Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Taming of the Beast

I was babysitting and watched a Little Einsteins in which there is a sort of Three Little Pigs parody; the enthusiastic and educationally inclined children discover at the end that the Big Bad Wolf that was huffing and puffing the house of their little bug friends was really just sneezing, he really only wanted to play with the bugs and was only accidentally sending their house around the world for more learning opportunities. And this just reminded me of a theme that is sort of the theme of Beauty and the Beast in general, but also a very modern interpretation of fairy tales; nothing is really dangerous. In Beauty and the Beast we find the beast we thought was dangerous is really the hero; in modern versions we often find Beauty embracing that beastliness and preferring the Beast to a human version.

But it's other stories too-"How to Train your Dragon" comes to mind. Though I really love the movie, it irked me a bit that it seemed to imply that any human/animal frictions are really to be blamed on humans, ignoring the fact that not all animals are fluffy puppies and kittens and that many are truly dangerous. "Free Willy" is a random old example, but I happened to watch it the same day as Pet Dragon the other week and realized there were many parallels-and to bring it all back to fairy tales, my sister made the comment that it followed the same plot as Beauty and the Beast, which is true on some levels.

I'm all for overcoming negative stereotypes and unnecessary judging, but it seems a lot of media is actually sending the message that nothing is actually dangerous, which in itself can be a very dangerous message. The earlier audiences of Beauty and the Beast, as well as Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White and Rose Red, etc., would have viewed animals completely differently and automatically assume a wild animal to be a threat, especially to the unarmed females in the tales. But today we're so used to being surprised that nothing surprises us, and we're not nearly as frightened of animals in general to begin with. I've referenced this before, but the huge Twilight phenomenon is an example of something that is supposed to be truly horrible and terrifying, and now vampires have been turned into a means for millions of girls to vicariously live out the experience of having attractive, shirtless men fight over them-calling them vampires just makes it that much more "exciting."

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