Friday, August 7, 2015

Rob: Do fairy tales even exist anymore?

"Once upon a time" is how all the fairly tales start and "they lived happily ever after" is how they all seem to end. The stories are filled with drama, heartache, action, loss and finally, a climactic showdown with the villain.

But do they have a purpose?

Once upon a time, these stories helped to instill moral values, taught valuable lessons or rules to follow. They acted as an oral history and provided a means to explain the unexplainable.

1650 A.D. Mom and Dad are working in the field and the children are all home alone. Fairy tale: Don't go in the forest or an ogre will eat you. Seems like a pretty good way to keep the kids from straying too far from home when daycare won't exist for hundreds of years.

I'm trivializing, but in a pre-industrial era with non-existent literacy rates, fairy tales played an important role in society. Many of these stories weren't all moonbeams and rainbows. Rather, they were often quite dark and served as a cautionary tales to ensure the safety of children as well as rationalize the world around.

But what about today?

Once upon a now, most fairy tales seem to be directly tied to movies, marketing and profit margins. When I think of the fairy tales of today, I think of a Disney, PIXAR or Hollywood studio movie. While smart, funny and with a cute moral lesson, they often leave me wondering how many psychologists and marketing experts spent months researching to ensure maximum Return On Investment (ROI).

Don't get me wrong, these are great movies and I like the modern twists on the original stories. As a father of three young girls, I certainly appreciate and support smart, intelligent, empowered women as leading characters.

But are they actually fairy tales?

I get that most, if not all these modern tales, teach some sort of moral lesson, but I would be reluctant to say this is their primary purpose. Perhaps, it's that modern day fairy tales seem to need to be told as a somewhat predictable, two-hour animated production:

1. Start with a socially awkward lead character.
2. Create a crisis and introduce a villain.
3. Introduce comedy relief and love interest.
4. Lead character goes through series of traumatic experiences.
5. Character grows, matures or reaches full potential and triumphs over evil.
6. Characters live happily ever after.

Plots are the highest of highs followed by the lowest of lows,with comic relief inserted and a guaranteed happy ending.

I get it. They're fun, they aren't too serious and do we really need these modern day tales to provide the same purpose they once did? Haven't we moved forward as a society and shouldn't the notion of fairy tales evolve as well?

Most children can read from a very early age. We have laws that ensure our children cannot be left to fend for themselves. Kids are provided extensive education far beyond what was available even 100 years ago and most questions can be answered on the internet with the push of a few buttons.

Perhaps a fairy tale doesn't need to mean the same things that it used to. Instead, today's fairy tale can be the softer, gentler version of its darker ancestor and still be a fairy tale. We can leave the parenting to parents and just enjoy the story.

What do you think? Should these stories and movies count or has the fairy tale just become another long ago and far away?










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24 comments:

  1. I have never really given any thought into whether or not the movies we have now a days are actually fairy tales. I can see how someone can think that they are supposed to be modern day fairy tales but I think that it might be missing the mark a little bit. I don't know....I'll have to think more about it. Thanks for giving me something to think about! #bigfatlinky
    Kristen

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    1. Thanks Kristen. It was an interesting post and I started out thinking I would write one thing and then ended up writing another. I had originally tried to integrate something about how fairy tales had been softened and the stories are much lighter now than they once were but once I made the connection to movies, I thought simpler was easier. Thanks for reading.

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  2. Hmm, good question. I think that young children now are more sheltered than previously. I would tend to find a gentler version of the fairytales to share with them than the original Grimm ones, for example. I use fairy tales in school, they're a great resource to help build early literacy. I almost never would use the hollywood version to support my lessons though as generally I find they have deviated too far from the original. I like the movies as a separate entity though. I'm glad we're moving on from the old fashioned Disney 'damsel in distress needing rescuing by a strong, handsome prince' type.

    #bigfatlinky

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    1. It true. I was just saying in my response above to Kristen that what you're saying is kind of where I had originally intended this post to go but sometimes the post just tells itself. I think I actually started thinking about it when someone gave us an old fairy tale book from the 1950's and the stories were so dark, I actually stopped reading them to the kids. Thanks for reading.

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  3. Interesting perspective.. I see your point on the modern fairy tales being very very different from the fairy tales of old but I think every era has its own 'fairy tales' because every era has different needs that have to be catered to. Where previously such stories served as cautionary tales and taught kids important lessons in pre-literacy ages, nowadays the needs are a little different. Nowadays our kids are less in need of caution when entering forests and more in need of strong characters (especially female) with increasingly multifaceted personalities to teach them that prince charming coming to the rescue is all well and good but sometimes the princess is quite capable of saving herself (Shrek) or that the 'true love' everyone talks about could be the true love between sisters (Frozen).
    #momsterslink

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    1. Thanks for reading and that is a perfect way of putting it. Each serve their purpose and are framed for the time and the place. I must admit, I struggle with some of the original tales when trying to explain their meaning to my girls.

