will report on later, but it is all because, despite my better judgement, I am pretty excited about the goings on in Storybrook this year.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Movie: Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters Trailer

Oh this movie. I will say, I am very glad that it is not Hansel and Gretel as adults finding a gingerbread house and kicking it's ass. However, with Peter Stormare as Ambigiously Germanic Official and the saving of the villiage children from the evil witch that is taking them, I got huge Brothers Grimm flashbacks. Even whatever filter they use looks similar to Brothers Grimm; the "it's about to rain" filter. And the vaguely olden times but still get to wear tailored tight leather outfits aesthetic. 

That being said....

I love me some Jeremy Renner, thought not as much as a fellow blog mistress I know (cough- Drown My Books-cough). And I love me some kicking supernatural ass. I am a bit worried that it doesn't seem to be much more than that? Aaaaand I have the same feeling as this when ALL WITCHES ARE EVIL:

After watching the pretty witches turn ugly, and the sheer amounts of witches fighting, I started to feel like this was subliminally a conservative, "lets kill all the earthy-crunchy people!" movie. For some reason, for me, one evil witch, all good. ALL THE WITCHES, I have troubles. I have less trouble with vampires or werewolves in that regard. But in general, I feel like it's better storytelling if you don't say "all if this race is ____" and give it some variety. 

Anyhoodle, the trailer was kinda bad at telling us anything other than "We are witch hunters because we were traumatized as children, all witches are evil, my sister gets captured and there is something more going on than just witches." Hopefully, the movie will be more complex than that! I am happy for Jeremy Renner to prance around in leather for two hours, but good storytelling/ characters would be awesomer. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Movie: Black Forest: Hansel and Gretel and the 420 Witch

This movie looks oh so B-movie, but at the same time it could be hella fun! And it is starring the wonderful Molly Quinn from Castle!

No time for further commentary from me (school started again this week), but feel free to comment!

(PS. I discovered this through Maria Tatar's blog Breezes from Wonderland)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Poster: If Children Don't Read....


If children don’t read they’ll never know.
MPH classic books ads via Bibi’s Box

I don't entirely agree with the poster, as I think kids learn from experience, conversations, TV, games, and other people's example, but I do like the idea. We often just assume that our kids will grow up with the same things we grew up with. But if you don't read them or tell them the story of Little Red Riding Hood, they won't know they story of Little Red Riding Hood and the lessons it teaches (whatever you interpret those to be). Same thing with Sesame Street, or Boy Meets World, or the Old Testament, or Peter Pan, or Greek Myths. 

Pass it on. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Article: Remakes as Modern Folklore

The New Gods

Io9 had an article a few days ago that builds off of one of my deeply head beliefs. I think that pop culture is the new modern myth. We have heroes whom we emulate (Iron Man, Buffy, Claudia Donovan). We follow their stories and retell them in our own ways (blogs, gifs, fanfiction). We try and share them with our friends and pass them on to the next generation.

Io9 goes even further to say that remakes are actually a good thing: they are the perpetuation of modern folklore. After discussing the nature of folklore, they make an interesting point:

