‘Sexist’ Sleeping Beauty and all the other fairy tales that may need updating for a new generation
Disney stories and fairy tales have long been criticised for reinforcing gender stereotypes and giving children skewed opinions about body image and relationships. But another charge has been added to the rapsheet: promoting inappropriate ideas about sexual consent. The #MeToo campaign inspired Sarah Hall, 40, to call for Sleeping Beauty to be removed from her six-year-old son’s curriculum. She wrote to the school and said she was “really concerned” about the message her impressionable young son would take from the tale, which features a stranger kissing a woman in her sleep. “It’s a specific issue in the Sleeping Beauty story about sexual behaviour and consent,” Hall told the Newcastle Chronicle. “It’s about saying, is this still relevant, is it appropriate?” Hall doesn’t think schools should ban Sleeping Beauty altogether, but that they should reserve it for older children and teach it alongside contemporary context. “I don’t think taking Sleeping Beauty out of circulation completely would be right,” she said. “I actually think it would be a great resource for older children. You could have a conversation around it, you could talk about consent and how the princess might feel.” To her point, the story has its origins in a tale of rape. One of the first recordings of the Sleeping Beauty narrative is the Italian poem Sun, Moon and Talia, published in 1634, in which a king sleeps with Talia when she is unconscious. In this version, the princess awakens after giving birth to twins. Disney opted for the less explicit version of the Sleeping Beauty tale in its 1959 film. Today, some suggest, it could be again updated to remove the non-consensual kiss. Political correctness gone mad? Maybe, but while we’re on the subject of outdated ideas of femininity, women and relationships are these the other fairy tales which will be targeted next?
If you are in the mood to really think about it, Disney’s 1950 version of Cinderella could be seen to perpetuate a string of stereotypes that are outdated today. The princess suffers because she doesn’t come from a nuclear family, and is made to do the housework until she is rescued by a prince. Hurrah. All her problems stem from her evil stepmother, suggesting her father had no say in her upbringing and that non-traditional families are harmful. Boo.
Beauty and the Beast
There’s no doubt about it, the Beast will soon be called out for sexual harassment in the work place. An old, ugly man with power seduces his young, attractive employee, thus saving his life, riches and self-esteem from ruin. And we’re meant to go all gooey inside? Watch out, Beast, #MeToo is coming for you.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
Ageism, cannibalism, sexism and a non-consensual kiss. It’s a surprise Snow White wasn’t the first target of the snowflake generation. Well, it was, in a way. Snow White and the Huntsman, a 2012 remake, turned the princess into a warrior who trains to overthrow the evil queen with a strapping young prince to mentor her. That’s more like it.