Accepted Paper:

Damsels in distress in recent fairy tale movies  


Theo Meder (Meertens Institute)

Paper short abstract:

In recent fairy tale movies traditionally passive damsels in distress turn into active heroines because western society values independent women in charge of their own lives. The fairy tale/film audience shifts from children to (young) adults.

Paper long abstract:

In series and movies fairy tales are popular these days. Once, orally transmitted fairy tales were a genre for both adults and children, but by the time the first fairy tale movies got produced, the genre was supposed to be suited for children in particular. It was not until the turn of the century that movie parodies became a hit. Meanwhile, another genre got popular: fantasy. The hype started with Harry Potter and continued with the Twilight saga. In 2011 the director of Twilight produced Red Riding Hood, and introduced a triangular relationship between Red Riding Hood and two boys - just like Bella Swan was torn between two lovers. In Snow White and the Huntsman (2012) another triangular relationship occurs: two men compete for the affection of Snow White. The traditionally passive damsels in distress now take matters into their own hands. The heroines have a mind of their own, and they decide what lover will be chosen. They fight back and resist the dangers and injustice they encounter. The fairy tale thus returns to a (young) adult audience by reinserting some specific features: erotic tension, explicit violence, epic adventure and mature dialogues. Violent heroines wearing armor and leading armies into battle like Snow White, are as rare as Joan of Arc, but such are the emancipated values of our times. As soon as western society decides that women should be independent and in charge of their lives, the fairy tale damsels in distress change into active heroines.

Panel P60
Everyday names, tales, songs and play: continuous traditions in a changing world