"Originality is a Myth
 If you look at remakes and reboots in the context of how most people enjoyed stories for thousands of years, it's easy to see that they are a natural part of human storytelling. When we hear a good story, we long to retell it in a slightly different way. Historically, people might have heard different people performing the same folk tales and songs over and over again in their lives. What made these stories entertaining was hearing the familiar tales tweaked slightly. The fun was in the variants. But it was also in hearing the story again.
The idea that "originality" is what makes stories good is actually a twentieth century idea propagated by a bunch of radical artists and thinkers who called themselves Modernists. They wanted to jettison what they considered the superstitious, narrow-minded thinking of people who loved folklore. So they embraced art and narrative that valued weirdness and novelty over storytelling. Novelists like James Joyce and William Faulkner wrote deliberately difficult stories that tried to express ideas about human experience too complex for oral traditions.
Philosophers like Theodor Adorno praised Modernism for refusing to use the tropes of pop culture that make a story easy to follow. Decades later, punk and indie rock embraced Modernist values too, scorning pop music as unoriginal. Even today, many of us are taught the Modernist perspective in school, and wind up believing that what makes a story "good" is originality."
Our society is obsessed with new ideas and originality, but sometimes the old ideas stick around for a reason. They are the story of our culture, the values we believe in, the patterns that we follow, the path we wish to take. They keep appearing again and again because they serve as an inspiration to us, as a way we look at the world, as a model of what should be. Each remake changes the story to make a statement about the current times, so the same story that spoke to us in each age adds a little spice to speak to the issues facing the next generation.
"Why Remakes Are Good
While there's no denying that Modernist stories can be fascinating and beautiful, that doesn't make them better than folklore. In fact, when it comes to storytelling, one could argue that folklore has had a much more profound influence on civilization than Modernism. We've been telling and retelling stories for thousands of years. We enjoy seeing remakes of our favorite stories because there is pleasure in seeing a twist on a beloved story. But this isn't just about enjoyment. It's also about how we learn. By sharing stories, we explain to each other how we see the world, as well as how we define good and evil (after all, folklore usually has a hero and a Big Bad).
By retelling stories as variants, we do something profoundly important. We show how our views of the world change over time. We reveal that our definitions of good and evil aren't fixed; they can change to reflect new information. If you don't believe me, just compare the novel Dracula to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Oh yes, both are variants on the same story, about vampires from another world invading a nice city. Both are about gangs of vampire hunters who track down and kill the vamps... In Dracula, the vampires are unambiguously evil, grotesque Eastern European monsters who want to steal our women and have no place in London. But in Buffy, you can see that our relationship to the vamps, those "others," has become a lot more complicated. Some vamps are good. Some humans are evil. Women aren't there to be "stolen" by anybody.
Unlike "original" stories, which remain frozen in the amber of history, folk tales are alive. They change with us, and pass along new stories about our evolving civilization. Every variant, no matter how bad, is a sign that our stories are still vital. And if you don't like this remake or reboot — well, there will always be another. Maybe you'll make it yourself."
This is why I get so excited when I see fairy tales and myth emerge in popular culture. They are the most ancient stories speaking to people today.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

MISC: Laying Siege to the House of Mouse

This might be my favorite thing I have seen in a while. Quora has a post asking how you would lay siege to the Cinderella castle in Disney World. The responses are priceless. And it combines two of my favorite things: Disney and military strategy.

One man chose a medieval assault (my favorite kind):

"Looking at the aerial view of the castle, we can make some strategic decisions.
Obviously, the castle was designed to withstand a full frontal approach via the  island. You can see the moat, multiple bridges and the single small drawbridge leading into the castle front and center. We will, therefore, not focus our main attack on the front.
Additionally to the left you can see Frontierland where there is an entrance and to the right you can see Tomorrowland where there is another entrance.
Step 1:
Send a small vanguard of sacrificial troops into Tomorrowland as a diversion. The defensive forces will rush to this area, leaving Frontierland wide open and the defensive forces quite distant.
Step 2:
Begin a large flanking attack through Frontierland and secure all bridges on the left side of the diagram. Hold this position with whatever it takes. Additionally, take the island which should be simple considering the fact the castle is the actual main defense.
Step 3:
Send in catapults and trebuchets and mount them in the center island. They must be out of reach from archers and other retaliatory siege weapons. Begin the attack with these siege weapons, taking down sections of wall in the front. You must have truly powerful weapons as the walls of Cinderella castle are quite high. If possible, focus your fire on the highest towers because this is where the enemy will have the best vantage point for observing your movements.
Step 4:
Reinforce your primary battalion and continue the flanking attack around the side of the tower through Frontierland. Make sure to put your archers hidden within the tree line wherever possible and systematically pick off the defense with longbows.
Step 5:
Eventually surround the castle with your vastly large army and hold your ground using large turkey drumsticks, mouse shaped ice cream and some of the larger tourists for your rations. 
Step 6:
Send in your pre-built siege towers using men armed with crossbows. Send in another team with long ladders and yet another team with grappling hooks and ropes from all around the castle. Use your best men in this final attack and eventually open the main drawbridge.
It may not be possible to perform deceptive maneuvers successfully considering the fact that the towers afford the enemy great visibility. If this is the case, then a smoke screen could be employed using all the trees nearby.
The moat may in fact be the water supply for the inhabitants of the castle. Consider poisoning the water supply.
Consider also using biological warfare such as flinging diseased animals into the castle.
Studying the architecture of the towers (see the tallest tower for instance), it seems as if they are weaker in the middle and may, in fact be top-heavy. Focus weapon fire on the center and the entire tower may collapse.
The sloped roofs of the towers will protect the inhabitants from projectiles tossed directly into the tower, however, the debris will scatter on those below. Consider using fire or Greek fire, splashing it against those roofs which would rain down on the inhabitants.
Send in spies. Determine who is the gatekeeper and promise him a prominent position post-siege for his assistance now."

