Fairy Tale Films: Post-Modern Perspectives

There were many examples that came to mind when thinking about post-modernism that we might be in now and how relationships between then and now shape the characteristics of that particular work. The main thing I kept thinking about were Fairy Tales on Film. We have probably seen numerous spin-offs of the various Disney princesses, from Cinderella, to Snow White, to Beauty and the Beast, etc.

First, let me justify why these films (both then and now) are imperative for study. As a young girl growing up, and I’m sure most people would agree, these princesses set the stage for the fairy tale stories that filled our heads, both in books and on tape. Disney was the monopolizing company in what was put into the mind of young girls as far as film is concerned. The messages behind the films especially are what we recognized as the mainstream movie media. As for the boys, I’m sure you all know the stories and watched some of the movies, but maybe you didn’t (or maybe you did) take the stories to heart. It’s the impressionism that took upon young kids when watching these movies that’s important. What messages were represented, and how? How are the messages compared to post-modern films that relay a similar storyline?

Hassan states, “I believe it is a revenant, the return of the irrepressible; every time we are rid of it, its ghost rises back. And like a ghost, it eludes definition…I mean postmodernism to refer to the cultural sphere, especially literature, philosophy, and the various arts, including architecture…” I feel as though these films based upon fairy tales can’t be squashed. It’s something that keeps coming back every few years. Whether it’s with one of the Disney Princesses, a film more focused on an evil character in one of these tales, or developing a plot twist, it all relates back to the original storyline, gaining much of it’s plot from original sources many years ago. Two examples in which I feel embody post-modern attitude is the film, “Mirror Mirror,” a spin off of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, and “A Cinderella Story,” a spin off of Cinderella. In essence they are a similar performances of the originals, but with modern touches.

Along with Hassan’s theory that post-modernism is a return of the irrepressible, Jameson mentions a specific idea in his theories called Pastiche. He believes post-modernism is a new type of social life and economic order, and pastiche is the theory that all there’s left to imitate are dead styles in the imaginary museum. What I interpret this as, relates to Hassan’s idea that the ghost rises back – just like the plots of these films. He also mentions nostalgia film, which also ties into the fact that many post-modernist film-works are built upon nostalgia, which applies in this case.

Mirror Mirror takes upon new ideas within the film but sticks to the basic story line (after the death of Snow White’s father, she is forced to live with her evil step mother, who tells her to run for her life through the woods in order to escape death because Snow White was becoming too pretty – magic mirror and huntsman included). Mirror Mirror embodies more of a modern approach with it’s humor and woman empowerment. Snow White is more of her own hero, and even saves the prince from being under a spell, not vice versa like in the original film. Furthermore, animation, costume design, real people, and underlying messages are all different (and quite new) compared to the 1937 film. It’s a hybridized and mixed attempt at a new film accentuating different messages and using modern technology while keeping the plot and design in tact. Furthermore, the music is modern but captures a sound of long ago, almost medieval.

A Cinderella Story is also a film that represents the general plot of Cinderella, but incorporates hybrid and more modern techniques(i.e. the setting is a high school instead of just a home, and the “ball” is homecoming, etc.). It is put in a more modern light in order for young girls to understand the story in a way that could be represented in the present time. Similar to Mirror Mirror, the plot is derived from the past, yet the ideas within the film and the “art” used (music, setting, time, costumes, humor) are all post-modern. Furthermore, just like Mirror Mirror, there are messages within the film that represent more technological realizations as well as the promotion of feminism. Just like the times, the bold messages are changing. Socio-economic and historical representations of gender, class, and race are all in a post-modern shift.

Bourriaud’s work mentions that, “By refilming a movie shot by shot, we represent something other than what was dealt with in the original work. We show the time that has passed, but above all we manifest a capacity to evolve among signs to inhabit them.” This is the perfect depiction of what has happened among fairy tale stories today in the post-modernist era. Prior and contemporary relationships are hybridized and mixed in order to get an outcome that will appeal to audiences today, especially in film. It’s all about the entertainment, yet the ideas are solidly rooted in the eras previous to it.

In essence, between Hassan, Jameson, and Bourriad, I have interpreted that art and film of fairy tales is something nostalgic from the past that we choose to represent in a different light to appeal to modern audiences. Today and in the future, this will include technological advancements within the making of the film, as well as representations within it (i.e. social media in “A Cinderella Story”), as well as post-modernist views of society (race, gender, class, etc.). This hybridization of messages and work full-heartedly represents post-modernism.

“Since the early nineties, an ever increasing number of artworks have been created on the basis of preexisting works; more and more artists interpret, reproduce, re-exhibit, or use works made by others or available cultural products. This art of postproduction seems to respond to the proliferating chaos of global culture in the information age, which is characterized by an increase in the supply of works and the art world’s annexation of forms ignored or disdained until now. what is clear is that today certain elements and principles are reemerging as themes and are suddenly at the forefront, to the point of constituting the “engine” of new artistic practices” (Bourriaud).


Works Cited

Bacchilega, Christina. “Postmodern Fairy Tales: Gender and Narrative Strategies.”Google Books. N.p., 1997. Web. 27 Jan. 2014. <http://books.google.com/books?id=RwAbsnP8F5sC&pg=PA142&lpg=PA142&dq=a+cinderella+story+postmodernism&source=bl&ots=XwYgl3kYYt&sig=Gcs_5pNR90VSSpMQJldOSy4Yv0M&hl=en&sa=X&ei=6u7mUtSmEKe72wW0yYHQDQ&ved=0CCMQ6AEwADgK#v=onepage&q=a%20cinderella%20story%20postmodernism&f=false>.

“Hayley’s Horror Reviews.” Hayleys Horror Reviews. N.p., 2012. Web. 27 Jan. 2014. <http://mshayleyr1989.wordpress.com/2012/07/08/the-post-modern-fairytale-of-them-all-a-review-of-mirror-mirror-2012/>.

Ihab Hassan, “Postmodernism to Postmodernity?” and “Toward a Concept of Postmodernism” (excerpt from his book, The Postmodern Turn [1987])

Jameson, “Postmodernism and Consumer Society.” From E. Ann Kaplan, ed. Postmodernism and its Discontents (London and New York: Verso, 1988): 13-29. His first statement of the argument that appears in his Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism.

Nicholas Bourriaud: An art historian and museum curator’s interpretation of “post-postmodern” art. Remix Culture as Altermodern (his exhibition at the Tate Britain, London): Bourriaud, “Altermodern Explained: A Manifesto” and Video Interview.

Nicholas Bourriaud, Postproduction (2002). (excerpts, read Introduction and last chapter, “Use of the World.”).