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Cinderella and the hideous, yet charming on the inside, stepsisters

[via tongue tied]

Burn the books!

Parents who read fairy tales to their children may be causing them low self esteem, US social scientists said today.

Classic stories, which have been passed down the generations contain so many stereotypes they could be just as harmful as the sexual images paraded in pop videos, it was suggested.

“There is a lot of association between beauty and goodness and then conversely between ugliness and evil and laziness,” said study co-author Liz Grauerholz.

So what does Grauerholz propose?

With young children, she recommends changing the stories. Tell Cinderella to your child as if she were male. Or change the ending so she decides the prince wasn't right for her after all and lived happily ever after by making her own life.

And there go a young girl's childhood dreams of romance and princes and knights in shining armor.

What? You say it's wrong to put those ideas in a little girl's head? And it's just as wrong to let little boys think that there are princesses who need kisses to wake up from a spell? Why don't you just rip the whole of childhood out from the hearts of today's kids? Hell, devise something that will let them come out of the womb at fifteen, so you don't have to deal with all that messy, complicated, subversive material that kids have to face while they are young. They can be born cynical and jaded and no one will have to work to make them that way.

They (and you know who I mean by they) want to change fairtyales? Fine. They've already changed nursery rhymes so this is just the next logical step. So let's give them what they want:

Introducing, the new and improved, politically correct, not offensive or demeaning to little girls, free of sexist imagery, Cinderella.

Once upon a time in a great kingdom (which was a kingdom in name only because it was ruled by committee), there lived a very rich family (who always shared their wealth with others because they believed in socialism, to an extent). This family consisted of the King (who is henceforth known as the Peer Review Leader), his second wife (the first wife was executed just to show the citizens that beautiful people die, too), the wife's two hideously deformed daughters from a previous marriage (the wife divorced her husband because he expected her to clean the house while he was out hunting and foraging for food) and the Peer Review Leader's daughter, Cinderella.

On the eve of the great Community Spiritual Dance Festival and Banquet for the Poor, Cinderella was busy doing demeaning work such as sweeping the floor of their home, when her step-mother (which is such an ugly word. Let's call her Mommie Dearest instead) came into the room, her two hideous (but supposedly charming on the inside) daughters in tow, and told Cinderella that she may not attend the Spiritual Dance Festival and Banquet for the Poor because she was too beautiful and thus would steal the hearts of all the filthy pig men that would be attending because they saw beautiful women as nothing but objects to be desired and lusted after, and the ugly girls would just look even uglier by comparison, and no man would want them.

Cinderella thought it was great to be desired and lusted after and said as much to her Mommie Dearest. And Mommie Dearest flew into a rage and the two hideous sisters were duly horrified and made a little speech about how being ugly was a badge of honor to them because then they would know that any man who asked for their hand in marriage would not be doing so for superficial reasons, to which Cinderella replied "well I hear you are both sluts, so that should help in your quest for a husband," and everyone in the room, saving Cinderella, made that Macauley Culkin-Home Alone face and the tension became so thick that you could cut it with a knife, which would be a knife that was not so sharp as to harm anyone, because no one in their right mind would leave such a possible weapon laying around their home.

And then Cinderella yelled that she was not a submissive little slave girl and no one had the right to own her and she was going to the Spiritual Dance and Banquet for the Poor and she stamped her foot on the ground for emphasis. The two hideous (yet charming on the inside, I'm sure) sisters then decided that Cinderella, with her beauty and grace, would surely gain the eye of the Prince from another village, one in which people lived in peace and harmony and shared revenue, and he would ask Cinderella to marry him, perhaps give her a token of affection (but not a diamond because diamonds are carved out of the mine shafts by seven little dwarves who are being forced into working for less than minimum wage because the oppressing company that runs the mines won't let the dwarves unionize), so he would give her a necklace made of recyclable materials and she would swoon (but not swoon so much as to make her seem vulnerable to the charms and looks of a man), and they would ride off into the moonlight - no, they would walk, because it isn't right to make horses pull coaches - and live happily ever after.

