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?