Fairytale Retellings


In the chapter, “Fractured Fairy Tales,” Susan J. Douglas describes how the Sputnik fear inspired the U.S. government to invest in scientific education among both male and female youth. This, in turn, caused social anxiety about gender and media was largely used to establish societal norms. Movies, television shows, news broadcasts, and other things, she argues, were part of mass media designed to define the role of women and to instill these values in girls.

This piece, written by a blogger on a social networking site known as Tumblr, is a retelling of the famous fairytale of the Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Anderson. Her version of Ariel does not kill the prince on the final day of the curse, nor does she cast herself into the waves to be turned into foam. Instead, she leaves the prince and his bride to explore the world and falls in love with it.

This text calls into question the stories that many people are familiar with from their youth. One may even question the reinterpretations of the story, as seen in Disney’s “The Little Mermaid.” Ariel in Disney’s movie and Anderson’s story is desperately in love with a prince, a figure they’ve only seen sculpted as a statue. Ariel hasn’t even met or talked to him, yet she’s in love. This love surpasses her love of her voice, which could be seen as her talent and skills, and her love of the world, which is her passion. These versions of the story seem to fall under Douglas’ analysis, that this kind of media tells young girls that their talents and passions must be laid aside to their desire for men. On the other hand, this blogger’s version tells a much different story, in which Ariel pursues her love of the world and develops her musical talents.

Ideas about gender and femininity are still very much influenced by media today. What are some other ways these famous stories have been reinterpreted, and are they significantly different from the original?


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