Category Archives: Fairy Tale Discussions

The Little Mermaid Discussion: Part 2

Despite all its flaws, Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid” is, as I mentioned in the previous post, a beautiful, sophisticated story that was completely watered down (pun intended) by Disney. The main thing Disney left out was the mermaid’s wanting an immortal soul, and this, quite literally, took the soul right out of the story! In the Disney version, all Ariel wants is to be a human with legs, so that she can dance and learn all there is to know about the human world above her. To Disney’s credit, romance isn’t all she wants from the beginning. Seeing Prince Eric just gives her even more of a motivation to become human.

There is still the problem, though, of wanting to be with a man she doesn’t even know just because he’s cute. The two of them even fall in love when they’ve barely even met! Love at first sight yet again, people, and you know how I feel about that! Not to mention that in order to remain human, Ariel has to be kissed by Prince Eric before she’s been on land for three days! Talk about rushing a relationship! This also gives the story the same problem as Hans Christian Andersen’s version: she needs the love of a man in order to truly become human. There it is again, Disney! Your same old message that women have to be loved by men in order to be whole people! To be fair, this message is seen in the original versions of many fairy tales including this one, but these are old stories! Disney, being a modern day film company, should have been able to alter these stories enough so that they wouldn’t have those messages.

Disney, in my opinion, took the right stuff out and left the wrong stuff in while adapting “The Little Mermaid” for the screen. By stripping the story and the protagonist of a soul, Disney removed its sophistication. It left in, however, the story’s sexist messages. Without the sophisticated themes of the original, the Disney version really isn’t that interesting. Sexist messages aside, that’s why I never cared for this movie as a child. I liked Ursula, the sea witch, but that was about it.

Now that I’m an adult who has read the original story, I like the Disney version even less. Personally, I think Disney picked the wrong Hans Christian Andersen story to make a movie from, because doing so meant stripping the story of its essence. Many of Hans Christian Andersen’s other stories, like “The Snow Queen,” are also a little too sophisticated for Disney to handle, which is why I’m dreading seeing “Frozen,” Disney’s upcoming adaptation of “The Snow Queen.” I’m sure they will butcher it even more than they butchered “The Little Mermaid,” for this is the fate for just about any Hans Christian Andersen story that falls into Disney’s clutches.

The only story of Andersen’s I think Disney could have made a decent feature length movie out of is “Thumbelina.” That would have been a better choice than “The Little Mermaid.” “Thumbelina” has sexist qualities too, and I know better than to expect Disney to change that. I also know, however, that Disney would have done a much better job in creating a film version of this fairy tale than Don Bluth did. Don Bluth’s Thumbelina was a cheap Disney knock-off. Such a movie should have at least been made by the real McCoy.

Speaking of Don Bluth, let’s quote Lindsay Ellis, the Nostalgia Chick: “The profitability and quality of any given Don Bluth movie is in inverse proportion to how well the Disney company is doing.” Here is a link to the video in which she says this, which, coincidentally, is about Don Bluth’s Thumbelina: http://thatguywiththeglasses.com/videolinks/team-nchick/nostalgia-chick/6311-thumbelina.

In other words, when the Disney company wasn’t doing well, Don Bluth produced great films like “The Secret of Nimh,” “An American Tail,” “The Land Before Time,” and “All Dogs Go To Heaven,” the latter of which I have only seen clips of, but know other people like. When Disney was doing well, however, Don Bluth made cheap Disney knock-offs like “Thumbelina” as well as other weird, poorly-developed kids’ films like “Rock-A-Doodle.”

That’s very sad, in my opinion. I mean, we all know Don Bluth was capable of making kids’ films like “The Land Before Time” (my favorite movie of his), which has a level of sophistication rarely seen in a Disney film, or even “The Secret of Nimh,” which is probably one of the most sophisticated kids’ films ever made, so why did he feel the need to rip off Disney when Disney was doing well? He and his company probably believed that with everybody flocking to Disney films, his films would be overlooked if they were different from Disney. If the Disney viewers at the time had been in the right state of mind, though, they would not see a cheap Disney knock-off in addition to a real Disney movie, and certainly not instead of one. No, they would have seen a well-developed, sophisticated kids’ film nothing like Disney in addition to a Disney film! That’s certainly what I would have done. That’s why Don Bluth shouldn’t have been afraid to make more movies like “The Land Before Time” when Disney was doing well.

