Okay. So I saw this video on Facebook. And of course, instead of just moving on, I got all worked up about it.
It’s a parody of “Cinderella.” They tell a two-minute story called “Cinderfella,” in which an innocent orphan (boy) is abused by his stepfather and ugly stepbrothers, is granted a new suit and a pair of glass loafers by his fairy godfather, and wins the heart of the fair princess by means of his rare shoe size. It’s absurd, and adequately points out how absurd the original Cinderella story is.
And up to this point, I think it’s fine. It’s actually rather clever. But then it goes on a feminist rant about how we share stupid stories with our girls, about girls doing stupid things that don’t matter, and how we would never read a story like that to our boys. Of course we wouldn’t. We don’t want them to grow up stupid.
But, of course, since we do read stupid stories to our daughters, that means that we expect them to be stupid. It’s sexist. Fairy tales are sexist, the video argues, and our girls deserve better.
First, let’s talk about the idea that we don’t read stupid stories to our boys. Have you ever read a “Caillou” book? If you have, I rest my case.
If you haven’t, count your lucky stars.
I’ll go back to the Cinderella logic. It’ll make the argument more cohesive, anyway. Cinderella is a classic fairy tale, found in the Grimms’ Fairy Tales collection. Now, the brothers Grimm weren’t out to create any great literature. They didn’t write the stories. They collected them—and not even for literary reasons. They just wanted to know how far German culture extended, and asking old grandmothers to tell stories was the easiest way to tell how far the same stories had spread.
I digress. The point is, Cinderella is a Grimm story. And so is “Hans in Luck,” “Hans Married,” “Strong Hans,” “Foolish Hans,” and “Hans Files His Income Taxes With a Late Exception Because He Was Singing Down a Well and Forgot When the Due Date Was.” Hans, as a character, is apparently a German legend. And he was so stupid, bland, and irrelevant to the story that he didn’t even get an interesting name. I mean, at least “Cinderella” is distinguishable from the next-door neighbor.
So no, we don’t just tell stupid stories to our daughters. We tell stupid stories to all of our children, gender aside. And why do we do that?
Ask a child to tell you a story sometime. If they’re old enough to make one up, it’s probably going to be stupid. They’re kids. Their concerns are equally spread around being lost, left behind, unloved, and losing jelly beans. And they’ll probably include all those things in a poorly-constructed fairy tale about a turtle named Bob. (Or Hans, perhaps.)
Now sit down and write your own story. Was it brilliant? Probably not. Was it adequate? … Probably for bedtime. Maybe. These stories were told, spur-of-the-moment, by the fire, usually by an elderly woman trying to entertain small children with short attention spans. No wonder they include shiny objects (like glass slippers,) magical beings, and gaping plot holes.
If you want higher entertainment for your kids, I don’t blame you. But stop complaining about old German folklore, and go write something better. ♦