Typical entries in the fairy tale genre consist of a story line featuring but not limited to a beautiful kindhearted princess, a show stealing evil character (usually female), magical creatures and lands, a handsome and brave male romantic interest (typically a knight or a prince), and various funny side characters (often animals). Yet after watching (and enjoying) Maleficent last night I noticed the presence of several modern fairy-tale trends.
Being fair, there are some notable recent exceptions to this rule such as Tangled and Enchanted, but these are now obviously in the minority. Also both the action and superhero genre's are pretty much male gender biased, so it's ok for the ladies to win this one.
Here I will illustrate my examples- decide your opinions and post below.
1. DOWNPLAYING/SUBVERTING ROMANTIC IMPORTANCE:
A. Brave-Merida has no interest in boys.
B.Maleficent- Maleficent is betrayed by her love, Aurora's prince is reduced to an unimportant side-character.
C. Frozen- Anna falls for Hans, who turns out to be the villain. Anna likes Kristoff, but their relationship is more of a friendship than a romance.
D. Oz the great and powerful- Theodora falls hard for Oz, then goes crazy when her feelings are not reciprocated.
E. Snow White and the Huntsman- Ravenna seduces and kills the king. Although the Huntsman does eventually fall for Snow White (only god knows why) their story is more a friendship than a romance. William is ultimately unimportant to the story.
-While I do enjoy the fact that modern female fairy tale characters no longer require the cliche romance/ true love with a handsome prince or a brave knight, some part of me wonders what kind of message this complete 180 degree turn is sending to little girls. In the past I agree there was far too much emphasis placed on romantic idealism. I guess I just don't see why there cant be a more happy medium here.
2. STORY FOCUSES MAINLY ON FEMALE RELATIONSHIPS:
A. Brave- Merida's story is mainly about her relationship with her mother.
B. Maleficent- Maleficent's love for Aurora is the central story.
C. Frozen- Elsa and Anna's relationship IS the story.
D. Oz the great and powerful- Although Oz is the central figure, the main story revolves around his relationships with the 3 sister witches and their relationships with each other.
E. Pan's Labyrinth- (This may be a controversial pick but the story remains a fairy tale, albeit a decidedly dark one.) Ofelia's relationship with her mother and Mercedes is central to the story.
F. Alice in Wonderland- Alice's story revolves around the conflict between the red and white queens
3. STRONG FEMALE CHARACTERS (OFTEN WARRIORS WHO ARE STRONGER THAN THE MEN) ARE NO LONGER DAMSELS IN DISTRESS:
A. Brave- Merida is the greatest warrior in the movie.
B. Maleficent- Maleficent is easily the most powerful character in the film, all (non-magical) male characters are shown to be evil, weak willed, or unimportant in the overall story.
C. Frozen- Elsa is the most powerful character, Anna bravely risks all to save her sister.
D. Alice in Wonderland- Alice (eventually) becomes a warrior and vanquishes the Jabberwockey, (with the Vorpal sword) successfully saving the kingdom from the oppressive rule of the red queen.
E. Snow white and the Huntsman- Snow becomes a warrior, leads an army, and vanquishes the evil queen.
F. Shrek- Princess Fiona is a Matrix level fighter.
G. Hansel & Gretel witch hunters- Gretel is a witch hunting warrior.
H. The Desolation of smaug- Goes so far as to actually invent a new strong female warrior character (Tauriel) in order to fill some quota or something.
I. Harry Potter- Hermione is the most capable, talented, and smartest character of the 3 central characters.
J. Percy Jackson- Annabeth is the most capable warrior.
4. MALE (human) CHARACTERS ARE GENERALLY EVIL, UNTRUSTWORTHY, CRAZY, SELFISH, STUPID, WEAK, COWARDLY, COMIC RELIEF, OR GENERALLY UNIMPORTANT:
A. Brave- All male suitors are less skilled than Merida, male warriors are all buffoonish idiotic caricatures, brother triplets are cute but goofy and unimportant, father/king is well-meaning but stupid and also unimportant to the story.
B. Maleficent- The king evilly attacks the innocent fairy creatures, Stefan cuts off Maleficent's wings because he covets power, Phillip is unimportant. All other male characters are non-human.
C. Frozen- Hans is evil, untrustworthy and selfish, the duke of Weselton is un-trustworthy. Kristoff (the only exception being helpful, smart, and kind) is only a secondary character. All other male characters are non-human.
D. Alice in Wonderland- The hatter is of course "mad", the jack of hearts is selfish untrustworthy and borderline evil. All other male characters are animals.
E. Oz the great and powerful- Oz, (the main character for pete's sake!?) is untrustworthy and selfish although he redeems himself (a little bit) by the end. Finley is a monkey.
F. Shrek- Is an Ogre so it makes sense that he is a bumbling oafish idiot (with a good heart)., Lord Farquaad is selfish and untrustworthy, Prince Charming is untrustworthy, Rumpelstiltskin is selfish and borderline evil, Artie is cowardly and weak. All other male characters are animals or non-human.
G. Pan's Labyrinth- Captain Vidal is evil. All other male characters are non-human.
-I will admit that this trend bothers me a bit. When was the last time you saw a goofy, idiotic, or weak female character in one of these films. Where is that gender equality I've been hearing so much about?
5. PREVIOUSLY EVIL CHARACTERS ARE RE-IMAGINED AS BEING MISUNDERSTOOD, VICTIMS, OR AT LEAST MARGINALLY HUMANIZED:.
A. Maleficent- Titular character is victimized, becomes vengeful, but is redeemed by her love for Aurora.
B. Oz the great and powerful- The wicked witch is depicted as a victim.
C. Frozen- the character of Elsa was based on a character named the snow queen in story "the snow queen" by Hans Christian Andersen. In the original tale the snow Queen was evil, not just misunderstood and unable to control her powers.
Whether these story line choices were made just for the purposes of keeping things fresh, or whether they were made with a more specific purpose of appealing more to the modern independent female mindset is up for debate. I have mostly enjoyed seeing the subversion of these typical genre cliches. This article is meant only to bring this trend to light and to find out your opinions on this topic.