Monday, June 2, 2008

are fairy tales now NC-17?

I lunched with a friend today who reports that her 8 year old isn't allowed to read fairy tales at school. She adds that he's one of few in his class whose parents permit him to read them at home. Apparently grade school PTAs are rampant with vigilante censors of fantasy written by "un-PC" authors like Brothers Grimm. Approved versions of stories have been sanitized. Riding Hood gives her bread to Wolf, who after all is homeless and hungry. Rumpelstilskin learns to spin wool himself and celebrates being a Little Person.

Of course, we all want to do right by our kids, but by wite-outing darkness from tales that have appealed to generations of children, aren't we underestimating our kids, even undermining their ability to work out their fears. (Yes, Good Parents, every Child, no matter how Coddled, has fears.) When you were read Hansel and Gretel as a kid, you were probably glad when the witch went into the oven. And while the image might have been scary, it was reassuring to learn that children aren't powerless against wicked folks bigger than they are.

Allan Wolk (Toad) points out (in a tweet today) that "it's hard to find classic fairy tales- most preschooler stuff is branded: Dora, Princesses, Thomas, Diego, etc."

But I think we owe our kids fairy tales, and not just the branded, marzipan versions, for the sake of their imagination, their self-esteem...perhaps even the creative capacity of our future workforce.

Who was it who said, "If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales." Oh, yeah. That Giant, Albert Einstein.


Anonymous said...

There's a new version of 90210 coming out...that's quite the fairy tale.

Of course Alice in Wonderland must be out. Between smoking hookahs, mushrooms and being written by a pedophile who took softcore porn photos of Alice Liddel looking like a slut, it's got it all!

Ad Broad, oldest working writer in advertising said...

Right, Auntie! Those hookahs! And mushrooms? Not to mention subtextual pedophelia. Yep, minds of our kids are MUCH better served by forgoing Alice for Elmo and Captn Underpants.

Anonymous said...

all those kids are going to become sociopaths, who do not understand why "bad things" happen.

I fear for the future.

HighJive said...

Well, it goes to show how few of the original stories were written for the sake of storytelling—that is, they featured political statements, and ultimately, politically-incorrect statements. Wasn’t Mother Goose essentially a series of political protests? I thought stories like Little Black Sambo were the first to be pulled for their racist components. Guess it was only a matter of time before the censors worked their way toward the rest of the stories. The other spin involves the racial/ethnic groups that have had success recasting the stories with multicultural characters (e.g., Black Cinderella, Latina Red Riding Hood).

Joker said...

Regarding racism, you'd have to block out many of the Narnia tales as the White people of Narnia did so well against Moors and such. Hell it's no secret CS Lewis was a racist but he was also a pretty decent writer, especially when he strayed from the anti Moor path and focused on fictional story telling. So then comes the question, should we keep these stories away from children or bring up the topic of racism in some of those books and try and have a conversation with kids so they learn better?

As for this whole over parenting bullshit, I don't know when it became a bad thing to have bruises, scrapes, fears and feelings. Last I checked kids without that kind of experience might have had albino white hair, glowing green eyes and telepathic powers. They also managed to kill an entire town including Kirstey Alley.

Regarding the lukewarm television offered to children as well as half ass literature? What can I say, but that future generations might very well be disconnected from reality until real hurt sets in and in essence we are creating a Xoloft generation.

I don't know how many things I've been able to cope with in life thanks to what I've seen and read. Hell I even learned about sex thanks to porn but lord knows that stuff is vile and gross and just wrong, wrong, wrong.

As for the hookah smoking goodness of Alice in Wonderland, it's not the only book children can enjoy and as good kid literature goes, I'd definitely offer the Phantom Tollbooth to anyone of any age. That's because good literature can be read at any age.

Just check Harry Potter. There's death, violence, puberty and a few scenes where mistress Rowling actually wrote that people fell in a spread eagle position. Oh.. and Dumbledore was gay...

As some comic book hero might have said once... "Nuff Said." Oh wait a minute, the first one to make THAT phrase famous was Nina Simone.

Lorraine said...

Unexpurgated fairy tales are crucial for kids' emotional development--see Bruno Bettelheim's classic, "Uses of Enchantment."

Sign of the times that schools ban the Brothers Grimm but parents allow tender tweens to play Halo.

Ad Broad, oldest working writer in advertising said...

@highjive--True, true. And certainly Sambo had to go. But I don't get why we have to retouch ALL of our fairy tale characters or eject them from the cannon. What harm to a kid to leave Snow White white?

@joker--Good points. Phantom Tollbooth! One of my kids' favorite discoveries. And mine. Though I'm sure it contains something offensive to someone...

@Lorraine--thanks for the link. Interesting that Wiki cites fairy tales as "at one time considered too dark." Meaning the 70s. All is cyclical. Re. your next good point: Glad to confess, don't know Halo. But, oh, I can imagine.