laceblade: Fanart of Revolutionary Girl Utena, holding sword and looking at viewer. (Utena fanart)
laceblade ([personal profile] laceblade) wrote2012-05-26 07:19 am

Panel Transcript: Princesses With Swords

Panel Title: A Princess With a Sword Is Still a Princess: Modern Adaptations of Fairy Tales
Description: From Countess D'Aulnoy to Teri Windling, many writers are fascinated with the fairy tale. These tales have been used in a variety of works, including television shows, short stories, and novels. What speaks to us in the fairy tale princess? Do girls really want to be princesses? Can we redeem the concept of princess by making her more active? What do fairy tales tell girls? What do fairy tales tell boys? What do they tell adults? And why do we care? Come discuss the issues of gender in fairy tales both traditional and modern, the limitations and problems of fairy tales, and why they are so popular today.
Friday, 10:30-11:45pm
Twitter Hash-Tag: #ModernPrincess
Panelists: Kerey Luis (moderator), Lisa Baluersouth, Emily Jiang, Genevieve A. Lopez, Na'amen Gobert Tilahun

This post is intended to be transcript-y!

KL: We'll be discussing gender in modern adaptations of modern fairy/folktales. Favorites?

EJ: Long-lived love of fairy tales since going to the library.

Grimms, Hans Christian Andersen, loves YA. Excited about recent retellings. Donna Jo Napoli. Anything Disney.

LB: Favorite adaptation is Deathless by Cat Valente. Likes Mercedes Lackey retellings. Will read anything.

GL: Grew up reading fairy tales at same as watching Disney Renaissance films. Have been vocal critic of Disney adaptations, prefers to tend toward darker retellings herself. Disney has a puritanical swing in their re-adaptations. Generally, they’re beautiful but there is lots at play in reinforcing gender/racial tropes that needs to be looked at if
consuming them and passing them to children.

NGT: Instead of reading fairy tales, read all mythology books ever. Greek/Roman, Egyptian, etc. etc. Also in love with Disney. Can sing all of the songs. Sings Part of Your World at work. Also a vocal critic of Disney movies. Likes to watch them, likes to tear them apart. (The Disney film) Princess and the Frog fills him with rage. Favorite adaptation is a YA novel by Sarah Beth Durst – Out of the Wild. POV of girl whose mother is Rapunzel. All fairy tale characters live in New England. Fairy tales take over a small city. Friends/enemies co-opted into the fairy tales.

KL: Unsure what favorite modern adaptation is. Maybe Kissing the Witch by Emma Donoghue. Teaching a class on fairy tales soon, fascinated with what people will have to say. Class is intensive, only 6 weeks long. Each week, also a film. Ending with Princess and the Frog,
hoping her students will tear it apart. Will put ?s to the panelists and then maybe halfway through, open up to questions from audience. What kind of changes do you see in gender roles in adaptations? Do yo use changes at all?

EJ: Wants to talk Disney. Contrasting Disney heroines/heroes. Snow White v. Beauty and the Beast. SW = heroine of 1950s vs. 1990s. Completely passive to a more proactive dreamer role in Belle. Instead of Beauty and her cleaning skills, Belle is literate, very smart. There is an evolution in the Disney heroine that reflects the times. The prince is traditionally flat, no dialogue in the early versions. In B&tB, Beast is fully developed character, angst, growth arc, etc. Male figure becomes more fully developed/etc.

NGT: They have grown in a certain way, but way they’ve grown is superficial. They have a specific type of princess. The princess has to look a certain way. (They = Disney) Princesses get more active but in the end, always still married off - whatever independence they had is gone. They get married. Girls can be tough but only until you’re married; at that point, doesn’t matter. Direct-to-DVD releases don’t count. Wants to see Brave (upcoming Pixar movie), wants to see it desperately. Hopes she doesn’t get married in the end. Brave had a female director and then the movie stalled. Then installed a man, then restarted. Female director was responsible for all of the girl’s interactions with her mother, responsible for those scenes. Other staff said that girls don’t interact with their mothers this way.

LB: Larger adaptations, we’re seeing a sort of ‘let’s have our cake and eat it too.’ Princesses have to wield a sword, have to rescue the prince, also need to be a traditional sort of princess in other ways.
Two Snow White adaptations this summer. In both, will see SW as a character who will get married in both. Obsession with beauty in both Snow White stories will end up being the tide that tells us we haven’t evolved very far.

GL: Agree. Princesses defy gender roles, still do’d be very radical for the story setting, but still done in a heteronormative way. Whether or not the princess ends up married, she has to kick ass. Still have a lot of male-centered action, particularly in films. Literature has a lot more variance. Movies, still very second wave. Literature has done a lot to come past that. But even when you talk about fairy tales in popular media, Disney = shorthand. Rapunzel has to be rescued by Flynn, Tiana has to kiss. Only can be done by a certain kind of girl.

