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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