Monday, January 16, 2006

Fairy Tale Phobia

Now that I am a father, who is regularly called upon to read stories to his daughter, I have developed a very healthy dislike for fairy tales. I am okay with bears that talk and discuss the matters of the day, such as how the porridge is so much hotter nowadays than when they were little bear cubs, thinking nary a thought but those of porridge at just the right temperature, not cold and congealed, not so hot that it would burn the roofs of their mouths, just right. I can imitate barnyard animals till the cows come home -- mooing and snorting and clucking come to me like fluorescent lamps to the energy conscious. Zoo animals -- oh yeah, bring those on.

But fairy tales I hate. I can't stand the message I'm sending to my kid. Everytime I read 'Sleeping Beauty' I think of how vacuous and shallow the whole thing is. The fairies give her gifts of beauty and a singsong voice and, presumably, more gifts of a similar nature (maybe an hourglass figure, two well-defined eyebrows, and the like). No one gives her gifts of intelligence, the ability to do math, solve quantum mechanical problems, solve analytical mechanics problems, to see beauty in biology, the ability to tell fact from fiction, science from religion, not to mention the ability to kick the freaking prince who will later come up and kiss her without so much as a how-do-you-do.

If my daughter is to marry a prince, or an heir to a vast fortune, so be it, but I hope she will at least google the guy, pay some agency to do a background check on him, and spend enough time with him to figure out if it's really worth the trouble.

All the stories about evil stepmothers? How about some stories about kind stepmothers? Let's balance things a little, shall we? My daughter might have to be a stepmother some day -- I don't want her to feel like a failure if she doesn't have a hooked nose with a wart on the end, a cackly laugh, and a propensity to do evil. So I just avoid those. Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel, and Snow White will have to wait. Other stories I find myself changing on the fly.

Fauna, Flora, and Merriweather give gifts of being good at math, feeling relaxed during examinations, and an independent streak, but not one that leads Sleeping Beauty (how about calling her Aurora, her given name, for chrissakes) to do drugs or tobacco. Aurora gets into an accident on her way home from the art academy (she was straying from the path of science). Because she wasn't wearing a seatbelt, she goes into a coma, but a very intelligent surgeon saves her, and when she finally wakes up, he mentors her and she becomes a neurosurgeon herself. Then they get married and have kids, because let's face it, I want to make sure that message is conveyed so that my genes should get passed on -- that's my evolutionary right.

The miller who had a beautiful daughter who couldn't really spin straw into gold? How come the king gets to decide if he wants to marry her -- doesn't the girl get any sat? There are many versions of that one. The simples? It was a foolish miller, who's daughter packed an AK-47, and when the evil ruler tried to make her do stuff she didn't want to, RATATATATATATATATAT. That story ends rather fast. Then there's the one where she does the spinning of straw, but turns him down and goes to law school and proves that the monarchy is not right and introduces democracy to the country and becomes the first president (She shoots Rumpelstiltskin when he tries to kidnap her first-born kid).

The three little pigs -- actually, I like that one. But after having read it out loud a few hundred times, complete with the song about the big bad wolf, you want to end it sooner, so sometimes the wolf wins and has ham sandwiches for breakfast the next few months.

You get the picture.

I also hate tabloids and celebrity news magazines. I hate Aishwarya Rai, Lindsay Lohan, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Britney Spears. I want someone to publish a magazine with, say, glamor shots of Madame Curie's experimental apparatus (maybe Madame Curie also, but in opaque, sensible clothing). But that's another rant.

Speck 42

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