Modern fairy tales offer less moral takeaways

Modern adaptations of fairy tales have taken creative liberty too far; some violence is removed, understandably, but the retellings don’t seem to be about teaching children the lessons they once tried to instill.

Fairy tales, as described by Merriam-Webster, are “simple children’s stories about magical creatures.” Furthering this explanation, they are usually cautionary tales used to teach children about what is right and wrong in world, allowing them to grow up into a proper adult. This isn’t the case these days.

Disney is the perfect example of a company in the business of making a profit off twisting old fairy tales to be bright and colorful while carefully hiding the true purpose of the fairy tale behind singing and the search for true love.

As Alex Kritselis writes at bustle.com, “I think Disney films are a lot of fun. But their unrealistic, overly simplistic, largely heterosexist worldview has the potential to shape young minds in a lot of negative ways.”

Disney isn’t the only culprit of this. Contemporary versions of fairy tales, while interesting, are guilty of foregoing the lesson in favor of drawing in the audience.

These movies center on the entertaining factor of love or comedy, or something else other than the idea of what the stories were originally meant for. This happens in the “Shrek” series, “Hoodwinked,” “Ella Enchanted,” and many other fairy tale movies.

A large reason for this may be because of the heavy violence some of the characters faced in the original stories.

“I wouldn’t want to have my kid reading that somebody cut off their heel just to fit in a shoe to become a princess.” said Tyler Robinson, a kinesiology senior.

According to The Telegraph, 25 percent of parents surveyed said they wouldn’t read fairy tales to a child younger than 5 because of the frightening material or adult themes.

However, other retellings of fairy tales succeed in portraying the original intent.

“I think in a way (a modern retelling of fairy tales) does portray the basic morals of the story, but it’s told differently and shown differently than back then … they can still be children for a while longer,” said Kassandra Carrillo, a creative writing junior.

That is why these new forms of entertainment are so popular with parents. They don’t expose them to the violence or the scary reality of the originals.

However, one loses the built-in lessons of morality presented in the tales, and while graduate creative writing professor Zach Martin didn’t necessarily agree, he said, “I don’t think modern fairy tales are getting across moral messages as directly as their original source material, and that’s a good thing. Morality is often a lot messier and more complicated than classic fairy tales imply.

“Wicked” portrays the wicked witch of the west sympathetically and shows how life is rarely black or white; humans are complex creatures who sometimes make bad decisions.

But these tales of sympathetic characters don’t provide the guide that tell children not to talk to strangers, as presented in “Little Red Riding Hood,” or to keep your promises, like in “The Frog Prince.”

According to Princeton Press, “Stories work with people, for people, and always stories work on people, affecting what people are able to see as real, as possible, and as worth doing or best avoided.”

We have to let these fairy tales show their true purpose, working on our society so as to teach children the proper way to choose for themselves what’s right and what’s wrong.

Opinion columnist Nicollette Greenhouse is a creative writing senior and may be reached at [email protected].

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