With that in mind, I think Don Bluth and Disney should have swapped which Hans Christian Andersen stories they made film adaptations of. Disney should have done “Thumbelina,” and Don Bluth could have easily made an animated film version of “The Little Mermaid,” one with the same sophistication level as “The Land Before Time” or even “The Secret of Nimh,” that stuck much more closely to the original story. In a movie like that, the mermaid still could have died as long as the movie greatly emphasized her rebirth, since to quote Doug Walker, the Nostalgia Critic, “His [Don Bluth’s] philosophy was that children can handle just about anything as long as you attach a happy ending.” Here is a link to the video in which he says this: http://thatguywiththeglasses.com/videolinks/thatguywiththeglasses/nostalgia-critic/1600-nostalgia-critic-top-11-saddest-moments

Maybe someday years from now, probably after everyone has forgotten Disney’s “The Little Mermaid,” someone will make a film version of that story in the spirit of Don Bluth’s better films. If I were in charge of making that film, I would make sure the mermaid does not suffer as much as she does in the original story and figures out on her own how she can less painfully gain an eternal soul.

As an extra perk, here is another Lindsay Ellis video about why she doesn’t like Disney’s The Little Mermaid: http://thatguywiththeglasses.com/videolinks/team-nchick/nostalgia-chick/31642-the-little-mermaid Her reasons are not necessarily the same as mine, but it is nice to know I’m not the only female who dislikes this film.

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“The Little Mermaid” Discussion: Part 1

Note: Before reading this post, I would recommend you read the original Hans Christian Andersen tale of “The Little Mermaid” if you haven’t already. You can find it here: http://hca.gilead.org.il/li_merma.html.

The original “Little Mermaid” story is beautiful and much more sophisticated than the Disney version, but it has several flaws. One flaw is the story’s belief that people have to feel pain and sorrow in order to gain status. Even if that were true, this poor mermaid suffers way too much than she should have to in order to get what she wants! I mean, she has to have the sensation of a sword slicing through her when she gains legs and have her tongue cut off, loosing her voice! When all that is over, she has to feel pain every time she walks on solid ground! That much pain is not worth anything, not even becoming human and gaining an immortal soul! This is especially true since she has no guarantee that she’ll get it. What’s more, it is not even true that pain and sorrow is required to gain status, or anything else for that matter! Hard work is required, but pain and suffering is not the same as hard work.

Another flaw with this story is that the mermaid needs the love of a human male in order to gain an immortal soul. This of course implies that women have to be loved by men in order to be whole people. The nice thing about this story, though, is that in the end, she is able to gain an immortal soul without the love of a man. Since that ultimately happens, though, why couldn’t a clever mermaid at least guess or believe that there are other ways to gain an immortal soul? If she had believed this to be true, then she could have sought out another way to do it, eventually discovering, just like she does at the end, that good deeds are all she needs to do in order to gain an immortal soul. Of course she gains an opportunity to get an eternal soul at the end by sparing the life of the prince, but can’t there be other, less heart-breaking good deeds she can do? Aren’t there at least some good deeds she can do while living with her mer-family? The story would be much better if it had unfolded that way, I think.

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“Snow White” Discussion Part 2

Now that I have discussed the creepiest aspect of “Snow White, I will move on to another problem with this story. This problem is present in both the Disney version and the Brothers Grimm version. Yes, I am talking about that infamous “Whistle While You Work” scene! All this woman is good for is cleaning up after men! This sentiment is pretty similar in the two versions, the only difference being that in the Disney version, she keeps house for them because they’re helpless slobs who can’t cook and clean for themselves, but in the original version, they can cook and clean perfectly well, but she does it for them in return for food and shelter.

In my opinion, her reason for cooking and cleaning for the dwarfs in the Disney version is much worse than her reason for doing so in the original version. I mean, in the Disney version, they basically let her stay just so she can do their dirty work! This makes the dwarfs much less cute and lovable than Disney wants us to think. Their relationship with Snow White is made even creepier when she acts as a maternal figure to them, like when she makes them wash up for supper or go to bed. Acting as a maternal figure to grown men might be a slightly better situation for women than having them treat her like a little girl, but it is still far from ideal. Treating a woman like a little girl is the most common way women were and are mistreated throughout history and, sadly, the world today. It isn’t even unheard of in this story, according to Sheldon Cashdan, who says,

Consider the warnings they give Snow White before they leave for work. “Don’t talk to strangers,” they tell the child. “Don’t let anyone you don’t know into the house.” These are precisely the kinds of things mothers tell their children when they leave them alone. It doesn’t take much of a stretch of the imagination to see that the dwarfs are maternal icons, symbols, as it were, of the good mother (Cashdan, 51).

