Awakened push to undo fairy tales lets daylight into magic
Once upon a time there was a boy named Jack who traded his cow for beans to demonstrate the merits of agribusiness. But a giant villain lived on top of the beanstalk and all the extremely tall people were offended, so the story was banned.
And once upon a time there was a sweet girl whose stoic patience allowed her to triumph over an evil stepmother and two naughty sisters, but her story must never be told because all blended families and activists of body shame took umbrage.
And now Once Upon This Very Time, a live-action version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, is under preemptive fire because, although it’s not yet in production, it’s already an affront to short people. and must be lit with torches in the village square.
Game of Thrones actor Peter Dinklage, who has a form of dwarfism called achondroplasia, has slammed Disney for “hypocrisy” after it trumpeted its diversity by casting a Latina as Snow White, while telling a ” upside-down story of the seven dwarfs living in a cave”.
Generations of children may have been captivated by the fable of Snow White – that of courage, friendship and the life-threatening consequences of accepting unwashed fruit from strangers – but in our literal, hypersensitive age , the depiction of dwarves in this enchanted fantasy land is now a cause for seemingly justified outrage.
This is by no means the first time this favorite fairy tale has been lambasted. In May last year, Disneyland’s new ride, Snow White’s Enchanted Wish, fell foul of cancel culture because it mimicked the classic cartoon with an animatronic prince kissing his princess to wake her from her sleep poisoned. Complaints about this alleged sexual assault have gone viral, as ill will so often does.
We seem in these moments to forget the original intention of these stories. Snow White serves to entertain little children who still believe that a kiss makes things better. This one was a classic long before the turn of the 19th century, when the Brothers Grimm set about collecting these “crucial repertoires of human understanding and culture”, as fairy tale scholar Marina Warner puts it, that have been passed down in an earlier oral tradition. mass literacy.
To be obsessed with the identity politics of Snow White’s dwarfs—or, say, the “sexism” of wicked stepmothers and wicked witches—is to ignore the simple fact that the fairy-tale characters are all cartoonish caricatures whose real purpose is to serve as deeper moral lessons.
Fairy tales are full of life lessons and stern warnings about the fate that awaits those who break the rules or cross the boundaries of a community. Little Red Riding Hood’s troubles begin when she ignores her mother’s instruction to follow the path. Beauty and the Beast is a moral introduction to not judging people by their appearance, especially when they are excessively wealthy. We lose the importance of these lessons if we start tampering with the characters who deliver them.
Seeing ancient myths through a modern lens should enhance our understanding of our ancestors and the mores of society. Redacting their folk tales of evil queens and valiant knights is worse than letting magic in the daylight; it’s driving a carriage and magical horses through a fantastic world that still has the power to bewitch us today.