Monday, March 7, 2011

'Red Riding Hood': From Fairy Tale to Scary Tale

The Little Red Riding Hood of our collective imaginations is usually carrying a basket, but what she's really got is baggage — the kind of socio-sexual-psychological baggage that has kept certain fairy tales and myths alive from one end of the media forest (oral tradition) to the other (iPads).

As a movie star, Red hasn't had quite the career of Cinderella, say, or Snow White or Sleeping Beauty, even though her story possesses the same, sometimes amorphous elements that speak to our primal fears. In fact, her tale has a little something for everyone: Innocence. Courage. Violence. Seduction. And, of course, cross-dressing.

"Yes, but what she doesn't have is a Prince Charming," said David Leslie Johnson, screenwriter of the new and rather adult "Red Riding Hood," which opens Friday. "She doesn't have a match, and I think it's the reason Disney never tackled this one. It has some sort of dangerous undertones to it."

What Hardwicke's version of "Red Riding Hood" also does, in addition to injecting adolescent sexuality into a fairy tale, is reposition the female heroine in the archetypal story. Johnson recently wrote the screenplay for next year's "Clash of the Titans" sequel ("Wrath of the Titans") and said the contrast between the male-centric Greek myth and female fairy tales was one of the more curious aspects in the evolution of these classic narratives. In his research, Johnson found versions of "Hood" in which the girl wasn't saved by a woodcutter, but escaped by her own wits; in another, the women of the village rescued Red Riding Hood by spreading their washing across a stream and letting her flee across. It was interesting, he said, to go back and see how the women were, often, just as heroic as the men.

"We're all familiar with the male-driven myths of ancient Greeks," he said, "and how they're built up as these big heroes in our minds. For some reason, the female-driven tales have been relegated to the world of children's stories.

"Men were essentially the ones writing them down," he said with a laugh, "and telling us what was important."

Check out the entire article here.

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