I love old stories. When I was a teenager, my father had a collection of the Brothers Grimm, and I read them over and over. The real ones, where Cinderella’s sisters cut off their toes and heels to fit into the slipper, and have their eyes pecked out in the end in justice for their cruelty. The stories of the Brothers Grimm are a part of history, of a time long ago, and should be kept as they are.
But it begs the question, what are stories for? We all know the stories of Snow White, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, and the like. Going farther back, there is Beowulf, The Illiad, and The Odyssey. These stories had a purpose at their time.
When I was a young adult, I went and saw Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” in the movie theaters with a friend who really loved Disney movies. I had a beautiful book rendition of “Beauty and the Beast” that I had grown up with, and loved the art and that particular retelling. So Disney’s version, with no selfless brothers and no shallow sisters, left me cold. I remember thinking, Why is she an only child? Why is her dad a dimwit? What was with the books? Yay, I’m all for reading, but what does that have to do with anything?
But that is the changing of stories. My daughter, Rowan, no longer lives in a era where being married to an old rich man is probably the best choice for her future. I want stories that encourage her to be the best she can be. I want stories that encourage her to educate herself, to determine her own destiny, to pick a mate that is a complement to her. Humans love stories, in books, in tv, in movies, in videogames. We love being swept away–but what we consume does change us.
As an adult, I figure it is up to me to determine what kinds of stories I will listen to. But for my kids, since they aren’t adults, I am more discerning. I don’t want historical stories changed, stories that show a slice of time, to be edited in any significant way. I think the Illiad should be kept as it is; and Tom Sawyer, too, n* words and all. But I also don’t have a problem with new stories that use old ones as their basis.
My girls and I own “Frozen” and we still love it. It is only *loosely* based on “The Snow Queen.” I love it because it is about two sisters, and that is particularly applicable to my family. I like that it has a moral about Hans–that you can’t romantically know someone right away. But is it not particularly faithful to the original story. I also found it interesting that one of my male friends got a bit frustrated with the movie. His problem was that all the men were either not very bright or evil. He said he was sick of men being characterized as superfluous. Which I can get, I am still looking for the story where people, men and women, are at different stages. Shallow and deep, good and evil, selfish and selfless–this is not dependent on gender.
But I think we as a society are still figuring this out, and it depends on your experience. For example, I have had close female and male friends. At different points in my life, I have either had predominately female friends or predominately male friends. For me, I interpret this as simply what I’m supposed to experience at the time. Even my story changes from decade to decade.
I don’t want history changed–that is too dangerous. It is dangerous if we forget the time and unfairness depicted in “Huckleberry Finn.” It is dangerous if we listen to people who deny The Holocaust–because that is history of humanity’s cruelty, not a fable. But if we’re looking to educate our kids, I don’t mind changing the stakes. I don’t mind a black James Bond. I don’t mind Barbie including people of color as her friends–I want that to appear as normal, what we should all aspire to. I think stories should be changed to match the current time, because they predict our future. Look at Star Trek–all races were included, because it was assumed that in the future, all would be equal. I want that. I want my kids to take all people as they are–that their actions show their worth, not any stereotypes on their race. We have power in what we write and what we retell, though we often forget it. What we laud and what we despise can change the outcome of things that happen in the real world.