Yes, the dwarfs certainly do act as parental figures to Snow White while she is living with them. But note that I said parental figures, not maternal figures. Men can be parental figures, too, and, when playing an active role in their lives, fathers say the exact same things to children. This would be okay if the dwarfs only spoke to Snow White this way shortly after she came to live with them, when she was only seven. The trouble is, though, they say these things to her right up until the queen gives her the apple! The story doesn’t say anything about how long Snow White lives with the dwarfs, but considering she marries the prince shortly after biting into the apple, she’s at least of marriageable age by then. No matter what time period they’re living in, women who are old enough to get married should not be treated like little girls. They shouldn’t need to be either, but that, sadly, is the case with Snow White.

Oh yes, Snow White is stupid. She is especially stupid in the original version, where she lets the queen in her various disguises come into the house and then accepts gifts from her not one, but three times! The dwarfs are even clever enough to figure out each time that this person is her stepmother and tell her, but not even that keeps her from making the same mistake again! What is the matter with her? This isn’t just stupidity! This is either short term memory loss or a death wish! Sheldon Cashdan tries to justify this several times. He claims children need a character like Snow White, who both defies authority and gives in to flaws such as vanity, which, he argues, is her reason for accepting both the poisoned comb and the ribbon the queen puts around her neck before the apple, two incidents which were omitted in the Disney version. I can’t buy this. Sure, children need characters who aren’t perfect. I would even agree that they need characters who defy authority and give in to their own flaws. But here’s the difference between Snow White and good children’s characters: Good children’s characters learn from their mistakes! Snow White never learns; all she does is get lucky when the prince’s servant happens to drop her! Snow White is a passive character, because everything that happens to her, good and bad, happens at the hands of others. Passive characters are not interesting for children or adults.

She’s stupid in the Disney version, too, since she lets this mysterious old woman into her house and takes an apple from her after being warned many, many times by the dwarfs not to do anything like that. While this isn’t as bad as her making the same deadly mistake three times, I will note that in the Disney version, Snow White seems to think she’s much cleverer than she actually is. After all, she seems certain that her stepmother will never find her at the dwarfs’ house, but how can she know that? She’s being naively optimistic here, not clever.

Snow White cooking and cleaning for perfectly capable dwarfs is, in my opinion, the lesser of two evils, especially since they give her food and shelter in return. Regardless of gender, deals like this are made all the time, even today. In fact, just one simple detail would have made this a decent part of the story. The detail would be Snow White doing something else in addition to cooking and cleaning for the dwarfs, something that relates to her strengths, not just women’s work. This could be playing music, telling stories, using her artistic skills to decorate their house and/or design objects for them, or anything else of that sort. Alternately, if, like in the Disney version, they don’t know how to cook and clean, she could teach them. In return, they could teach her how to dig up precious stones in their mine and use the stones for designing beautiful artifacts. This, in fact, is the premise of one of the “Snow White” retellings I have toyed with.

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Announcement

The fairy tale discussions are back, people! Now I am tackling “Snow White,” and I am tackling it very differently from how I tackled “Sleeping Beauty.” I will be posting multiple discussions of this fairy tale one at a time. Some of these discussions will be more analytical than others, and they will all be about different topics the story relates to. Enjoy!

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“Snow White” Discussion Part 1

The original Brothers Grimm “Snow White” has the worst love at first sight trash ever! For those of you who are not familiar with this version, listen to this: At the end of “Snow White,” the prince, unlike the prince in “Sleeping Beauty,” does not kiss her to wake her up, nor does he know he needs to. He doesn’t even know she’s alive! Nope, this creepy guy sees Snow White lying in her coffin and, like the dwarfs, believes she’s dead. Nonetheless, he is so mesmerized by her beauty that he wants to buy the coffin, princess in all, just so he can gaze at her all day. Okay, so this prince doesn’t even think of Snow White as a human! To him she is an object to carry off and look at! I am sorry to say Sheldon Cashdan does not adequately acknowledge how creepy this is in The Witch Must Die: How Fairy Tales Shape Our Lives He acknowledges that it happens, all right:

Bedazzled by Snow White’s beauty, the prince wants to marry her and is apparently willing to overlook the fact that she is dead. He suspects that his parents will not be overjoyed at the prospect of a lifeless daughter-in-law, but that does not deter him. All he wants is to possess Snow White, or, more accurately, her beauty. He persuades the dwarfs to give him the princess and sets out for his father’s palace, where he intends to places her on display (Cashdan, 59).

