February 27, 2013 § 6 Comments
It’s a real shame that neither of Hollywood’s big-budget Snow White adaptations could boast Catherynne M. Valente on their writing staff.
Too often, in the ouvre of fairy tale adaptations, we’re told that we’re going to see something new—the tale like it’s never been told!—and what we end up with instead is the same shlock, with better CGI. The art of the creative, thoughtful, and powerful fairy tale retelling is a quiet one that thrives less in Hollywood studios than it does in literary magazines, YA publishing houses, and small presses like Subterranean. If you, like me, gagged on your popcorn when Mirror, Mirror’s Snow White was told by the prince that she tastes “like strawberries,” then get thee to Subterranean Press’s site, and don’t balk at the $40 price tag of Valente’s limited edition of Six-Gun Snow White, because in its pages you’ll find all the beauty and sorrow that got left on the cutting room floor of last year’s feature films. Infused with Native American trickster tales and Spaghetti Western dudes, this retelling is less of a stretch than you might think—in fact, it’s an adaptation that transcends its patchworked nature, strips the archetypal characters to their raw human bones, and reveals the true beating heart of the fairy tale.
In Six-Gun Snow White, Snow White is the cruel nickname given to the daughter of a silver baron and his first wife by his second, the proverbial stepmother. Snow White’s tragic mother was a Crow Indian woman who was forced into marriage with Mr. H, and who, after a failed suicide attempt, dies giving birth to the half-breed Snow White. Snow is kept a secret from Mr. H’s second wife, a pale and beautiful white woman who, once she finally meets Snow, makes it her terrible mission to teach Snow about beauty, womanliness, and whiteness. Snow White’s brown skin is the marker that makes her different from her stepmother, and it becomes her curse when she takes off from home in her father’s clothes with her pistol, Rose Red, by her side. « Read the rest of this entry »
June 20, 2012 § 12 Comments
Below is a freelance article I wrote after the release of Snow White and the Huntsman. Though it didn’t get picked up for publication this round (among other reasons, the fact that I misspelled the name of the magazine’s editor in the email wasn’t a winning move), I’m pretty proud of it, and want to share it with you–it’s not just a review of the film, but a comparison between the two Snow White films that came out this spring, and a call for more empowered and honest depictions of women in fairy tale films. Too tall an order? We’ll see…
So it’s pretty clear that 2012 is the year of the pure white virgin with gumption. Snow White and the Huntsman won the box office its first weekend over such nostalgic temptations as Men in Black III and Battleship—to really hook an audience, you have to go farther back than their middle school years. Way back. Two hundred years back, even. Many of you readers may be aware already that this year marks the bicentennial anniversary of the Grimm brothers’ Nursery and Household Tales. It seems that big-budget studios are helping audiences celebrate with last fall’s fairy tale themed shows Once Upon a Time and Grimm and films such as the upcoming Jack the Giant-Killer and Maleficent (a new take on Disney’s Sleeping Beauty).
The fairest tale of them all, however, is the one getting the most Hollywood attention: the Grimms’ “Snow White,” the inspiration for not one, but two feature films this year. The afore mentioned Snow White and the Huntsman, now in theaters, is a medieval fantasy epic starring Kristen Stewart as Snow and Charlize Theron as her black-hearted stepmother, Queen Ravenna. A darkly hued, adventure-heavy take on the fairy tale, Snow White and the Huntsman is interesting enough to warrant positive reviews on its own, but in comparison to this year’s earlier offering, Relativity Media’s Mirror, Mirror, is even more deserving of a closer look. The light-hearted Mirror, Mirror starred Lily Collins as Snow and Julia Roberts as her vain, tittering stepmother. Both films attempt—with varying degrees of sincerity, I might add—to endow lovely Snow with a little more bite as a feminine role model. But here’s the trouble: when fiddling with stories that have been told and retold for over two hundred years, it takes more than a princess with a sword to tell a tale that truly speaks to women.
