Once upon a time, in a land not that far away- Hastings, in fact, there lived a young girl. Now, if you genuinely can’t see where this article is going you don’t read enough newspapers, for I am, of course, said young girl and when I was younger I absolutely loved Fairy Tales. In fact I was pretty much raised on Disney films and James Bond. I would say this diet clearly hasn’t done me any harm but I’ll leave that up to you to decide. Regardless of any negative future consequences, I inhaled Fairy Tales on a daily basis. I’d love to say I quickly grew out of this but that would be a massive lie. However, I don’t think my obsession is that unusual, nor is it unexplainable, it does, to my mind, make an awful lot of sense. James Bond films and Disney movies may seem at opposite ends of the scale; however they do have one crucial similarity- the happy ending. Not just a happy ending, but a glorious triumph of good over evil, the young and the pretty over the old and the ugly. They are a wonderfully unrealistic indulgence.
Saying that, indulgences are rarely good for us, as my post-SU hangover is proving this very moment. Not only am I suffering from the huge amount of alcohol consumption required to make a SU night bearable (I’m joking, I do actually love the SU); I’m also burdened with a different type of hangover, the ‘after-years-of-taking-once-upon-a-time-shots-I’ve-realised-it’s-all-a-load-of-crap’ one. It’s the equivalent of downing two bottles of vodka and it’s made me very sad. I woke up this morning with my head at the wrong end of the bed and this new sleeping position must have promoted new thoughts because I suddenly realised: What messages are we actually giving our children in Fairy Tales? Well, not our children, not many of us have children yet. But ‘our children’ in the symbolic sense, you know, the way the Prime Minister says it. ‘Our children’, meaning the next generation, but said using more personal language so we feel guiltier for screwing them up so badly.
Cinderella teaches us to endure injustice silently and to wait for a Fairy Godmother to come along, wave her magic wand and make it all alright. It teaches us to marry men who steal our shoes and to leave parties at midnight. Snow White moves in to a house full of people with names like ‘Dopey’, which is hardly sensible, and I don’t remember reading anywhere that she bothers paying them any rent. Red Riding Hood is just plain wolf-ist, writing them all off as evil Granny-eaters, and as for Sleeping Beauty, well, as in Snow White, we return to the idea of kissing girls who are sleeping as an appropriate method of proposal. An idea which, when stripped of its fairy tale fancy, is actually incredibly shocking.
Another striking thing about Fairy Tales is the complete lack of wrinkles. I wouldn’t be surprised if Garnier, and all the other wrinkle-free cream companies, hadn’t invented Fairy Tales as an advertising campaign. If ever there was an incentive to buy ‘Ultra-lift-you’ll-look-as-young-as-you-did-in-the-womb’ cream, it would be in a Fairy Tale. Being able to remember the sixties, a single grey hair, and that’s it. You couldn’t possibly be genuinely selling an apple, you have to be up to something bad. And that’s the good option, the rest of the over forties in Fairy Tales simply cease to exist.
For all their absurdities, they are dressed up so nicely we can’t help but like Fairy stories. I can’t help but like them. I shall show the Disney films to my children because they are, in the most, harmless fun. ‘Beauty and the Beast’ is actually rather profound and any film with a talking teapot is automatically a winner with me. In ‘Mulan’ we have a heroine who finally kicks some ass and Mary Poppins’s sugary critique of English Banks couldn’t be more apt than at the moment. I’m not suggesting it’s time we got rid of these Fairy Tales, they are such a lovely part of childhood and believing things can be okay in the end should never be discouraged. However, maybe we should just remember to take them with a spoonful of sugar, or a pinch of salt. Alternate them with the Erin Brockovich movie or the six o’clock news. There is nothing wrong with girls and boys growing up dreaming of being Princesses, hoping to be rescued, or aspiring to marry a Prince. What is important is that we all have the choice, and children, boys and girls alike, know that it is equally acceptable for them to dream of saving the whales, or becoming a teacher, or writing a book. Dreams don’t have to come true, they are the only part of our lives where we don’t have to be rational or realistic, what they mustn’t be however is harmful, either to the way we see ourselves or the way we see others. There are a few, harmful details Fairy Tales could do without; the rest may be old fashioned but as long as we recognise it as such and don’t take it as an accurate portrayal of the life we should lead, they’ll be safe in our dreams.
So here I am, slowly starting to recover from both my hangovers. In true student fashion I will be going out drinking again tonight. I advise you all to adopt the same attitude towards Fairy Tales. We’ve woken up with the Fairy Tale hangover, we see through them now, however that won’t stop us hitting the ‘happily ever afters’ again in the future.