In the midst of the #MeToo era, A Touch of Gold author Annie Sullivan got to thinking: How do fairy tales function and adapt in the modern world?
We all grew up reading, watching, and listening to fairy tales, but they all take on different meanings in the wake of the #MeToo movement.
Originally, Fairy tales were created to teach lessons and impart some important piece of knowledge about the world. While the majority of them are outdated by today’s standards, the great part about them is that they can change with the times.
In this guest post, author Annie Sullivan discusses how fairy tales perpetuate problematic beliefs but how we can change our perception of them and change their messages for the better.
Fairy tales and the #MeToo movement by Annie Sullivan
Little Red Riding Hood would have been fine if she’d stayed on the path. Snow White would never have become a target of the Queen’s envy if she hadn’t been so pretty. Aurora never would’ve pricked her finger if she’d listened to the good fairies and not talked to strangers.
These are some of the messages in the stories little girls are still growing up reading and hearing. They’re cleverly disguised behind a veneer of magic and palaces and princesses finding princes. But they’re outdated in a world where the #MeToo movement is sweeping the nation.
More and more women are having their stories heard and are fighting back against harassment and assault as part of this movement. And today’s young girls shouldn’t be left behind. They should not be forced to stay on the path to be safe from harassment or have to worry about everyone they meet outside their homes having malicious intentions.
These old fairy tales perpetuate problematic beliefs, like victim blaming, that we still haven’t gotten rid of today. Was Little Red Riding Hood “asking for it” because she shouldn’t have been out alone? Was Snow White to blame because she should’ve made herself less physically attractive if she didn’t want all that attention? Could Aurora have prevented pricking her finger if she’d just stayed home like a good girl?
Long gone should be the days of blaming victims for “asking for it” because of what clothes they’re wearing, how much makeup they put on, or how they shouldn’t have been out at that place/time/insert some other excuse here. All these excuses do is detract from the real problems here—the villains. We need to change the narrative. It’s not Little Red Riding Hood’s fault she got attacked for going into the woods. It’s the wolf’s.
While I wish we lived in world where wolves didn’t exist, they’re still here—and they will be until our culture shifts. And until that happens, one thing we can do is make sure girls are equipped to go into the woods—not as little girls dressed in flimsy red cloaks, but as women emboldened in armor so they’re ready to face the wolves of the world.
Creating those strong women starts with the stories we tell them.
Disney has had more modern princesses in some of their more recent movies. Both Moana and Brave have main characters who step outside the norm, of what’s expected of them, and into the “woods.” Granted, the woods can be scary. But these strong young women find their true paths in life despite the obstacles.
When I was writing my own young adult novel, A Touch of Gold, about the cursed daughter of King Midas, I wanted to create another new fairy tale princess that today’s young women can relate to and learn from.
Princess Kora, the daughter of King Midas, was turned to gold as a child by her father. Now that she’s a teenager and been turned back into a living, breathing cursed human being, she has some lasting side effects—like having golden skin and the ability to sense the other objects her father turned to gold. Kora lives her life behind veils and gloves because people are afraid of her and her skin, but when the King’s gold gets stolen, Kora throws off her Little Red Riding Hood-esque cloak and emerges out into the world. She’s naive and unsure of herself, but over the course of the novel, she realizes she’s the only one who can save her kingdom—and she doesn’t need a prince to save her. In fact, she and her cousin, Hettie, do a lot of the saving on their own. They face pirates, betrayers, thieves, and other obstacles on their quest, but they don’t let anything stop them.
The female characters in A Touch of Gold don’t start out with Katniss Everdeen (the main character in The Hunger Games) levels of confidence and skill, but they learn it along the way. They show girls that they can protect themselves, stand up to others, and be leaders. They’re a prime example of how stepping off the path and facing the wolves can lead to finding not only themselves, but the path they should’ve been on all along.
And those are the messages that little girls need today. Because if they don’t step off the path, we may never have a female president or an innovative female founder of a company like Apple or Microsoft or the first woman to set foot on Mars. Young women can blaze these new trails; we just have to show them they can step off the path.
Annie Sullivan is the author of the new YA novel, ‘A Touch of Gold,’ which is now available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or your local independent bookstore on August 14, 2018. Also, don’t forget to add it to your Goodreads “to read” list!