November 29, 2011 § 15 Comments
Before I begin with Breillat and Campion’s sexy new Sleeping Beauties (trailers below), Mr. Jack Zipes and how he sees into the insides of my brain, and the vast sweeping problem of internet trolls, let me admit fully: I can see what this blog has become. If I could tell wee little Cate of October to give her blog a name that more obviously advertised her overwhelming obsession with fairy tale retellings and her desire to sink her ineffectual teeth into the hides of those who would desecrate the names of Grimm, Andersen, and Pushkin, I would. But you can’t live in the past, dear readers, and that’s a fact. Oh, how long ago October seems, and already this blog has found a pretty clear focus.
Stick with me, readers. I’ve found a niche.
That said, let me give you a piece of worldly advice: never read comments on articles you like. You’ll want to. You’ll read an article that speaks to you, or just generally amuses you in a pleasant way, and you’ll see the “30 comments” button winking at you.
My goodness, you’ll say. How delightful! 30 people who surely feel the same exact way I do about what I just read and who couldn’t possibly have anything negative to say about it! Let’s meet them!
Don’t meet them. You’ll hate them. In all likelihood, if given the chance, they’ll hate you too.
We all know that there are, out there, your obvious “u suk!” internet trolls out there (and fellow blogger Amy at Lucy’s Football has a hilarious tutorial on how to be an effective one here), but possibly even worse–or just more irritating–are the ones who really want to show everyone how effing smart they are. Like, SMARTER THAN A COLUMBIA PHD smart. Smarter than SOMEONE WHO’S BEEN STUDYING THIS SHIT SINCE BEFORE YOU WERE BORN smart.
Case in point: this article, from August, on Salon.com, interviewing fairy tale expert Jack Zipes on the subject of the myriad of fairy tale film adaptations this coming year.
I know that Jack Zipes doesn’t know who I am and certainly doesn’t need me to defend him from the masses at Salon.com. So I hardly need to mention, to you readers or to the complete moron who sarcastically jabs at the interviewer calling Zipes an expert, this little achievement:
No biggie. Just the translation that’s most relied on, in any edition, by scholars and critics. WHATEVS. He’s “clearly not a film critic”? NOPE. NOPE, HE’S NOT. He’s a friggin professor emeritus who’s published nine books and so many articles and essays that his bibliography is ten pages long on the subject of children’s literature and fairy tales. LET’S BE SNIDE, SHALL WE?
Jerkoffs. « Read the rest of this entry »
November 21, 2011 § 4 Comments
There are times when—in the film industry, the world of community and high school theater, mass market paperback production—I wish I could convince a bunch of people in the same gig to get together, just once, and discuss their season’s offerings so no one steps on someone else’s toes. There are only so many times one can see Zombie Prom in a fifty mile radius. So it is with this year’s apparent obsession with Snow White, one of our culture’s most recognizable and beloved fairy tales. New spins! That’s what the people want, and there’s clearly no problem with putting several new spins on the same tale out into the world at once.
It could be, though, as Obama would say, a teachable moment, one for the world of casual fairy tale lovers, in which they don’t have to accept that Disney’s is the only version for them. This is what will separate the men from the boys, the pretty pretty princesses from the Grimm enthusiasts, for now we are faced with—ta da—a choice. A smorgasbord of Snow Whites, all set out at once.
That’s not to say that any of our current three examples—ABC’s Once Upon a Time (which has about as much to do with the fairy tale of “Snow White” as my cat does with the Oxford English Dictionary), Universal Pictures’ Snow White and the Huntsman, and Studio Canal’s Mirror Mirror, directed by Tarsem Singh of The Fall and The Cell fame—are destined to satisfy anyone of either camp (least of all the snot-nosed academics like myself), but we do at least get to know who likes colorful costumes and dumb jokes and who likes mirrors MELTING OFF OF FREAKING WALLS AND TURNING INTO CREEPTASTIC PROPHETS.
In case you were in any doubt, I am in camp two.
But as neither of the two films have come out yet, and you’ve already heard my rant about Once Upon a Time, let’s pause, and take a moment to prepare ourselves, by recalling what “Snow White,” according to the folks who aren’t Disney, is really about. « Read the rest of this entry »