Monthly Archives: December 2014

Editing Fairytales

MaleficentOUAT

A significant aspect of H.D. Lawrence’s revisionary work is that she takes silenced female figures from classic mythology and gives them voice and agency. This process has continued into recent pop culture. For example, the film Maleficent takes the villain of Sleeping Beauty and rewrites her as the hero. In Sleeping Beauty, Maleficent is merely a plot device, the ‘evil fairy’ who curses Aurora when she is born for no apparent reason other than not having been invited to the royal christening whereas in Maleficent, she has an actual motive for doing so. In the film, she is presented more sympathetically and it is Aurora’s father King Stephan who is cast as the villain instead. Indeed, it is revealed that Stephan drugged Maleficent and cut off her wings while she was sleeping. Maleficent thereby transforms the tale of Sleeping Beauty into a revenge story in which Maleficent must take down the evil king and rightfully reclaim her wings.

We can see further evidence of this rewriting of characters’ origins in the television series Once Upon A Time, a mash up of familiar fairy tales which show mythical figures in a new light. In the series, all of the fairytale characters live together in a town called Storybrook and in the town library, there is a book in which the fates of each character is written for them. What the series makes evident then is that heroic and villainous characters are only good or evil because they were written that way. The Evil Queen from Snow White, for example, says that she is ‘Always the villain, even when I’m not’ so no matter what characters do, they are frozen in the stereotype or fixed in the particular category chosen for them. In the fourth season of the series, however, conventional fairytale villains such as The Evil Queen begin to question and refuse the villainous identity imposed upon them and set out to change their outcome by literally rewriting the ending to their own stories.

This idea of editing the stories of classical fairytale characters is therefore strongly prevalent in today’s pop culture and suggests that H.D. Lawrence’s revisionary project is far from over.

 

A clip from Once Upon a Time showing Regina’s efforts to rewrite her own ‘story’:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eCtLY-5fP30

Here is an article which reads Maleficent as a revisionary tale of recovery:

http://geekmom.com/2014/06/maleficent-feminist-fairy-tale/

This essay also outlines some of the features of feminist revisionary tales:

http://ramsites.net/~lagupta/An%20Examination%20of%20Feminist%20Rewrites%20of%20the%20Fairy%20Tale.pdf

 

Maleficent. Dir. Robert Stromberg. Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, 2014. Film.

Once Upon A Time. Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz. ABC Studios. 2011-present. Television.

Sleeping Beauty. Dir. Clyde Geronimi. Buena Vista Distribution, 1959. Film.

Taber, Nancy. ‘Detectives and bail bonds ‘persons’ as fairy tale hero/ines: A feminist antimilitarist analysis of Grimm and Once Upon a Time.’ Gender Forum, 2013. Accessed 10 Mar. 2015. Web.

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Don’t judge a film by its poster

ATimeBatman ReturnsWhile Mark Z Danielewski’s House of Leaves was initially promoted as a horror about a house that is bigger on the inside than the outside, it becomes apparent when reading the novel that this is just a gimmick and that the subplot of the book, the editor’s traumatic process of putting the book together, is in fact the main story. This idea of advertising a text as something that it is not is a phenomenon in cinema as well. For example, Richard Curtis is largely known for romantic comedies and his latest film About Time was indeed advertised as one as the poster promoting the film depicts the characters Tim and Mary at their wedding day. However, the relationship between Tim and Mary is not the central focus of the film. Indeed, it could even be described as a subplot. Rather, what the film appears to be more interested in Tim’s relationship with his dying father. While the film was promoted as a conventional love story then, it is less about romance and more about filial love.

Another film in which the subplot emerges as the central plot is Batman Returns. The title leads audiences to believe that this is a superhero film about Batman. However, a more appropriate title for this film would be Catwoman. Indeed, it quickly becomes apparent that Selina Kyle is the protagonist of this film while Bruce Wayne is a member of the supporting cast. Superhero films conventionally show the origins of the hero, that is, how they attained their powers, the exploration of their new powers and performance of minor heroic acts, such as preventing local crimes and saving civilians in their city. They then show their triumph over the main antagonist of the film. Batman Returns certainly follows this formula but reverses the roles of its characters. The film concentrates on the character Selina Kyle rather than Bruce Wayne: it shows how she becomes Catwoman by being pushed out of a window by Max Shreck, one of the film’s villains, and revived by cats, this is followed by her experimenting with her new powers by saving a civilian from a brutal attack and the film ends with her defeating the villainous Shreck by electrocuting him while Batman watches from the sidelines. Also, while the final image of the film shows the iconic bat-signal looming in the sky, just before the credits role, Catwoman moves into the frame. The silhouette of her mask is emphasised and takes attention away from the bat-signal. Because superhero films typically end with a heroic image of the central hero, this last image of Catwoman looking triumphantly into the sky therefore further suggests that this has been her film.

Films are often promoted as more conventional, mainstream or something entirely different than they actually are. Similar to novels then, we cannot judge a film by its poster.

 

The scene from Batman Returns where Shreck the villain is killed by Catwoman. Note that Batman remains on the sidelines for most of the scene (he is even knocked out at one point) and reminds Catwoman of their similarities:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lalexosgwUk

An excellent article on gender in film and its impact on how films similar to Batman Returns are promoted:

http://jezebel.com/5980085/where-are-the-girls-in-childrens-media

 

About Time. Dir. Richard Curtis. Universal Pictures, 2013. Film.

Batman Returns. Dir. Time Burton. Warner Bros, 1992. Film.

Danielewski, Mark Z. House of Leaves. Doubleday: New York, 2000. Print.

Alexanderm. ‘Batman Returns and Fairytale Feministm.’ Confused Gender, 9 May. 2012. 10 Mar. 2015. Web.

Pal, Deepanjana. ‘Maker of Notting Hill, Love Actually tells a father-son love story in About Time.’ Firstpost, 12 Oct. 2013. 10 Mar. 2015. Web.