Fairy Tales 2010

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

An asexual Little Red Riding Hood?

In this version of Little Red Riding Hood (by a French animator, I think), Little Red Riding Hood is portrayed as what appears to be closer to a teenage girl trying to find her way through the forest to a neighboring castle. The plot omits all of the characters from the stories with the exception of Red Riding Hood herself and the wolf who resembles the Smoke Monster from Lost more closely than any living animal.

This version focuses mainly on the insecurities of being alone in the forest. Red Riding Hood is seen making her way through the forest before encountering the ruins of a abandoned city. When she breaks to nap, the Smoke Monster/wolf invades her mind and tortures her for the remainder of the journey. This depiction plays on the apprehension a person, especially a young girl, experiences when they are out on their own. The girl is chased through the entire forest and only receives temporary salvation by the light of day at the edge of the forest.

The element most notably missing from this retelling is the sexuality. Red Riding Hood is animated to look androgynous, wearing pants, boots, and a baggy cape. The wolf is completely devoid of any form or shape, and is in no way seductive, sexual, or tempting. Yes, the cloud is threatening the girl, but the threat appears to literally be that she will be eaten, not that her purity will be corrupted. Removing the sexuality from Red Riding Hood, especially in an artistic interpretation really neglects a major part of this story. While I know that this was the artistic work of a person, I feel they didn't do the story justice by leaving sensuality out of the picture.

Behind the Hood: A documentary

Monty Python - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iKbWdgW6sD8&NR=1&feature=fvwp

Japanese Ad - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oq8xuVnB-Pk

I found two rather interesting specimens to demonstrate the different usages of Little Red Riding Hood tale types and the emphasis of specific elements to illustrate a point.
The first is from Monty Python. In this we see the ideal German child, wink wink nod nod, which is a complete terror to the forest. The use of a small dog as the wolf is used to contrast this hyperbolic demonstration of Little Red Riding Hood’s character. The dog is made all the more ridiculous by the visible fact of the trainer that is moving the dog throughout the scenes, both by hand and rope. These two don’t even get to interact particularly in this version of the tale because it uses a metaphoric representation of man in the modern world which tries to separate himself from nature. This is evidenced by the fact that in walking through the forest Little Red Riding Hood destroys everything and the wolf becomes a frightened stand-by character that has no strength of will. Then when the wolf gets to grandmother’s house, instead of meeting the old woman, he meets Buzz Aldridge, an American astronaut, which would epitomize modernity and technological development. When encountered by this symbol the wolf is immediately destroyed because technology destroys nature. This exaggeration is meant to be humorous in its commentary of the way in which we interact with nature currently as opposed to the way natural interactions occurred in the time of the original Red Riding Hood. This works with our natural biases and predispositions from modern society.
Since someone else had already talked about the Monty Python version, I chose to look at another Little Red Riding Hood clip as well. It was ad for a construction company. I found the ad quite amusing on the grounds that instead of playing down any sexual references in the text, it completely centered itself around the sexual undertones and made them explicit even to the point that there was no real correlation to any texts except that Little Red Riding Hood was attired in the traditional way and carrying a basket through the woods. Because the ad was in Japanese, I was unable to determine what the content was actually about, however, there is clear sexualization and a misogynist undertone to it, demonstrating women as objects for male consumption.

Little Red


This animation starts out with the big bad wolf at the door of Granny's House. When Granny asks who it is, the wolf first yells "It's me!" and then quickly changes his voice and says that it's one of your friends on a surprise visit. The Granny willingly opens the door and is quickly eatin. This illustrates an ignorance in relation to detail on her part, her willingness to be mislead, and the lack of caution. She doesn't pay attention to the change in voice and comment, nor does she look out of the windows to see who at the door was claiming to be her friend. After the wolf changes into granny's clothing and hops in her bed, Little Red shows up. Little Red appears to be more observant than Granny because she quickly observes the fact that the wold disguised as Granny, had bigger ears than when she last saw Granny. This is possibly used to emphasize the youths' ability to observe details better than adults.

Little Red yells for help as she attacked by the wolf. Even though she the wold ate her, she showed a greater amount of caution and understanding of her surroundings. The hunter hears the distress calls from granny's house and goes to investigate. He finds the wolf full in granny's bed. The hunter cuts an opening from the top of the wolf's chest to down past his belly button but the wolf remains asleep. Maybe this is done allude to the fact that you shouldn't get to comfortable when you think you have one? Maybe there is connection between the wolf being evil and the fact that he felt no pain in being cut wide open such that the evil feel no pain? Grandma sews the wolf up with her stuffing, the wolf wakes and goes to the well to get some water, and fhe falls down the well. The Granny reminds everyone of the morale "That's what happens when you bite off more than you can chew".

Monty Python's Little Red Riding Hood

Being Monty Python, this version of Red Riding Hood obviously incorporates elements of the absurd - Red Riding Hood is portrayed by a slobbish grown man, the wolf is a small dog in bad costume, and NASA is performing nuclear tests at granny's house. Nonetheless, the story still retains the skeleton of its traditional roots. Red is bringing gifts to granny via a path through the forest, "she" is stopped by the wolf who inquires where she is headed, and the wolf beats her to granny's house.