Some strategies take advantage of the wooded terrain. Others use knowledge of the hidden entrances to the castle (like Tinkerbell's zip-line) to enter the castle. While one commenter insists that his brother-in-law designed the anti-terrorism defenses for Disney World and the only strategy that would work is the "nuke from space" one, its fun to dream.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Art: Edward Gorey's Three Classic Children's Stories

Hi everyone! Long time no see! Grad school does that to you, man.

Anyway, Io9, brilliant blog that it is, directed our attention to the fairy tale illustrations of Edward Gorey. The thing that I love most about Edward Gorey is his ability to depict something horrific without actually showing it to you. He shows you the before, or the after, or what is happening off screen, not the actual event itself.

Exhibit A:

From The Gilded Bat by Edward Gorey

In the book, Three Classic Children's Stories, Edward Gorey doesn't go quite as far as that, but he still has an fascinating way of choosing moments and framing. Of course you have the classing Little Red Riding Hood meeting the wolf picture: 

But then you also have this:
All you can see are the wolf's toes and Little Red Riding Hood's eyes. Somehow it is a little worse than your typical Wolf in Grandma's Clothing picture. It is a "just before" moment. You imagination conjures up the big eyes and the big teeth, and then the next scene where he eats her. 

For the Jack and the Beanstalk story, we have this picture:

It takes place either right before, or (a bit more disturbingly) right after Jack hits the trapped giant in the head with the shovel and kills him. Jack looks so jovial, and the giant looks so sad. It is a bit heart breaking. 

The Rumpelstiltskin images are what you would expect, until you get to this one:

This is after the queen has guessed Rumpelstiltskin's name, and he gets so angry that he stomps a hole in the floor and tears himself in two. The cloth disappearing down the hole is his sleeve, so it seems he just got swallowed up, but the peace on the queen's face and the oblivious king flavor the picture really well. 

There are lots more pictures over at Brainpickings if you want to check them out!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Movie: The Brick House

Flavorwire, wonderful site that it is, brought my attention to a Kickstarter-funded movie called The Brick House. Here is the trailer:

I have to say I loved this. And yes, folks, it is real. It is not simply a spoof trailer. It will be a spoof movie. I have no idea if they will be able to carry the joke throughout the entire movie, but I hope so! (I agree with Flavorwire that the prosthetics are a bit much. It would have been interesting to see it straight.)

Friday, July 20, 2012

Article: No Happily Ever After

SciFi and Fantasy Art The Death of Little Hen by Ross Sullivan-Wiley

Hey everyone! Just to make everyone sadder on this rainy Friday, I thought I'd dispell with the myth that all fairy tales have a happy ending. Tales of Fairie brought to my attention this gutwrenching one that sounds like it could have come out of a newspaper today, "The Children Living in a Time of Famine:"
"There once lived a woman who fell into such deep poverty with her two daughters that they didn't even have a crust of bread to put in their mouths. Finally they were so famished that the mother was beside herself with despair and said to the older child: "I will have to kill you so that I'll have something to eat."
The daughter replied, "Oh no, dearest mother, spare me. I'll go out and see to it that I can get something to eat without having to beg for it."
And so she went out, returned, and brought with her a small piece of bread that they all ate, but it did little to ease the pangs of hunger.
And so the mother said to her other daughter, "Now it's your turn."
But she replied, "Oh no, dearest mother, spare me. I'll go out and get something to eat without anyone noticing it."
And so she went out, returned, and brought with her two small pieces of bread. They all ate them, but it was too little to ease their pangs of hunger. After a few hours, the mother said to them once again: "You will have to die, otherwise we'll all perish."
The girls replied, "Dearest mother, we'll lie down and go to sleep, and we won't rise again until the day of judgement." And so they lay down and slept so soundly that no one could awaken them. The mother left, and not a soul knows where she is."

