Recently, I was watching season six of The Guild on Netflix, and at one point two of the characters briefly discuss what the worst power would be. They settle on being super-stretchy, but in my opinion, they are wrong. In sci-fi or in fantasy, the worst power will always and forever be seeing the future.
Whether a character can see the future due to a mutation or for some magical reason, one thing is certain: things don’t work out for the person who can see the future, and they usually wind up dead or insane. For the sake of this article I will only be focusing on the magical seers, fortunetellers, and clairvoyants and why things just tend to work out so badly for them.
One of the oldest myths about someone who can see the future is Cassandra from the legend of Troy. Many of you probably already know that Cassandra warned about the impending danger that Troy was going to face and tried to stop it, but no one believed her. Cassandra’s pleas were ignored, not because she was a woman, but because she was cursed. Cassandra was given her gift to see the future by Apollo, who, despite being very attractive, could not get laid. I’m assuming this was because he was kind of a douche (imagine him with a chin beard and wearing a fedora, for a modern example). Apollo, in his desperation to get some, promised Cassandra the ability to see the future if she would have sex with him. Cassandra agreed but asked for her powers first. However, after Cassandra gained the ability to see the future, she refused to sleep with Apollo. Apollo for some reason didn’t just take the powers back; instead he laid a curse on her so that no one will believe her prophecies.
This myth seems to have set the tone for the rest of fantasy-writing history, dooming pretty much any character with the ability to see the future. Not all characters are specifically cursed like Cassandra is, but seeing the future is no gift, and there are a variety of reasons as to why.
Recently I’ve been seeing a lot of posts on Tumblr about fantasy creatures, especially mermaids and dragons in particular. Now this is nothing new; mermaids and dragons seem to be the two most favored magical creatures on Tumblr, so of course you’ll find a lot of posts and fan art talking about these particular mythical beings.
What I find interesting, though, is the recent feminist reclamation of these two magical creatures.
The sad tragedy of storytelling is that many of our old myths, legends, and fables are built off sexist tropes and ideologies. The sexy vixen, the wicked witch, and the damsel in distress are all classic tropes in storytelling that have been ingrained so heavily in our culture that the everyday person can easily pick them out and identify them. These narratives that so often portray women as weak or evil are especially harmful when we continue to indoctrinate future generations with these sexist tales.
Can we ever undo what these past stories have done to women? Sadly, probably not, but perhaps we can lessen the effects by re-telling and re-interpreting these same stories from a feminist perspective. The advantage here is that writers can take tried and true narratives and characters that people already like, and then make them more complex. The characters and plots of the original stories are often stereotypes or flat, archetypal characters. Reinterpreting these stories with more complexity has the benefit of causing people to like them more than the original by updating them for a modern audience.
There are many stories that have been reinterpreted over the years through a feminist lens, like Cinderella (Ever After), many of Grimm’s Fairy Tales (Once Upon a Time, Fables, etc.) and many more, but there are so many other stories that need a feminist revamp. So here are five stories that I would love to see get a feminist makeover for a contemporary audience.