Perhaps Fairytales Are Supposed To Be Scary..
Gothic fairy tales are a compilation of fantasy, imagination and tragedy.
I remember seeing ‘The Adventures Of Pinnochio 1996’ for the first time when I was seven and after witnessing Pinnochio being kicked out for ‘not being real’ (he’s a child and he got rejected for the type of ‘skin’ he had, I think that says a lot in itself)…he got tricked by bandits, in real life they probably would have been human sex traffickers. Then by the end of the film he gets turned into a donkey and forced into slave labour, which completely parallels the epidemic of child slave labour going on right now.
I was absolutely terrified and completely excited at the same time, my seven year old self was intrigued by this idea of children, my age, taking risks, going on adventures and still being ‘ok’ in the end, as Pinnochio by the end of the film is. However the problem was, it contradicted the teachings that my mother, social worker of twenty-five years, had taught my brother and I from a young age. That, as she put it, ‘not all adults were kind to children’ and we needed to feel empowered and have the right to protect ourselves from people who could to hurt us.
So she taught us a song, that went like this…”this body is my body and no-body’s body but mine” Sadly and rather ironically, the song was created by Rolf Harris, former children’s TV presenter, now imprisoned for child sexual assault and abuse. Which I think is symbolic to the amount of corruption hidden in what seems to be ‘innocent’ children’s films & fairy tales. The real truths behind some fairy tales are astonishing, and you can still see theses truths if you look close enough. Take ‘The Little Mermaid’ for example; one of my favourite’s, the original story by Hans Christian Anderson is pretty different to the Disney one…
The little mermaid saves the prince, then asks the sea witch if she can turn into a human because she’s in love with him, but consuming the potion will make her feel as if a sword is being passed through her body. Ouch, love hurts. Then when she gets her human legs, she will constantly feel as if she is walking on sharp knives, in addition, she will obtain a human soul only if the prince returns her love and marries her, then a part of his soul will flow into hers, making her a full human wife. If not she will die from a broken heart and dissolve into the sea foam upon the waves.
Can you guess what happens in the end? The prince gets with someone else and all that painful effort is wasted because the little mermaid dies and turns into sea foam…tragic.
Do you see what I mean? Maybe fairy tales are supposed to be scary, sad and distressing, with deeper meanings to remind us to NOT go through immense physical and emotional torture to get a fraction of a man’s soul and be his wife. And anyways, a wise crab once told me ‘darling its better down where its wetter under da sea”. So we should all take his advice and still enjoy fairy tales but acknowledge the messages within them.
So here is a list of my favourite gothic fairy tales for you all to be pleasantly freaked out by….
1. ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’
Trapped in the middle of a civil war with a socio-path for a step father, and a pregnant mother Ophelia explores her dreams and meets the magical fawn creature ‘Pan’ who is both eluding and terrifying. He sets Ophelia three tasks to be reunited with her royal family, as the immortal princess. Along the way she must use her own moral compass to keep herself and baby brother safe. what I love about this film is that you never know if you can trust Pan, he’s really pushy and scary at times…
‘Coraline’ reminds me of a distorted ‘urban’ ‘Alice in Wonderland’. Mainly because it’s a PG but has a swear word in it. But also the stop motion is surreal and human like.
Ignored by her real parents Coraline is captivated by the amazing ‘other mother’. who showers her in treats, but could be perceived as a potential threat with her creepy button eyes and needle hands. Coraline has the option to stay with the other mother forever if she complies with one request, to have buttons sewn into her eyes…and unknowingly be ‘eaten’ and stored as a ghost child, with the other children from generations before
3. ‘Black Swan’
The beautiful costumes in ‘Black Swan’ create the real life façade of the ‘every day princess’ – a prima ballerina. I also think its interesting how Nina’s fixation on being ‘perfect’ is literally the epitome of every Disney princess, so to watch it unfold, with tragic consequences is very entertaining. However the film does bring to light Hollywood’s habit of glamourizing mental health issues, especially in women, making their characters ‘crazy’, which is a trait I don’t admire so much… however I still rate it as a gothic fairy-tale to watch
4. ‘Tale Of Tales’
This film is insane… I’m talking, sea monsters, patriarchal sexist kings, badass princesses, abusive ogres, witchcraft and magical sorcerers. What I loved about it was how one character’s story collided with another’s, creating an awesome serendipity. The film is also rather explicit with sex and nudity, which was surprising, but refreshing to see, as you don’t often get that feature of human nature in fairy tales and if you do, its usually just implied
5. ‘Beasts Of The Southern Wild’
I know it’s not so much a fairy tale exactly, but ‘Beasts Of The Southern Wild’ has that hazy childhood fantasy thing going on, where you don’t know what is ‘real’ in the story and what’s not. Throughout the film, I was constantly questioning, did that really just happen? I thought it was legitimately mid apocalyptic/ metaphor for poverty in the deep south, but a 50-foot boar has just walked into screen so I don’t know what’s real anymore…and that confusion inspires me.
6. ‘Edward Scissorhands’
Hilariously awkward and creepy, Jonny Depp’s starring role captures what it feels like to be the ‘outsider’ in a world that doesn’t quite get you. In a more modern setting, you can still see the villain’s and the ‘goodies’ but the film explores how maybe its not so black and white in terms of who is ‘bad’ and who is ‘good’ … what do you think?
7. ‘The Adventures Of Pinnochio 1996’
Slightly more explicit than Disney’s cartoon version, ‘The Real Life Pinnochio, gets really scary at times with its slightly too close for comfort, mirroring of child slave labour (the kids that work at the theme park and get turned into donkeys) Pinocchio is also rejected by his parents for not being a real boy, forcing him to go find his own way in a world waiting to take advantage of him…however having the moral compass that is a talking cricket is kinda’ cute and makes me feel all warm inside, especially when they work together as a team…awh.
8 . ‘The Lovely Bones’
Similarly discussing the themes of child exploitation in the introduction, I think ‘The Lovely Bones’ film, based on the book by Alice Sebold, highlights the modern complexities surrounding child abuse in a developing world. Whether it be through religion or other faith’s, the influence belief has on our children and the way it works with their imagination, their worries and how they present their selves in the world, is a really interesting topic. ‘The Lovely Bone’s is a about a girl who gets raped and murdered by her neighbour and the how her soul is still connected to her life and family on earth even though she has passed on.
The film reveals the fears of ‘modern’ threats, and the magic that isn’t just in wizards with wands, but through the power of imagination, dreams and love
So there you have it…go forth and check them out or have a read of the original stories and see how they compare? either way you’ll be sure to have fun, either through being totally spooked out through the terrifying monsters or through the equally spooky messages and metaphors that you didn’t notice before….
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