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Hollywood’s New Fractured Fairy Tales

Hollywood's New Fractured Fairy Tales

For a story truly to hold a child’s attention, it must
entertain him and arouse his curiosity. But to enrich his life, it must
stimulate his imagination; help him to develop his intellect and to clarify his
emotions; be attuned to his anxieties and aspirations; give full recognition to
his difficulties, while at the same time suggesting solutions to the problems
which perturb him….In all these and many other respects….nothing can be as
enriching and satisfying to child and adult alike as the folk fairy tale
.” –Bruno Bettelheim

The good Dr. Bettelheim, an educator and psychotherapist of
severely disturbed children, wrote the book (“The Uses of Enchantment,” 1975) on
the deeper meanings that reside in fairy tales. He noted how through their
overt and covert meanings fairy tales could communicate both to the uneducated
and the sophisticated, which make them the ideal source material for mass entertainment.

Does this explain the current Hollywood fairy tale-revival?
(See “Shrek,” “Ella Enchanted,” “Enchanted,” “Ever After,” “Mirror, Mirror,” “Red Riding Hood,” “Snow White and the Huntsman” and
the new release, “Jack the Giant Slayer.” Coming soon is “Malificent,” told from
the perspective of Sleeping Beauty’s nemesis and starring Angelina Jolie. Just
yesterday were reports that Emma Watson, Harry Potter’s Hermione, is being
courted to play Cinderella.)

Filmmakers as disparate as Walt Disney (“Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”), Michael
Powell (“The Red Shoes”) and Jean Cocteau (“Beauty and the Beast”) already knew
this. Fairy-tale collectors — Hans Christian Andersen and The Brothers Grimm — were the subjects of biopics. Still, 
before “Shrek,” Disney –whose sanitizing of folk tales, particularly his
“insipid” Cinderella, irritated Bettelheim — was one of the few Hollywood
filmmakers to mine fairy tales as a narrative natural resource. (Because
fairy tales are stories that have multiple versions, a producer doesn’t have to
pay for book rights, another plus.)

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