Thomas Czarnecki’s “From Enchantment to Down”

Firstly, let me apologize!  It has been way too long since I updated this blog.  My life has been pretty crazy with a new job and another move, but I’m going to try to jump back on this horse.

I’ve been wanting to return to the Beanstalk for quite some time, but Thomas Czarnecki’s photo shoot (called “From Enchantment to Down”) of murdered Disney princesses is actually a large part of what spurred me to action; I had to rant about it.

Czarnecki's Little Mermaid lays dead on a beach.

As many of you likely know by now, I’m usually a big fan of macabre fairy tales.  Unfortunately, I’m just not feeling this particular project.  Czarnecki claims that his goal here is to juxtapose “the naive universe and the innocence of the fairy tales” with the “much darker reality that is as much part of our common culture,” presumably as a result of violent media.  However, this goal betrays a deep misunderstanding of fairy tales and their roots.

In the above  image from Czarnecki’s photo series, the Little Mermaid is dead.  My question, here, is “how is that original?”  Hans Christian Andersen, who first wrote the story, also ended “The Little Mermaid” with the heroine’s demise.  As I have mentioned before, nearly all of the fairy tales we know and love today had violent beginnings.  If this photographer had done even the barest amount of research, he would’ve known that.

If Czarnecki wants to tackle Disney’s censorship of fairy tales for modern children, that’s fine.  It just peeves me, as a fairy tale enthusiast, that he incorrectly lumps all fairy tales together as “naive” and “innocent.”

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Hermione and the Beast

As some of you may have gathered from my previous post on the role of fairy tales in “Harry Potter,” I absolutely love the series.  I also happen to be a huge fan of director Guillermo del Toro.  In light of this information, I was ecstatic when I heard that del Toro and Emma Watson, who played brainy heroine Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter films, are teaming up for a fairy tale film.

Although the details have not yet been fully publicized–or even posted to IMDb–it was announced in July that Watson is set to star in a del Toro directed retelling of “Beauty and the Beast.”

At age 21, "Harry Potter" alumna Emma Watson already has what it takes to score the lead role in "Beauty and the Beast."

Unfortunately, no more information on the film itself has yet been released.  There’s no telling exactly what kind of retelling this will be.  It could be anything from a modern story, like this year’s teen flick “Beastly,” to a campy adventure movie reminiscent of 2005’s “The Brothers Grimm.” My money, however, is set on gritty and macabre, thanks to the director; Del Toro is notorious for his dark yet beautiful films (see “Pan’s Labyrinth,” 2006) a tendency which has made him one of my all time favorite directors.  His penchant for mixing sinister and whimsical elements is exactly what it takes to successfully retell a fairy tale.

Watson’s involvement is almost as squee-worthy as del Toro’s.  Although she has spent the last decade contractually locked into one role, I’m reasonably confident in her ability to resist typecasting.  It will be exciting to see the talented starlet try other roles on for size, and this movie will definitely give her room to grow as an actor.

Let’s just hope this movie turns out to be as lovely as it sounds.

Once Upon a Webcomic: A Softer World

It’s time for another “Once Upon a Webcomic.”  This one centers around another comic I adore, “A Softer World.”

First time I've ever wished for a Disney version.The alternate text of this comic on its original page is fantastic.  It reads “First time I’ve ever wished for a Disney version,” and Joey Comeau (He’s the writer of the series, but not the photographer; that would be Emily Horne.) has a great point.  Because our culture has censored so many of these old stories for modern children, we often forget that fairy tales are almost never truly happy stories, and it is only ever through great hardship that characters are sometimes (but not always) able to find their happy endings.

Take, for instance, the familiar story of Rapunzel.  In its original version, Dame Gothel (the witch) cuts off Rapunzel’s hair and casts her out into the wilderness upon discovering that Rapunzel is pregnant and must have been consorting with a man.  When the prince comes for Rapunzel, the witch tells him that he will never see her again.  In despair, he attempts to commit suicide by leaping from the tower, but instead blinds himself when he lands face first in the thorns below.  Confused, disoriented, and in pain, he wanders off into the wilderness.  Rapunzel gives birth and eventually finds the prince.  Her tears heal his blindness and they live happily ever after.  Of course, this happy ending is only achieved after the couple has experienced great trauma and misfortune.