Whew! How can say that and follow it with nothing more then “To everyone’s lasting relief, one of the servants stumbles on the way to the palace and drops the coffin. The poison apple flies from Snow White’s throat, and she wakens” (Cashdan, 59). He seriously says nothing about how wrong it is for the prince to simply want to “possess [Snow White’s] beauty.” And no, I would argue that the servant stumbling and dropping the coffin is not “to everyone’s lasting relief.” If Snow White had any sense, waking up might be a relief to her at the moment, but not once she discovers that she is at the hands of a prince who wants her, dead or alive, to simply be something to look upon in his palace. Unfortunately, though, this doesn’t seem to bother her in the slightest, since she agrees to marry him. If I were her, I would call for the dwarfs to get me away from this guy!

Contrast this with the Disney version. In this version, at least, the “I’m Wishing” and “One Song” sequence makes it clear that Snow White and Prince Charming love each other at the beginning of the story. How long we don’t know, and the song actually suggests that she loved him beforehand, but doesn’t know until this sequence that he loves her. For that reason, who’s to say that she hadn’t just been gazing at him from a distance without really getting to know him, and just randomly found out that he miraculously loves her back, even though they’ve never really met? I wouldn’t expect much more from a Disney princess movie, least of all the first one, but this movie at least gives us room to believe that they had been courting before the onset of the movie.

In addition, “Snow White” has a good reason why she and the prince weren’t together for most of the movie: She was hiding in the dwarfs’ cottage and couldn’t let anyone know where she was, not even her prince, whom the Queen could have easily tortured information out of. I have already talked about what’s wrong with the romance in “Sleeping Beauty,” but if Cinderella and her prince had loved each other before the onset of the movie, her living with her stepmother would not have necessarily stopped them from seeing each other. That’s why I think nobody has an excuse to include love at first sight trash in “Cinderella.” Both this and the fact that Snow White and the prince loved each other from the very beginning are aspects “Snow White” has over “Sleeping Beauty,” “Cinderella,” and even “The Little Mermaid.” I will discuss “Cinderella” soon, but for now suffice it to know that I hate it, specifically Perrault’s version. I will also discuss “The Little Mermaid” sometime in the future. For now, suffice that to know that it, too, has love at first sight problems.

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Sleeping Beauty Discussion

I will start our fairy tale discussions with one of my all-time favorites, “Sleeping Beauty.”  This is one fairy tale I enjoyed as a child in both its Disney form and its original form, though I didn’t find the original form nearly as interesting as the movie when I was a child.   As an adult,  I really don’t like the original version at all, and though I like the movie, I can see that both versions have major flaws.  Looking back on it, those flaws interfered with my enjoyment of the story even when I was a child.

The Disney version sparked my imagination in many ways, but never fully satisfied it.  That’s why when I wasn’t watching “Sleeping Beauty,” I was running around in circles expanding upon the concepts in the movie that I found the most interesting.  The fairies’ raising the princess in the forest was probably the main concept I did that with, and I often came up with my own ideas on what happened when Briar Rose was a pre-pubescent child and even still an infant with the fairies.  Some of these ideas included the fairies finding a kitten for her to play with and them drawing pictures of what she would be like when she grew up.

In addition to expanding on existent concepts in “Sleeping Beauty,” there was one non-existent concept, as a kid, I thought would be interesting if it were present in the movie.  This was Briar Rose’s finding out about the missing Princess Aurora, and not discovering until later that it’s her.  I had this thought while watching the part of the movie where Briar Rose is out picking berries and looks unknowingly at her father’s castle.

When I read the original Brothers Grimm version as a child, I enjoyed it mostly because my love for the movie made it cozy and familiar.  Aside from that, I found it pretty boring. Most of the interesting concepts in the Disney version were absent from it.  Sure, there were the fairies giving her gifts as an infant, but nothing could make that scene as interesting as it was in the Disney version, not even there being twelve good fairies instead of just three.  Yeah, there was the evil fairy, but not only was she not nearly as cool as she was in the Disney version, her reason for being upset about not being invited to the baby shower didn’t make sense, regardless of which retelling of the original version I read.  In some versions she wasn’t invited because no one knew her whereabouts, and in others she wasn’t invited because there were only twelve golden plates for fairies.  At least in the Disney version, they didn’t invite her because they knew she was evil!

