Comic-Con isn’t really my scene, but this year a trailer dropped and with it, so too did my pre-emptive ten bucks for a theater ticket. Amidst the other announcements, none more enchanted me than beloved director Guillermo del Toro’s fusion between fairy tale and horror story, The Shape of Water. Just…. just look at it.
As with many families during the 90s, my family was a Disney family. In my eyes, though, there were fairy tales far more enrapturing than The Lion King or Pocahontas. My mom had this stash of fairy tale stories that I’d never heard of before—it was from this stash that I’d first learned about The Snow Queen and got a head start on my Frozen disappointment. Fairy tales don’t tend to age well under a critical eye, but I remember there being one story in particular that seemed outwardly feminist, even to my tiny baby mind, which had no idea what feminism even was. Jane Yolen’s 1989 Dove Isabeau doesn’t manage to escape all of the not great fairy tale tropes, but the agency given to its heroine and the rejection of typical masculinity saving the day is enough to make me forgive the tropes the story does hold onto.
On a rare break from my binge of reviewing the latest in queer comics (don’t be alarmed, that regularly unscheduled programming will be back before you know it, I’m sure), I picked up a middle grade graphic novel that provides a different sort of representation. Hereville #1, How Mirka Got Her Sword by Barry Deutsch, touts itself as featuring “yet another troll-fighting eleven-year-old Orthodox Jewish girl”. And while it has a veeery busy corner of the market in which to distinguish itself (that was my sarcasm voice), Mirka mostly comes out on top.
The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer may not have caused as much public excitement as some of the other female-led sci-fi/dystopian YA series of the past several years, but it doesn’t mean it’s less deserving of our attention. In fact, it’s a very solid series, led by a team of awesome kickass teen heroines. The plot is engrossing and action-packed and has an intriguing twist to boot—the main four books of the series offer loose, but still recognizable, retellings of four well-known fairy tales: Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Sleeping Beauty.
Spoilers below for Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter (the main four books of The Lunar Chronicles).
One of the dismaying parts about writing for this column is that you often discover that a thing you really liked a long time ago is super problematic when you revisit it. For example, the last time I reread a Robin McKinley book (The Blue Sword) for a Throwback Thursday, I realized that it’s a dead ringer for the Mighty Whitey trope. Of all of McKinley’s books, Spindle’s End was always one of my favorites, so it was with some trepidation that I picked it up to read it again after several years.
To my great relief, I discovered that, in leaving the world of Damar behind for a different fantasy country, McKinley left her troubling racial tropes behind as well, instead weaving a fairy tale retelling that focuses on the importance of the bonds between several very different women.
Spoilers for a sixteen-year old book after the jump!
We’ve finally come upon the creepy month of October in all its glory; a perfect time of month to binge on some movies, if I do say so myself. A couple years ago I did just that, taking a short, but pleasant trip down Tim Curry’s filmography. This year, though, I’ve decided to take things from a bit of a more festive angle. Ever since I was younger, the idea of witches interested me greatly, especially as they showed up in pop culture. As I’ve grown, this interest has bloomed from a passing interest in fictional magic, to embracing the idea of being a “witch” as a form of empowerment—especially in the case of women and girls—and even looking deeper into some Wiccan/Pagan philosophies. So, it seems only right that I sit down to a couple nights full of theatrical witchy goodness.
….is what I want to say, but my first choice on this endeavor ended up being not so great. Back in 2012, Lady Geek Girl herself proffered the trailer to one, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters. I won’t lie and say that I’m not attracted to the idea of darker interpretations of fairy tales, but it should also be obvious that these re-writes can’t rely on aesthetic alone to give us a compelling story. Witch Hunters did give its audience some interesting takes on the old fable, but these small breadcrumbs of something greater didn’t lead me anywhere worth going.
Sometime in 2005, I went to the movie theater with some bored friends and we ended up watching a film called The Brothers Grimm. Literally no one else I was with liked it, but I loved it, bought it, and watched it over and over for years. In spite of its nonsensical nature, it had an A-list cast, including the late great Heath Ledger, who was my favorite actor as a kid thanks to his turns in stuff like A Knight’s Tale and 10 Things I Hate About You. After his untimely death, I put all his movies away for later, and finally unearthed this one this past weekend. Upon rewatching it, I realized that The Brothers Grimm is a fun fairy tale-esque movie, with some great acting, but it doesn’t succeed at being anything more than that.
Spoilers after the jump!
Sleeping Beauty is one of those popular fairy tales that’s just a little bit embarrassing. Early last year I took a feminist look at the Disney Princess lineup, and Sleeping Beauty came up pretty much dead last when it comes to empowering feminist messages. Its leading lady could be replaced by a sexy lamp and you’d still have the same story, even if you have a whole lot more female supporting characters (and a female villain!) than in the typical Disney film. At least back then Disney wasn’t afraid of naming their movies with female leads after those leads (I’m looking at you, Tangled and Frozen). Disney’s Aurora is a pretty good example of the pure virgin power trope, in that Aurora’s worth comes from her goodness, which we assume to be true because of her status as the most maiden-like maiden to ever maiden. You’d think this is another result of prudish Christians enforcing gender stereotypes and shaming women into keeping their legs closed, but the real origins of the folk tale are far more interesting and far more pagan.
Trigger warning for rape and suicide after the jump.
It’s apparently a good week for reading Cinderella retellings. I only just started reading the steampunk-y Mechanica by Betsy Cornwell, but when I realized that it was Throwback Thursday, I turned to one of my long-time favorites: Ella Enchanted.
My copy of Ella Enchanted is so old that, when I turned it over to read the back cover, I realized it didn’t have a bar code—instead, in the place of where one would be was a message that this particular copy was only available for sale during in-school Scholastic book fair events. So. The likelihood that I’ve owned it since it came out in 1997 is actually pretty likely. It’s pretty well-loved by this point, and it was just as wonderful as I remembered on reread.
If you haven’t read it, beware of spoilers after the jump!
When The Sleeper and the Spindle was first announced, I was excited. A gorgeously illustrated fairy tale retelling by Neil Gaiman, featuring Snow White as the warrior who saves Sleeping Beauty from her tower? Sign me up! It only just came out in the US last week, and I snapped it up when I saw it in my comic book shop. However, while the story is excellently told, and the pictures are beautifully drawn, it left me with mixed feelings in the end.
Spoilers for the whole story ahead.