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Showing posts from December, 2014

Disney, Fairytales, and Women, Part 10: Beauty and the Beast

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For who could ever learn to love a beast?


The "Beauty and the Beast" story is, indeed, a tale as old as time. The myth of Cupid and Psyche, "The Girl Who Married a Snake" from India, and A Midsummer Night's Dream are some of the early precursors to the French versions with which we are more familiar. The French "Belle et la BĂȘte" was first written by Madame de Villeneuve, but the condensed version which is more popularly used and adapted was edited by Madame Leprince de Beaumont. Interestingly, this is to date the only fairytale Disney adapted which is most popularly attributed to women writers; though, of course, most if not all of the Grimms and Perrault's versions were told to them by women, the names of these women are largely lost to history. "Beauty and the Beast" retains its link to female storytellers, and to this day it is one of the most often-used fairytales in feminist retellings, such as Angela Carter's "The Courtsh…

Disney, Fairytales, and Women, Part 9: The Little Mermaid

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But who cares? No big deal. I want more.

The trope of silenced women in folklore and fairytales is one with a very long history. Women's speech in general has long been denigrated, talkative women reduced to gossips, demanding women to nags, even the term "old wives' tales" that goes hand-in-hand with folklore and fairytales is often used to dismiss fantastical or unbelievable stories as simply the talk of women, unimportant and unworthy of regard. In the 16th century play, "The Old Wives' Tale" by George Peele, a woman who says "A woman without a tongue is as a soldier without his weapon," ends by being struck mute, much to the delight of her husband. Women's words are feared, loathed, and generally found annoying and/or unnecessary.
Arguably the most talked-about aspect of The Little Mermaid is the loss of the mermaid's voice. In the Disney film she loses it by magic, but in the Hans Christian Andersen original story her tongue is ac…