EJ: Agree not as progressive as we’d like to think overall. Can think of exceptions. Ordinary Princess by MMK. Not pretty, no graces, ordinary and that’s her charm. She’s okay with it, no transformation. Gorgeous sisters, plainness = her “gift.” IN the end, she marries a prince who marries her .. Published in mid-1980s. Spindle’s End by Robin McKinley, retelling of Sleeping Beauty. She’s butch, has a love interest but not the focus of the book. In literature, fewer people in creative team, can take greater risks. Slow progress, but we’re pushing towards that.

NT: Snow White and the Huntsman: Who gives a shit about the huntsman? Telling that they had to put that in the title. Other adaptation: “Mirror, Mirror,” no mention of Snow White in the title.

EJ: Whole point is beauty.

NT: One adaptation I’m reading is Chris Colfer. (The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell.) Prologue is super interesting, Snow White is confronting her stepmother in the dungeon: I wanted you to love me, I knew it was you coming to my house, and I kept letting you in and letting you hurt me b/c I wanted to you to love me, to change, it was never about vanity,
why did you do it? Queen says everything I did was before "him," I had a life before your father. Then it flashes to modern times, and the twins are super boring.
([personal profile] laceblade note: Unfortunately, the prologue was the best part of the entire book!)

EJ: It sounds like the Once Upon a Time TV series.

NT: I love OUaT. Protagonist is a bondswoman named Emma. In Boston, the boy she gave up for adoption says, "Come to this city called Storybrook!" And everyone there is from a fairy tale except for Evil Queen who has memories & his adoptive mother. Emma = daughter of Snow White/Prince Charming. Flashes between modern cast & fairies. Love Rumpelstiltskin's story.

EJ: Same concept as Into the Woods.

NT: It’s on Netflix streaming! Bernadette Peters = witch.

LB: Sounds like Fables. It's a comic book series that is awesome. Deals with fairy tales exiled from homeland and settling in NYC. Don’t have memories wiped, just deal with it. Read them.

NT: Critical vibe for Fables: In the middle eastern fables, all stereotypes. 1001 nights
of snow fall – Snow White is co-opting Scheherazade's tale. Scheherazade shows up at the end. SW steals Scheherazade's agency. But it's still twisted/dark.

GL: Agree with Na’amen’s critique. American narrative of fairy tales = western European, main fables. When we do introduce middle eastern fairy tales, real-world parallel = American conflict in the Middle East, found that incredibly problematic as a reader. Has seem similar stories that also take away Scheherazade's agency. Like Fables going dark in characters' back stories. American stories don’t tend to be dark. A lot of stories before the Grimms featured rape, incest, canniabalism. Morality tales meant to scare children.

NT: My mother she hit me, my father he ate me – adaptations (anthology?), read it.

KL: That’s an Adaptation of the Juniper Tree. We have this persistent cultural ideas that folk/fairy tales are for children, but not necessarily true. Didn’t always think children couldn’t handle [various violent things]. Once told by adults to adults. So many adaptations today are meant for adults.

LB: Idea that stories are kid things. Not sure where that came from. Fairy tales are neon flashing sign that said that’s not true. Told between soldiers. Idea comes from that adults are too old for fantasy, too old to enjoy made-up things. Resurgence is a good thing. Adults
starting to know they’re “ours.” Then we’ll get more of them that aren’t for kids.

Aud ?: What are [upcoming] Snow White films rated?

Panelists: Both are PG-13.

EJ: Idea that child = innocent is relatively new concept in our culture, Disney is capitalizing on that to make money.

GL: Use of folklore/fairy tales and concept of childhood as innocent. Not just childhood, but a racial thing in that culture. Impart moral lessons ....when first conceptualized. ...[S]he was exposed to violence in media under controlled settings by parents. As a female-bodied POC, experiences in the world, innocence was not something you could cherish and then stuff would get real. Part of that was..saying a lot about who her parents are as people. When I read fairy tales that had been sanitized, without tragedy or violence, it became less real in a lot of ways. As a child, you can hear things and know they’re true. Really loved a version of Rapunzel that her aunt read to her. Kept a lot of the violence and original raunchiness. Wicked queen finds out Rapunzel has had a prince visiting b/c her
clothes don’t fit b/c she’s pregnant. Hair cut, kicked out. Influenced by the original Rapunzel family of stories. Syrian version? Prince has no eyes, blood, thorns all over b/c no one will help him. Rapunzel and twin children cry on him, restore his sight. Hardship when you go against what’s forced upon you/what’s expected of you, it’s not going to be easy, fun, or neat. Eyes gouged out and wander the desert. But with family.....

