Fairy Tales and Art

Art is amazing and versatile; it can get a hold of any subject matter and change it into something else. I love seeing something that I know and recognize change into a form that is even more intriguing and  maybe even more creative than it was before. That’s part of been what’s so amazing about exploring the new reinterpretations of fairy tales within art.

Gender Reversed Art

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A couple of artists have taken iconic Disney princesses and swapped the usually female role with that of the male. Above two different artists, Yudi Chen and LeoLeus, put men into the story of Rapunzel. Yudi Chen has done a number of gender reversals (click on the image on the right to check them out) while the image on the left by LeoLeus, a deviantArtist who was inspired by the film Tangled. His interpretation was done more as self-portrait after his watching of the film than a statement on men within fairy tales, but that message is still important to question.

Fairy tales are known for their female characters; half of the time the men in the roles aren’t even given names, going by “Prince Charming,” as opposed to a real name. The men aren’t the focus of the plot but they often come out in the end as heroes – yet they’re nameless. Young girls have many princesses that they look up to but boys do not have many non-animal characters to look up to and admire.

Advertising

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The image on the right is an advertisement put out by the Clinica Dempere located in Venezuela that shows the transition that Ariel would have gone through if she had chosen plastic surgery opposed to asking Ursula to help her on her quest. The image has taken some heat for its racy ideas, a three part series. The tag line is, “We make fairy tales come true,” which presumes that one’s dreams are to be surgically manipulated into the perfect person.

Anne Leibovitz started a doing a campaign ad for Disney a couple of years ago for their Disney parks. She has joined up with many iconic actors and actresses to reenact some famous Disney movies.  It’s amazing to see some of the talent that has joined up with Leibovitz for the project some names include Tina Fey, Taylor Swift, Whoopi Goldberg, David Beckham, and Jeff Bridges (just to name a few). Leibovitz and Disney have taken pop culture icons and mixed them in to the stories people know and love.  They’re targeting two audiences with these photo ads, the children who love the stories now and the parents who know the actors and the stories.

Alternative Endings 

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These works are some of my favorite pieces of work; the idea of the stories not ending in the conventional “Happily ever after.” The image on the right was created by justin-mctwisp, a deviantArt artist. There are a couple of other images that he has created that have this same thread; the bad guy wins.  These creations let the imagination run wild with new stoires, instead of being constrained by their repetition. It makes one question everything they knew about the story beforehand; how did Gaston kill the beast? Was it when the townspeople stormed the castle? Did she ever end up going to live with the Beast or did she just settle for Gaston in the first place? We don’t know what the artists original intent was but our own imaginations are just as helpful when they’re sparked by these pieces.

On the right is a picture is part of a ten part series by Dina Goldstein.  In her series Belle is getting plastic surgery and Rapunzel has cancer.  The has a taste of bittersweet in it; the princess didn’t get their happily ever after, instead they received a heavy dose of reality. When Goldstein started working on these photos her mother had just been diagnosed with cancer and her daughter was discovering princesses; Goldstein’s imagination started to question what it would look like if fairy tales were a part of current society and what it would look like if these princesses faced some issues that modern women have to face.

Zombies

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Nothing can escape the pop culture phenomenon of zombies and the supernatural; they’ve taken over a large part of our culture.  jeftoon01 on the left and clocktowerman on the right are both deviantArtists who have “zombified” Disney’s iconic princesses.  They’ve turned something that is usually sweet and beautiful into something that is dark and grotesque, even the Seven Dwarfs look possessed.

A common thread throughout all of these pieces is that fairy tales aren’t just for children any more.  One cannot look at the renditions of zombie princesses and say they would want to show those to their young children, unless they wanted to give them nightmares. Even the alternative endings art has Beast’s head mounted upon the wall and Jasmine in the range of heavy artillery; one doesn’t want to have to worry about their favorite fairy tales dying.

