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?


Media Enforcing Racism


In “Racism Without Racists,” Eduardo Bonilla-Silva argues that racial inequality is still an issue in the United States today through a racial ideology which he terms “color-blind racism.”  White people believe and support that inequality is not the result of racism but the consequence of an individual’s decisions and limitations. This is based on the assumption that “racism” is defined as a personal prejudice, which does not acknowledge the institutional discrimination against minority groups.

This is an article on Huffington Post describing the controversy over the shooting of Michael Brown, a black teenager, in Ferguson, Missouri. (The second link is the actual tweet that the article focuses on.) The black community has caught on to injustice in media, and in the twitter tag #iftheygunnedmedown, members post pictures of themselves as a protest. The juxtaposition of article headlines of white suspects and black victims in the media seem to support the claim that media tends to describe black people more harshly than white people.

Bonilla-Silva points out that racism is still a prevalent issue in America, and that perhaps it is harder to fight now because it’s so subtly embedded in institutions and culture. The article I found seems to be evidence for this claim. Although most people should know about the bias and inaccuracy behind what they see on TV, news media is often thought to present the facts or at least believed to be a somewhat credible source. And yet, when a large news channel such as CNN covered the story in which an unarmed young black teenager was shot by the police, they chose to use a photo of the boy with a stern expression and questionable pose. And so, the media can be an active force in supporting stereotypes and discriminating against minority groups.

My question: Think about the implications of a photograph. It’s something that accurately captures an event, but at the same time, how the photo is taken and used can change the story behind it. Today, our news channels and other media have become highly sensationalized such that even a young black teenager can be portrayed in a discriminatory way, and some of us wouldn’t even realize it. Is it acceptable for media to sensationalize instances of crime, death, and accidents? And what kinds of consequences or regulations should be made to keep sensational media in check?