NT: Talking a lot about fairy tales being teaching and moral stories. They still are, but teach us what is socially acceptable. Not supposed to want to be evil witch outside of power structure. Hansel & Gretel - You ate her house! Put them to work, maybe not eat them.... They teach us as kids what we should /shouldn’t be and want to be. No queerness. Fave original = Little Mermaid. Love moment where her sisters come to her and have all sold their hair and she’s going to die and they give her a knife. Cut his throat, wipe his blood on your legs, and you can come back. She doesn’t do it. Wanted her to do it! Want someone to re-adapt it and have her do it.

GL: LM: she approaches sea-witch. Disney version = drag queen. In Hans Christian Andersen version, she needs mermaid tongues. Not vilified, just do business with her. Tragic ending. Plenty of feminine figures. Even princess who prince is in love with – not evil, just another person.

LB: Read that story at the wrong age. Saw the movie, read the book (was 8).

Aud: Disney in the me, what they were teaching was to a children of divorcees, saying love can still happen. Package it with other problematic messages, it’s an important message for that generation. Okay, everyone’s divorced or never married, keep looking for the love, go for it/etc. I take issue when people complain about people getting married at the end. To me, that was a really uplifting message. You can have a happy ending, you can save the day, and have a long-term committed relationship. Can be Jasmine AND be Aladdin.

EJ: Cinderella – she transcends her class. Only way she can do that is to marry a prince. Feel like in survivalist days, marriage was the only way to gain power/transcend.

NT: [To Audience member] I can see that...for me, watching those movies, I never identified
with the Protags. “Story is not for you.” Fave character of LM is Ursula. Maleficent. Always like the villains. Occupy a separate section of society. Weren’t allowed to interact with other people. Felt like the outsider. Part of it with Disney’s casting – POC as
hyenas in The Lion King. Loves 50s space queen who dies. Identified with her, and then she died.

GL: Disney stories. Saw myself in the princesses....not so much that love can’t happen. Family was very Catholic. G-grandmother was divorcee in the twenties. As contentious as parents’ relationship has been, they were together and unquestionably together. Considered a
given in certain religious/minority communities. Princesses/ Disney. Heroines – princesses with spunk. Powerless, which children often are. Belle & Beast – relationship not going good places. Dad doesn’t know what’s going on, things are weird. Magical outlet that also
sucks. Comes with a library! She can problem-solve. Problematic from an adult POV. Marriage = ultimate culmination. There should be more representation of other life goals.

EJ: Big exception is Mulan. Retelling of a tale that’s lesser known. Very interesting choice – ethnic character to not immediately go into marriage.

GL: Mulan – adored it when it came out. Years later, read original ballad of Mulan. Disney obviously has a romantic sub-plot. Rather than nationalistic duty, there’s problematic relationship and will she ever be girly enough? Very American storytelling associated with gender roles and what was perceived as Chinese gender roles. Pocahontas didn’t either. Have a lot of words for Pocahontas, only going to touch on it briefly. If anyone wants to hear, I wrote on it, ....It didn’t end in a marriage. Have seen the sequel. Ends with Pocahontas involved with RL Pocahontas married. Lots of revisionist history to follow Disney storytelling. Still an eventual reality. Long-term monogamous relationship. Babies, clean, etc. That’s not the only end-goal Disney presents, but fairly conservative end-goals. Mulan was off a university website, can’t remember which one. (Mulan digression)

Aud: Hans Christian Andersen wrote Little Mermaid b/c he fell in love with a man and couldn't express it/was rejected, expression of his love.

Other Aud: Most passive aggressive wedding present ever!

NT: Thank you, that makes me love it so much more.

KL: That explains it to me. How sympathetic it is to courting. Having to wait for someone else to court you, can’t go to object of disorder. He would be shocked. Symbolized by cutting out of the tongue. Viciousness of the story. Walking on knives/losing the voice. She gets to be an air spirit, that’s the worst part. She acquires a soul that cannot ever go to Heaven.

Aud: He’s so mean to women. His sexuality - journals, etc. Not av very nice man, brilliant storyteller. If there is a homosexual component, then really interesting...

[At this point, this audience member said he had "a few things to talk about," my laptop died, and realized how exhausted I was, so I got up and left.

I found myself wishing that this panel would talk about anime/manga, but on Sunday, there will be an entire panel called Fairy Tales in Shoujo Anime and Manga. I'm on it!
It is my ultimate dream that in the future, anime/manga get talked about whenever applicable, without having their own separate/special panels!
ALSO-ALSO, I feel like there's a lot of YA lit that could have been discussed? Shannon Hale's Princess Academy comes to mind. Mostly, though, I was incoherent by the time I sat down at this panel, and thus my thoughts are minimal.
littlebutfierce: (lovecom show)

[personal profile] littlebutfierce 2012-05-26 01:13 pm (UTC)(link)
Oh, I liked the Durst books!

Heh, I agree w/you about how nice it would be if anime/manga didn't get only mentioned in their own special panels. I look forward to hearing about your panel though!