Fairy tales don't hold up for modern sensibilities

Mike Royko

November 20, 1990|By Mike Royko | Mike Royko,Tribune Media Services

TEACHER GEORGIANN Carlson has a valid literary criticism.

She says that fairy tales such as Cinderella and Snow White are sexist because both young ladies don't find happiness until some macho prince comes along.

They also lack independence and self-worth. Snow White, she points out, is content to cook and clean for a gang of dwarfs.

There's much more that bothers Carlson: The emphasis on good looks, the idea that being old means being ugly and women being portrayed as competitive and jealous.

Carlson, who teaches at a school in a Chicago suburb, believes such stories aren't good for little girls because they might believe the old "some day my prince will come" routine. How will they feel when a nerd, not a prince, pops the question?

So Carlson has been rewriting the fairy tales and giving them different endings. She has Snow White rescue the prince, instead of the prince rescuing her. Then Snow White turns down the prince's marriage proposal and lives happily ever after as a single woman.

As for Cinderella, she gives her prince the brush-off, too. And she marries a stable boy instead.

I can't argue with Carlson's critique. Neither Snow White nor Cinderella are exactly liberated females. As she said of Snow White: "She's passive, selfless, silent, pure and innocent. This is patriarchy's dream come true."

And I'm intrigued by the idea of the fairy tales being rewritten to bring them up to modern social standards.

In fact, I'm thinking of trying something like that myself. And the other evening I stopped in my favorite bar for a drink to consider a plot.

Then I noticed a handsome young guy sitting on the next stool and I said: "Say, aren't you the prince? Yeah, I recognize you. Nice to meet you, prince."

He nodded and said: "My friends call me 'your highness.'"

I thanked him and said: "I don't want to meddle, but what are you doing in this joint? I heard you and that Snow White girl got hitched. Lovely dish that she is, I would think you would be home billing and cooing."

He shook his head and said: "Nope. She gave me the old brusheroo. Said she values her independence, her own space. Said we can still be friends, but when I call, all I get is her answering machine."

"Hey, I'm sorry I mentioned it, man. It must be tough to handle."

"No sweat, forget it. Fact is, she did me a favor."

"How's that?"

"Well, after I thought about it, I realized that, sure, she was a knockout, and she liked to clean house and was a good cook. But basically, she's an airhead. I'd suggest that we take in a play, but no, her idea of a good time was sitting around singing dumb songs with those seven little guys. She even got mad at me when I told her I didn't think there was anything wrong with dwarf-tossing."

"Boy, you just never know about people."

"Right. So since she dumped me, I've had more time for myself. My golf handicap has dropped. I get out to the ballpark whenever I feel like it, and I play poker once a week and don't worry about how late the game breaks up. If I want to stop in here for a few beers after a hard day at the palace, I don't have to worry about anybody phoning the bartender to see if I've left. And I can play the field, if you know what I mean."

"I can imagine, a young prince like you. Anyone special?"

"Yeah, for a while I had a thing for this girl Cinderella."

"A looker?"

"Better gams than Snow White, if you can believe it."

"I believe it. So what happened?"

"Splitsville. She fell for a stable boy."

"You're kidding."

"Nope. And they got hitched. I sent a broom and a shovel as a wedding gift."

"Hey, you're a good sport. How are they doing?"

"Not too good. I walked by their place the other night -- they live upstairs over the stable -- and she was yelling at him for not changing his shoes before he came in the flat. And I hear she's after him to go to school and get an MBA. I'm not surprised, though. She was always into fancy clothes, glass slippers, going to formal balls and the night life. No way she's going to spend the rest of her life with a guy who shovels manure. Well, I got to go."


"No, I'm going bowling."


"No, with those seven little guys. They snuck out of the house. Told me they're tired of sitting around every night singing, 'Hi ho, hi ho.'"

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