Fairy tales have transitioned into something that is no longer just for children. Growing up with the iconic princesses at times it’s hard to see them be changed and altered in such a way, but there is also may come a minute sense of gratification.  In the real world our lives aren’t given a guarantee of happily ever after; there is so much more we have to deal with than finding the perfect man and running away from an evil queen/stepmother/sea witch.  As one grows older princess become harder and harder to relate to and these artists are trying to find a new niche, a new demographic to target, an audience that has stopped believing in happily ever afters but is still trying to hold on to their childhood.

Music and Fairytales

I’ve never written a blog before.  The whole concept of writing and allowing the world to  read it makes me uncomfortable but I decided that I needed to grow as a writer and this is one sure way to do it.  This blog is going to be about fairy tales.  I have always loved stories that started “Once Upon a Time…” and in the last couple of years have written a couple of papers for my undergrad career about them.  I find them fascinating; especially how prominent they are within culture currently.

As I have done research for my papers I can’t help but find little known fairy tales that I have never heard of before, my current quirky favorite is “Catskin” by the Brothers’ Grimm (but that is a story for a different time).  What has held my attention lately is the musical renditions of Justin Bieber, NIki Manaj, and Taylor Swift.  No, I’m not some huge obsessed teen fan; merely a casual radio/music listener but when I heard “Beauty and the Beat” and “I Knew You Were Trouble,” I couldn’t help but chalk up another win for fairy tales in pop culture.  One of the last times I was driving around town I heard “Payphone” by Maroon 5, which states that, “All those fairy tales are full of it/One more stupid love song, I’ll be sick.” It was popular last year when it came out only reaching the number two spot on Billboards Top 100 List, but I digress.

Justin Bieber has created quite a fandom within the last few years.  His rise has caused many preteens to fall head over heals for him.  In his latest hit, he joins up with Niki Manaj in “Beauty and a Beat.”  Check out the video: 

The song is a clear spin off of the story Beauty and the Beast, though I’m uncertain who is considered the beauty or the beast in their collaboration. It seems that Bieber is the man of the hour calling on any young woman to fall in love with him or just some “eye candy” that he can take around the town. What’s interesting is that in the original tale neither Beauty or the Beast have this type of superficial-ness surrounding them. Instead Beauty is considered the kindest and most dear among her other sisters; the one who is humble and willing to do anything for her father. The lyrics, on the other hand, suggest that Bieber is looking at life with a more materialistic point of view, “I wanna show you all the finer things in life.” It does not seem that Bieber would willingly indenture his life; his life is more in line with the way that Beauty’s sisters live their lives – filled with parties, suitors, concerts, and other posh things.

This is not Bieber’s first dip into the land of fairy tales and music writing.  Earlier last year he collaborated with Jaden Smith in the song, “Fairytale” which is more about how much a girl “deserves her story book ending” as opposed to being a mere object that looks great dancing and is the “hottest ticket.”  It seems that Bieber has moved from wanting to treat women like a princess to objectifying them.

Taylor Swift, like Bieber, is no foreigner land of fairy tale references in her music. Three years ago the radio heard, “Today Was a Fairytale” which a simple love can be as great as a fairy tale. Swift’s new hit song could not be further from a fairy tale, though she starts off with those familiar words of “Once upon a time.” Instead we get more of the antithesis, what a fairy tale romance should not be: 

Swift has become ever popular for writing songs that are all along similar themes, love and heartache. “I Knew You Were Trouble” is a song along the lines of heartache as a opposed to love, the girl falls in love with a guy she should never have been with in the first place.  It sounds much like Hans Christian Andersen’s original telling of “The Little Mermaid.” In this tale the youngest mermaid because obsessed with a human, someone she should never end up with.  Unlike Disney’s version, this little mermaid doesn’t end up with her love (because she is unwilling to kill his princess in order to become a mermaid again); instead, she becomes sea foam.

It’s amazing to see how fairy tales have influenced our culture; intertwining with aspects that I’ve never even thought of before.  A year ago I would have never noticed some of the most popular songs on “The Hot 100” hint towards something reminiscent of childhood, fairy tales, dreaming, royalty. Fairy tales have found their way out of people’s pasts and have become a part of people’s current lives, music is just the beginning.