Here is a rather famous one: "How Some Children Played at Slaughtering:"

"There once was a father who slaughtered a pig, and his children saw that. In the afternoon, when they began playing, one child said to the other, "you be the little pig, and I'll be the butcher." He then took a shiny knife and slit his little brother's throat.

Their mother was upstairs in a room bathing another child, and when she heard the cries of her son, she immediately ran downstairs. Upon seeing what had happened, she took the knife out of her son's throat and was so enraged that she stabbed the heart of the other boy, who had been playing the butcher. Then she quickly ran back to the room to tend to her child in the bathtub, but while she was gone, he had drowned in the tub. Now the woman became so frightened and desperate that she did not allow the neighbors to comfort her and finally hung herself. When her husband came back from the fields and saw everything, he became so despondent that he died soon after."
This is one I knew about for a long time, and it is so depressing that it is almost funny, "The Death of the Little Red Hen:"
"One time the little hen and the little rooster went to Nut Mountain, and they agreed that whoever would find a nut would share it with the other one. Now the little hen found a large, large nut, but -- wanting to eat the kernal by herself -- she said nothing about it. However, the kernal was so thick that she could not swallow it down. It got stuck in her throat, and fearing that she would choke to death, she cried out, "Little Rooster, I beg you to run as fast as you can to the well and get me some water, or else I'll choke to death."
The little rooster ran to the well as fast as he could, and said, "Well, give me some water, for the little hen is lying on Nut Mountain. She swallowed a large nut kernal and is about to choke to death on it."
The well answered, "First run to the bride, and get some red silk from her."
The little rooster ran to the bride: "Bride, give me some red silk, and I'll give the red silk to the well, and the well will give me some water, and I'll take the water to the little hen who is lying on Nut Mountain. She swallowed a large nut kernal and is about to choke to death on it."
The bride answered, "First run and get my wreath. It got caught on a willow branch."
So the little rooster ran to the willow and pulled the wreath from its branch and took it to the bride, and the bride gave him some red silk, which he took to the well, which gave him some water, and the little rooster took the water to the little hen, but when he arrived, she had already choked to death, and she lay there dead, and did not move at all.
The little rooster was so sad that he cried aloud, and all the animals came to mourn for the little hen. Six mice built a small carriage which was to carry the little hen to her grave. When the carriage was finished, they hitched themselves to it, and the little rooster drove. On the way they met the fox.
"Where are you going, little rooster?"
"I'm going to bury my little hen."
"May I ride along?"
"Yes, but you must sit at the rear, because my little horses don't like you too close to the front."
So he sat at the rear, and then the wolf, the bear, the elk, the lion, and all the animals in the forest. They rode on until they came to a brook. "How can we get across?" said the little rooster.
A straw was lying there next to the brook, and he said, "I'll lay myself across, and you can drive over me." But just as the six mice got onto the straw, it slipped into the water, and the six mice all fell in and drowned.
They did not know what to do, until a coal came and said, "I am large enough. I will lay myself across and you can drive over me." So the coal laid itself across the water, but unfortunately it touched the water, hissed, and went out; and it was dead.
A stone saw this happen, and wanting to help the little rooster, it laid itself across the water. The little rooster pulled the carriage himself. He nearly reached the other side with the dead little hen, but there were too many others seated on the back of the carriage, and the carriage rolled back, and they all fell into the water and drowned.
Now the little rooster was all alone with the dead little hen. He dug a grave for her and laid her inside. Then he made a mound on top, and sat on it, and grieved there so long that he too died. And then everyone was dead."
I think the last line is what makes me sad, and then giggle a little at the same time. "And then everyone was dead. The end." It sounds a little like a story a kid would tell (or someone fed up with bureaucracy). Children looooove morbidity. So, to cheer you all up after that extremely depressing post, I will leave you with this:

It makes you wonder if the Grimm brothers sometimes asked kids to tell them a story, because some of the fairy tales make as much sense as Scary Smash.