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  4. Very interesting post! In the sense that they create a "mythology" and their own universe, then I guess that modern films do continue the tradition of fairy tales, albeit in a very different medium. Many films also have the classic "hero journey" shape... but I like the charm and darkness of "original" fairy tales too. There's more left to the imagination which is nice. Funnily enough we've only just got into the TV series "Once upon a time" (via Netflix... it's not broadcast over here in the UK), but I'm loving the writing and twist they've given on traditional fairy stories...
    Always enjoy your writing Rob! It's good to connect via the #bigfatlinky

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    1. Thanks Luke and I will say as a fan of history in general, I love the symbolism and meaning behind the original fairy tales. I liked how they educated and informed those of the day and I too like the darkness of them just not so much for my kids. My wife and I are sucked into Once Upon a Time as well. The #bigfatlinky is a get linky for sure.

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  5. I think that children are just more sheltered from the originals and film companies would be too scared to do something in the traditional way the stories were written. I guess everyone just likes a happy ending. I agree with all the other comments been made also; I think times have just changed! It's a really interesting post Rob and made me think next time a watch a film xx #bigfatlinky

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    1. Thanks Sarah. I had actually started writing this post and wanted to talk about how even the written versions we read today of the traditional fairy tales have been softened but then just didn't like how it was turning out and decided to go this route. Agreed though that times have changed and I do like both the written tales and the films. Thanks for reading and glad you found it interesting.

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  6. As much as I like reading fairy tales or stories to my kids because it develops their imagination but I also like watching the film, like the recent Cinderalla, although I know the story already but seeing it live is a different level... Great post! Thanks for sharing! #momsterslink

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    1. Me too Ruby. I love the films and the stories and as a dad of all girls, I'm really enjoying the push for powerful female characters in the movies. Thank you so much for reading and commenting.

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  7. Interesting point. I think I would tend to view the value of fairy tales nowadays as being a means of encouraging storytelling & imagination. Films don't do that and they can't replace it. I accept that it is not actually necessary to use fairy tales for that purpose, but they remain those stories that we all know & can tell our own versions of, embellish, act out, etc. #bigfatlinky

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    1. That's a great point and I must admit, I'm a bit old school when it comes to myself. I still read paper books and more times than not prefer the book to the film. I love the films and can appreciate the books. I must admit, I'm often telling my seven year old to get off the TV and go read a book or use her imagination. Thanks for reading.

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  8. An interesting view on fairy tales and I guess they've just evolved for modern times, that doesn't mean our kids love them any less.

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    1. Very true Izzie. They're different now because they have to be. I'm looking at their softer side as a good thing too. Thanks for reading.

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  9. Great post. I'd like to see more of these movies teach some sort of lesson. It doesn't have to be front and center, but being nice to each other and not judging seem like they could be fit in easily for example. Brave was good for appreciating your parents. I'll have to give this some more thought

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    1. Thanks Jeremy. I loved Brave and appreciated the respect your parents message too.

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  10. Thought provoking post, thanks :-)
    I agree with Bunglinghousewife in that todays stories are more character based than they used to be but I don't think that necessarily matters because we still have the old fashioned fairy stories and I haven't met a child yet that doesn't love them as much as my generation did (many years ago ! lol).
    The old stories may be darker and more harsh in some ways, but good always conquers evil, kindness wins over cruelty and a generous heart always prevails over the selfish one etc and these are lessons that will never become old or redundant.
    They are also a much richer source of vocabulary than a lot of modern writings and tv/film and also challenge young readers/listeners to read/think above their age range.
    I think there is a place for so many different styles of childrens literature/story that each occupy their own niche, but I, for one, am very glad we still have, and will always have, the older Fairy Stories.
    Great post, thanks :-)
    Sarah x
    #Bigfatlinky
    Now following your blog :-) x

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  11. Thanks Sarah and really appreciate the support. I too am a big fan of the original fairy tales, especially the real original stories. I had started out wanting to incorporate something about how these had been softened but I struggled tying it all together. Maybe I'll take another crack at it. :) Thanks again for reading and your wonderful comments.

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  12. I have to admit that I do enjoy a good "fairy tale". But I try make sure my kids understand that they are just that..."fake tales" This seems to be a hot topic amongst parents these days because I am reading more and more about it. Thank you so for again linking up with #momsterslink and I apologize in my delay for commenting as today starts another day of the linky ;)

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    1. Thanks for reading and thanks as well for hosting the great #momsterslink. It's one of my favorites. We too spend a lot of time explaining to the kids that these stories are not real.

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  13. Great post. I think that all fairy tales have a story thread that modern stories would have. The journey of hope and achievement despite any adversity. I do see how the older ones are darker but even then there were classic lessons learnt throughout. Thanks for linking up with us on the #bigfatlinky hope to see you there this week.

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    1. Thanks Martyn. Glad you enjoyed the post and I have linked up what I hope will be a series of posts on the blogging universe.

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