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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Fairy Tale Recipes: Little Mermaid Cupcakes

No matter which version of “The Little Mermaid” you prefer, if you love the story you’ll also love these adorable Little Mermaid Cupcakes.

Since cupcakes are my favorite dessert, I couldn’t resist posting these.  If I ever plan any kind of fairy tale themed party, you can bet these will be on the menu.  Thanks to the mermaid’s resemblance to Ariel in the Disney version of the story, they’re easily recognizable.

Five Summaries of the Little Mermaid

Ever since my recent post on the possible discontinuation of Disney fairy tale movies, I have been wondering how much influence these films have had on the fairy tale genre.  In an attempt to figure out if people were more familiar with the original versions of fairy tales or their Disney counterparts, I interviewed five students at my university, and asked each of them to summarize the story of “The Little Mermaid.”

Although I expected more people to tell me about the happily ever after Disney version, I was surprised when three of the five students summarized the original Hans Christian Andersen story in which the mermaid dies.  Obviously, I did not have a large enough group of participants to draw conclusive evidence, but it is interesting to see that many people are actually familiar with the original versions of fairy tales despite their exposure to Disney retellings.

Disney Princesses No More?

The L. A. Times reported in Nov. 2010 that Disney will no longer be producing their famous retold fairy tale films, as many of today’s children find them uncool, and the films have little appeal for boys.  Although this statement was later retracted, Disney’s potential discontinuance of their fairy tale movies could have a large impact on fairy tales themselves.  There would be potential for results both negative and positive.  I’ve broken these into pros and cons for easy reading.

Pros: Although it is perfectly natural for fairy tales to evolve over time, many of the fairy tales Disney has tackled over the years may have been changed a little too much, and many of the most interesting details have been lost.  All of the gore has been edited out of these stories for today’s children.  Maybe it’s just me, but I think if Ariel survives and marries the prince, then she isn’t actually “the Little Mermaid,” and a version of “Rapunzel” where no one gets blinded hardly seems likes Rapunzel at all.  Generations of children have missed out on hearing these stories in their entirety, and the end of Disney fairy tales might mean a return to the originals, either through reading or through another film company willing to more honestly tackle the classics.  Not only that, but the Disneyfication of stories like “Alice in Wonderland,” and “Peter Pan” has led to many people falsely classifying them as fairy tales when, in fact, they are not.  Perhaps, if these beloved stories were less closely associated with actual fairy tales like “Snow White” and “Cinderella,” this confusion could be avoided.

Cons: Disney princess films have done a lot to further the fairy tale genre in our modern society.  Certainly, these tales are a part of shared cultural knowledge leading to constant remakes, but how much of that can be attributed to our exposure to them in their Disney versions?  These movies have been part of childhoods across the globe since the 1937 release of Disney’s “Snow White.”  Certainly, many of these stories had lasted for hundreds of years before Walt Disney ever got his hands on them, but these movies certainly impacted the genre and did their part to extend its already lengthy shelf-life.  I hope that these stories are ingrained enough in our society to be passed down to children long after Disney stops producing fairy tale movies, but it’s possible that Disney has done more to further them than we might imagine.

Hipster Little Mermaid

Fairy tales are so embedded in our shared cultural knowledge that when someone uses them to make a joke, everyone gets it.  This is part of what keeps them alive in our society.

A good example of this is the hipster Little Mermaid, a web phenomenon which uses a photoshopped image of the character from the Disney film to make jokes about hipsters.

Hipster Ariel
Although hipster Ariel makes reference to specifically the Disney versions of these well-known stories, it’s an interesting study of fairy tales as something to which everyone in our society can relate.  Even though we cannot see her fins in this photo, we know that this is a picture of a mermaid.  Likewise, the phrases make reference to lines from the movie that many are familiar with.  Even though the Disney films do not depict the original versions of these tales, these movies have been an important part of their continued evolution.  Our ability to reference them in jokes is proof of that.

Bizarre Disney Princess Wedding Gown

I am getting married this June.  That being said, I understand why a woman would want to look like a princess on her wedding day.  Childhood fairy tales tell us that princesses are usually beautiful and kind, and the Disney versions suggest they always get their happy endings.   With this in mind, it makes sense that Alfred Angelo, the designer who created my wedding gown, has teamed up with Disney to fashion a line of Disney Princess inspired wedding dresses.  In this collection, each gown is modeled after a specific princess.

Most of the gowns are lovely.  One of them, however, has some confusing associations.

Most of the princesses included in the line make sense.  Even in the original versions of their tales (or, in the case of Tiana, the story that inspired her tale) all of them got their happy endings.  Yes, there was some violence; for example, Cinderella’s stepsisters got their toes chopped off.  One of these princesses, however, is not like the others: The Little Mermaid.

In the original Hans Christian Andersen version of this story, the princess many of us know as Ariel has anything but a happy ending.  In fact, she fails to win the love of the prince and dies.  I am aware that the dresses are specifically based on the Disney versions of these tales, but the connotations from the original story still exist.  Do so few people know the original version that they actually want to look like the Little Mermaid on the day they get married?  If they do know the story, why do they want to look like someone who is unloved and dead?  Frankly, I’m a little shocked and a lot confused.

Despite this, many of the dresses are lovely and not bewildering.  Click here to see the full collection.

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