The skit is funny (well, at least to those who appreciate Monty Python), because it takes a story that is still recognizably familiar, and replaces certain traditional elements with absurd mockeries. The tale of Little Red Riding Hood is nearly universally known, at least in Western culture, and therefore the additions and changes are amusing because of their absurdity compared to the traditional tale.

Furthermore, there is no evidence of sexuality present in this version at all. Red Riding Hood is a (rather ugly) grown man and the wolf is a poor dog that is draped in a wolf costume and drug around the set on a leash. While many mock version of the story rely on over-sexualizing the character or Red Riding Hood, the Monty Python version removes any trace of sexuality from the story and instead relies on random absurdities for humor.

"NASA agreed to limit the number of nuclear tests in granny's little house to two on Thursdays, and one on Saturdays, after tea."

This video is clearly a purposely ridiculous version of the tale, but still follows the main storyline of Little Red Riding Hood pretty closely. The video starts with an opening book and then focuses on the storyteller. This references that fairy tales are part of an oral tradition passed on by being told from generation to generation.

It makes fun of parts of the story - by trying to explain things like why she wore a red riding cloak so much, and adding observations such as the wolf had to have smelled bad.

LRRH takes control of the situation upon her first meeting with the wolf, ending the conversation and leaving. The wolf does eat the granny and wait for LRRH to show up, but from there the story takes a different path. Once he tries to eat her, she grabs him and takes him to be neutered! I thought this was funny because it was as if by taking away his genitals she was taking away his power - which is an interesting commentary on the male gender. The end of the video made mention to LRRH feeling bad about what she had done, but she just turned her music up on her iPod and forgot about it.

This version is clearly supposed to make you laugh - both at the strange things in the original tale and at the rediculous things they added in. But it was definitely still recognizable as a variant of the old fairy tale.

LRRH Revamped


What's interesting about this clip is that it starts off with your typical fairytale beginning: Once upon a time. However, we don't get her walk through the forest and intial contact with the wolf. The video jumps right into the scene in which Little Red Riding Hood finds the wolf in Grandma's home. Despite the wolf wearing Grandma's glasses and little hat, the girl knows from the start that this is not her Grandma (we can figure this out through her gasp). At the same time though, she asks the wolf what big teeth he has, and note this is the only question asked, perhaps because it is the most important. So we can see that unlike earlier LRRHs, this girl is not ignorant and clearly knows the difference between an old woman and a gross wolf. She also knows martial arts, and uses her skills on the wolf, which is a reflection on the child's sphere and recognition of an educational system. We have further advanced the notion of schooling for children and have taken into account that its helpful for kids to engage in activities outside of school that will also prepare them for adulthood and even, in the case of the video, the problems children face themselves. What really stood out to me is that LRRH is teaching the wolf a lesson; this isn't a story about LRRH learning to obey mother.

I have a question though, if the LRRH here has been taught by the Grandma's Martial Arts School, wheres Grandma. The video, for me at least, does not suggest she has been eaten by the wolf.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Why can't we be friends?

The creator assumes the audience has knowledge of the tale beyond one version. Here there is no back story, no distinct good vs. evil, and no fated outcome. They play a competitive game of chance, thrilled if they win, depressed if they don't. As long as one outwits the other, there can be no happy ending. Red can win, but she'll regret it. Wolf can triumph, but he'll feel miserable. I like this version because it shows the underlying misery of a "happy ever after" and offers a new outcome: they tie. Both characters are cunning and when they can acknowledge that in each other without there needing to be a winner, they can appreciate one another and get along. It is a greatly optimistic ending, but does it maintain the true essence of the story?

Chaperon Rouge


I couldn't figure out how to embed the video, so I just linked it above.

So, this version of "Red Riding Hood" I found doesn't exactly follow the traditional framework of the story, but because the story is so firmly a part of a culture it is immediately recognizable as a variation on the traditional tale. What I thought was particularly interesting about this piece of animation is how much focus lies on the evil side of the deep forest. The stylization of the wolf especially brought back the nightmare aspect of the forest for girls. The fairy tale originated as a warning to girls about the forest, and I think that the utter incarnation of evil in the wolf hearkens back to this feeling of fear about the 'old forest'.

The video also presents some of the magical aspects of fairy tales curiously absent in versions of "Little Red Riding Hood" such as that of Charles Perrault. Even in the Grimm's version of the tale, "Red Riding Hood" has much less magic involved than many other fairy tales. In this interpretation, the forest portrayed seems incredibly magical and mysterious, as opposed to the mundane forests of Perrault and the Grimms. The forest visibly glistens, and the giant old growth trees imply a sensation of 'old magic', the pre-christian powers that fill fairy tale forests. The wolf also depicts a more magical fairy tale, because it is far less realistic and far more elemental than the wolves depicted in the fairy tales. However, because it is more representative of pure evil, it loses the symbolism for the predatory male that Perrault gives the character in his interpretation of the tale.

Overall, I enjoyed watching this clip because of its higher emphasis on the magic and elemental parts of the forest instead of the emphasis on a moral as found in Perrault.