I was reading this article that I found in this post on We Have Brains and I was a little disturbed (and not just by the fact that the author didn’t have her facts straight. The Grimm Brothers collected the Fairy Tales. They didn’t write them) by the suggestion that Fairy Tales are a problem.
First of all, it’s not the Fairy Tales themselves that cause the trouble. I read those same stories as a child and I haven’t been damaged by them. In fact I enjoyed them very much. I think the real issue involves interpretation. Are these kids getting the right kind of reinforcement? From where? Not from the media, that’s certainly sure. We have people like Britney Spears being idolized by eight and nine year olds who can’t tell the reality from the fantasy. Some parents can’t even do that, as they’ve got the same kind of role model in movie stars who spend rigorous hours with personal trainers to look the way they do. Fairy Tales, in their original unsanitized form, at least, were meant as cautionary Tales. Tales about using your mind to solve your problems. I’m not talking Snow White or Briar Rose either. I’m talking about those stories involving “villains” who are thwarted by the quick thinking, and even the compassion, of the protagonists. Sure they idolize beauty, but none of them suggest what said princesses should look like. Those features are dictated by cultural standards. If there’s to be finger pointing done, take it to Hollywood.
However, I believe that there is a parental duty to be sure about what a child understands about this subject. It’s very easy to point fingers and say it’s Barbie’s fault or Madonna’s or a Fairy Tale’s that a child has a poor self-image, but the bottom line is, it’s the human influence that’s the real culprit. The viewer makes the media. If we want our kids to have healthy self-images, we’ve got to stop feeding them candy-floss images to compare themselves to, and start reinforcing their self-confidence in how they look. If a child knows that they are loved and accepted for who they are, then no media image should reduce them to eating disorders and depression.
Oh yes, and I just realised that I forgot to answer the last part of that post: My favourite Fairy Tale was the Twelve Dancing Princesses. I think it had a lot to do with the colours in that book i had, because each princess had a different colour dress, and they all looked different. I thought that it was wonderful to not have to do anything but sleep all day and dance all night too (who doesn’t? Lol). The “happily ever after” ending was something that I don’t ever remember taking as reality. It was as much part of the story as the minstrels and the trees made of gold, silver and diamonds. It was a rote ending, and actually never really satisfied me, and I think that was mostly due, in part, to how my mother talked to me about it. (Not that I ever remember her sitting me down and discussing with me the difference between fantasy and reality, but I new it anyway.)
**update – I just read Kerri’s post about this issue, and she makes a few good points as well.