In many cases, fairy tales are darker than our culture seems to remember.  Like Comeau, I always find it interesting when people express a desire for a “fairy tale” romance, because it reveals, as he points out, that they have probably never read any actual fairy tales.

Fairy Tale Films of March 2011

I love movies almost as much as I love fairy tales.  That being said, it should come as no surprise that I’m really looking forward to next month, when two movies based on classic fairy tales are set to be released.  Here’s a peek at the trailers, as well as my initial reactions.  I’ve divided them into pros and cons for easy reading.

Red Riding Hood – March 11

Pros: Little Red Riding Hood is a rich story, and there have been plenty of wonderful retellings of it, many of which were fantastically grim.  The movie’s plot has potential to be beautifully dark,  and the style and cinematography look gorgeous.  Not only that, but I’m excited to see that Gary Oldman is part of the cast; he always does a fantastic job and has recently had a knack for accepting roles in all the right films.  I haven’t seen much of Amanda Seyfried, but she was truly hilarious in “Mean Girls” (2004).  It should be fun to see how she handles a more serious role.

Cons: I don’t doubt Catherine Hardwicke‘s ability to direct, but I do doubt her ability to choose a good story.  “Twilight” may have been a money maker, but it was also anti-feminist fluff of the worst kind.  Yes, I’m aware that she only directed the first film, but my problem is with Meyer’s books, themselves.  I’ll admit to being suspicious that this film might go the same way, considering that it features “Little Red” being torn between two lovers.  If this movie turns out to be about how important it is to have a boyfriend, I’m going to scream.

Beastly – March 18

Pros: Neil Patrick Harris is an absolutely brilliant actor, so his involvement in this film gives me hope.  Not only that, but like Little Red Riding Hood, Beauty and the Beast is a rich story that leaves plenty of room for skillful retellings and embellishments.  Placing the story in a modern setting while still keeping the magic element is an interesting choice, and I’m really excited to see where they take it.

Cons: I haven’t actually seen Mary-Kate Olsen in anything since we were both children, and I’m not convinced she has what it takes to play an effective supernatural antagonist.  I’m willing to give her a try, but I remain skeptical.  It’s also possible that this movie could turn out to be little more than a typical high school romance flick.  I mean, sure, Alex Pettyfer looks mildly unattractive with those weird, ropey markings on his face, but don’t most teen dramas feature an “unattractive” girl that turns out to be really  gorgeous once she takes off her glasses and lets her hair down?  Let’s hope it doesn’t devolve into that.

Buffy/Angel Producers Create Fairy Tale Show

As someone with a love for both fairy tales and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” I was thrilled to find out that David Greenwalt and Jim Kouf, who produced “Buffy” and its spin-off, “Angel,” are now working on a fairy tale themed show for NBC.  I first heard news of this development on the Sur La Lune fairy tale blog, which led me to this article by Entertainment Weekly’s James Hibberd.  Supposedly, the show (“Grimm”) will be a crime drama featuring Grimm’s fairy tale inspired characters, and it looks like it will be pretty dark.  As far as I can tell, it sounds like a combination between “Angel” and Bill Willingham’s amazing comic series, “Fables,” in which the characters from fairy tales are actually real, and now reside in New York City.

I can’t pretend the project comes as a complete surprise, though.  “Buffy” and “Angel” always did have more than the average number of fairy tale references.  The photo below is a great example of this; in season 4, episode 4 (“Fear Itself”), Buffy dresses up as Little Red Riding Hood for Halloween.

Sarah Michelle Gellar dresses up as Little Red in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."

 

Either way, NBC’s “Grimm” definitely sounds like something to get excited about.

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