Fairy Tale Heroines

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I didn’t blog last week.  The Olympics were on, and so much of my time was given to watching my favourite Olympic events.  For me, it wasn’t about the colour of the medals won.  I was inspired by the heroics of all the athletes.   It was about being willing to invest themselves so fully in achieving their goals, taking the risks, putting it all on the line, and doing their very best.  What more can you ask of anyone?  For that, I hope they all feel proud!

But today I want to talk about another kind of “heroics”.  Yesterday I saw Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” in 3D.  It is an amazing movie!!!!   And for me, who had not seen a 3D movie since “13 Ghosts”, it was quite a trip!  WOW!!!   I had NO IDEA!!!!   I would probably see anything Johnny Depp appears in, of course, and he gives us a wonderful Mad Hatter.  Helena Bonham Carter and Anne Hathaway are fun too, as the Red Queen and White Queen respectively.  And I enjoyed hearing Alan Rickman’s voice with just the perfect tone as the blue caterpillar.  But this is Mia Wasikowska’s movie.  She is outstanding as Alice.  What is best of all about this movie, though, is that Walt Disney has finally given us a worthy heroine!!!  A heroine with “muchness”!!  It was long overdue!  And that’s what I want to talk about.

I don’t recall how old I was when this incident occurred – I was most certainly not more than ten – when I was stopped walking to primary school one spring morning, by a young bully with a frog in his hand.   He refused to let me pass until I kissed this frog!   Now, my older brother, who had to suffer three younger sisters before he was finally given a male sibling, had introduced me to frogs long before this incident; so I was not afraid.  But even at that tender age, I did not like to be bullied; and so, on principle, I refused.   Consequently, he – along with his mates – continued to block my path to school.  And, as it happened, he delayed the progress of many others too, who stopped to watch the unfolding drama!  In the end, I decided that being late for school would be far worse than kissing a frog.  So I did it.  As I recall the incident, it was rather an anti-climax for all concerned.  And off to school we went.

I had never encountered any difficulty with bullies before that day, nor since.  So just what might have sparked this particular incident?  Kiss a frog!?  Well, even as a little girl, well versed in fairy tales, I knew frogs didn’t really turn into princes!  But did this boy?  Was this simply a case of bullying, or was it perhaps an early expression of masculine inquisitiveness and logic?  If I kissed the frog, and it turned into a prince, perhaps there would be hope for him too!?  Isn’t that what bullies do, overcompensate for their own insecurities?  And isn’t that essentially the role into which many men would like to put us women?   Is it a role we choose, or into which we are socialized?  Isn’t it often seen as our job to “refine” them, to smooth their rough edges, and to treat them as royalty.  Isn’t it thus they become the princes they would like to be?

I have never been satisfied with the Walt Disney versions of fairy tales: damsels in distress, housekeeping for dwarves, waiting to be rescued by their prince, marriage equated with “living happily ever after”.  Not that there is anything wrong with marriage!  It’s just that I had graduated early from reading “The Hardy Boys” to “Nancy Drew”.  I knew that women were capable of so much more!

So Hurrah for Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland”, and for Walt Disney for finally producing a movie with such a worthy heroine!   Do go and see it!

And by the way, watch for my upcoming workshop, “Grimms for Grown-Up Girls”©!  In it, we will learn the history of fairy tales and what was really intended in their earlier oral and written forms before Disney.   We will explore what these tales can teach us about the ages and stages of women.  And finally, we will explore their significance for our own lives, as we write our own life stories as new versions of a fairy tale.

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