Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Op Ed: The new fad for fairy tales shows our retreat from complex reality

Oi vay! Here's a hot opinion piece from the Independent UK. It's much longer and this is just a small bit I'm extracting here to tease and provoke discussion.

From Terence Blacker: The new fad for fairy tales shows our retreat from complex reality:

Even when Hollywood retells these stories, providing gender switches and in-jokes to subvert the archetypes and allow modern audiences to feel sophisticated, the moral certainties behind them remain. In other words, fairy tales are the perfect entertainment for times in which there is a longing for a simple world of good and bad, the deserving and the punished. Responding to this year's British Social Attitudes survey, which revealed a startling decline in empathy towards others, a spokesman for the Policy Exchange think tank summed up the mood: "People's idea of fairness is reciprocal – something for something."

No wonder fairy tales are in vogue. Today, many people are too busy, too cynical, to see those in public life as messy, flawed humans; they want villains (bankers, hackers, politicians) and heroes (the celebrity of the moment). The attempts of our leaders to come up with some greyish compromise of a solution appeals not one bit.

With the easily earned sentimentalism of a folk tale, there is, balancing it out, a brutal form of justice. Hollywood's version of one famous fairy tale is called Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters, and follows the young heroes on a trail of vengeance, as they kill witches all over the world. The director's last film was about Nazi zombies. It may be a fair way from the Brothers Grimm and their gingerbread house, but it accords perfectly with the mood of the moment.
My head is spinning with holiday projects and work, so my head is having a hard time even starting to discuss this one. There are valid points here, but as with many op-ed pieces, it's one dimensional and uses one single interpretation to promote an opinion. But "fairy tales are simplistic and take us back to our childish needs" is one way to interpret the article which I would, of course, argue vehemently against if my brain was working today. But then again, doesn't my work here do that for me here every day anyway? The argument also relies in a way on the false assumption these tales existed originally and primarily for children in the first place.

Discuss amongst yourselves....

"Easily earned sentimentalism?" Oi again!


  1. Maybe the reason society is getting into fairy tales again is because in the midst of all the sad things, they want to be reminded that there ARE happy endings. I agree that they also want a firm difference between good and evil. In the end, all people are doing is trying to fill the hole in their hearts that every human being has. That hole, however, as someone once said, is God-sized, and only God can fill that emptiness.

  2. For me stories are definitely escapism which is why I love fairytales, myths and legends, and modern stories with some of these elements. Probably also the reason I am becoming a librarian.