Another complaint I have about the bad fairy in the Brothers Grimm “Sleeping Beauty” is that after giving the princess her terrible gift, she disappears and is never seen again. According to Sheldon Cashdan in The Witch Must Die: How Fairy Tales Shape Our Lives, she doesn’t even constitute as an actual witch because of that: “”Once she [the evil thirteenth fairy] arrives at the ball celebrating the infant Rosamond’s birth and delivers her pronouncement, she is never heard from again. There is consequently no enduring malevolent presence in the story, and no penultimate struggle between the forces of good and evil” (Cashdan, 25). Needless to say, this story would have been much more interesting if there was, which is part of the reason I like the Disney version much better. As we will later explore, this “penultimate struggle between the forces of good and evil” (Cashdan, 25) has highly symbolic value.

There is also absolutely nothing interesting between the baby shower and the princess falling asleep in the original version.  There’s no princess being raised in the forest by fairies, none of the evil fairy’s wrath, no falling in love with a supposed stranger, no fairies making funny mistakes while making a cake and a gown for the princess’ birthday, no kings arguing over whether it’s a good idea for their children to get married when they’ve never met, and no prince defeating a fire-breathing dragon with the help of three fairies who are much spunkier than the princess.  Even though those concepts weren’t expanded on enough in the Disney version, at least they were there.  They weren’t even present in the original version!  For that reason, I saw the original version as a very boring story when I was a child, just like I do now as an adult.

I still like the Disney version as an adult, though, and after recently re-watching it a couple of times, I had some other thoughts on which concepts in the movie would have contributed more had they been expanded.  One was the fairies wishing Briar Rose didn’t have to go back to being a princess so they could keep her in the forest and, similarly, Briar Rose being unhappy upon hearing she’s a princess instead of a peasant girl.

The main reason she was unhappy about this was that she thought she loved someone other than her betrothed.  This concept would have obviously added more to the story if the young man she met really was someone other than the prince she was betrothed to.  It also would have been much more interesting, much less creepy, and made much more sense if the handsome “stranger” she met hadn’t fallen for her just because of her voice or used the creepy excuse of meeting her “once upon a dream” for not being a stranger, and if she hadn’t fallen for both him and the excuse at first glance, before they even knew each others’ names!  As an adult, that’s the main concept in the Disney version that bothers me, and it’s why I think the songs “I Wonder” and “Once Upon a Dream” are stupid.  Though “Sleeping Beauty” is one of my favorite Disney movies, I’ll be the first to say others have much better songs, including my other favorite, “Beauty and the Beast.”  Even as a child, I tried to make sense of that love at first sight garbage, but I couldn’t.  Now I know this was because there is no sense to be made of it.  There is no real “love at first sight.”  Real romantic love comes from spending time getting to know someone you really like and want to be close to.  Remember this, kids, for when you get old enough for romance.  Real love is nothing like how they depict it in fairy tales.

Anyway, if the concepts I named about her falling in love with someone she met in the forest were both different and expanded upon, they would have contributed much more to the story.  There are two more concepts I feel that way about as an adult.  One is the princess’ father questioning whether it’s a good idea to marry her to someone she’s never met.  As people of the 21st century, we know that’s a really stupid, archaic thing to do, so it would have made much more sense to us if he had continued to feel that way and actually done something about it, instead of relenting right away and deciding his daughter and his best friend’s son were “bound to fall in love with each other.”  After all, that practice wasn’t at all archaic in medieval times, and so if someone thought it was a bad idea back then, that would have been a revolutionary thought, and it would have been very interesting to see how it plays out in a medieval setting.

Another concept, or in this case character, I think would have contributed more to the story if expanded on was Merry Weather.   She is quite the tough and cool fairy, with much more of an attitude than her two sisters.  There are, in fact, at least two occurrences where she tries to confront Maleficent but the others stop her.  They should have let this strong, brave fairy confront her, and then helped her defeat this evil witch!  That would have made these fairies even spunkier heroines than they were to begin with!  And the fact that I have always believed something like this is clear, because when I was eight, I would fantasize about the three good fairies dueling with Maleficent.  Why not?

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