Well, the sisters would have none of that, so they kicked Cinderella and knocked her to the ground and beat her with her own broomstick and the mother slashed at Cinderella's face with a razor until she was quite bloody and dead. Not to mention ugly.

But the hideous sisters would realize later that the joke was on them, because the Prince of that peaceful village was gay and he was just passing through on his way to the blacksmith to get his sword sharpened (because not all gay men hung around the village seamstress all day long) and he had no interest in them.

Which just goes to show you that being hideously ugly impairs your judgment and makes you commit murder for which the family of your victim will seek vengeance and most likely hack you into pieces and feed your remains to their dog , while being beautiful will probably get you murdered by jealous, ugly sisters.

And the moral of this new, improved version of Cinderella is this: The beautiful and the ugly both are destined to die at some point, which puts them on equal ground, and no matter how much you dumb something down and pretty something up, it still all comes down to the same ending: We are all the same inside, children. We are all just one angry mob away from death.

Oh, and ladies: always make sure your prince is a heterosexual before you kill for him.


The end.

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Comments

I think we have a new bedtime classic. Any early favorites for who will be the illustrator?

How about Neil Gaiman?

It's kinda been done. There was a series of books that took classic fairy tales and bedtime stories and made them so totally P.C. they became ridiculously funny. I think they're out of print now, though.

where, oh where is my copy of 'the uses of enchantment' by bruno bettelheim?

This is a tough one for me.

On the one hand, I hate hate hate bowdlerization and sanitization of children's tales and of cultural heritage.

On the other, I also really hate the inculcation in women of the idea that some man is going to come along and save them and make everything okay and be happily ever after. I've met so many women whose idea of a good relationship is hopelessly farked, and a lot of women who just can't seem to wrap their minds around the fact that no one else owns their lives. They drift along, waiting for a man who will Rescue them. It's just sad.

So my daughters are going to get very little Sleeping Beauty and Prince Charming, and a lot of Terminator 3. It's all about positive role models, and has nothing to do with how smoking Linda Hamilton looks cocking a shotgun one handed.

Whoops. Sorry. That should be Terminator 2. Heh.

That was horrifically funny! I am chiding myself for laughing so hard. Really. In terms of fairy tales, the ones we read most are the ones that are the least scary. Find an older version of the Brothers Grimm and get ready for some real horror. Fairy tales were passed along in an attempt to show that following the proper social mores would be way safer than the alternative. They were also a vision of 'a way out' for those who would not, in fact, get to go to a ball and meet a prince and in all liklihood were not going to live happily ever after.

Like any other means of telling a story, there are going to be messages you may or may not want to condone. The trick is to focus on the parts of the story that shows what you do like. Cinderella could be a story of how love (or at least attraction ) isn't limited by class structure. Or how one person overcame an oppressive and dangerous childhood to make her own way. Or that love at first sight can happen (if you believe that - I do), then tag that with "but happily ever after doesn't just happen - it's something people build together." Or whatever take you want. It would just seem a shame to keep all the fairy tale imagery from children because it has some outdated notions.

And for the record - if you watch children's cartoons, the beautiful are usually the good guys and the ugly are usually the bad guys; I did an anthropology paper on children's reactions and suppositions based on their viewing of cartoons. Now THAT is some scary stuff!

...Dorothy clicked her heels three times, saying "there's no place like home the soup kitchen..."

Crimeny - this lady has more time to waste than I do.

Actually, the most damaging messages of Cinderella are:

1) If you are very very good, people will love you for it, and

2) If you continue to be very good, someday, someone will come along and recognize your true worth.

Tell Cinderella to your child as if she were male.

And then the nobleman formerly known as Prince comes along and sweeps Cinderella off his feet.

Hmm, "Queer Eye for the Straight Tale?"

I suppose it could be considered wasteful to allow children to have certain ideals such as the possibility of a happily ever after, only to learn that reality is a somewhat less polished product.

On the other hand, I don't know if I'd want to live with a generation that grew up without hope.