Fairy Tales Re-imagined: part two

March 18, 2011 at 1:25 pm (Conferences) (, , , , , )

Fairy Tales Re-imagined was a two day symposium (10-11 March 2011) exploring the evolution, and contemporary relevance of, fairy tales. You can read part one of Fairy Tales Re-imagined here.


Warning: contains adult themes and language.

Old Tales, New Platforms: the creation of Re-enchantment

(Chair: Prof Norie Neumark)
Sue Maslin (Producer, Re-enchantment), Sarah Gibson (Writer/Director, Re-enchantment), Rose Draper (Designer, Re-enchantment)

  • Professor Norie Neumark introduces today’s Re-enchantment panel by talking about the project.
    Says the term “multi-platform” is too cold for this work that involves and allows new forms, knowledge, and experiences.
  • Today’s Re-enchantment short being screened is ‘Fairy Tale Sex’. (Available at the Re-enchantment website + ABC’s iView.)
  • A lot of today’s Re-enchantment information is the same as yesterday. Currently exploring the Hansel & Gretel section of the site.
  • Fun fact: it’s believed that German gingerbread houses were inspired by Hansel & Gretel, not the other way around (- Gibson).
  • Gibson’s encouraging people to contribute to the user gallery on the Re-enchantment site. Anyone have some fairy tales artwork they’d like to share?
  • Rose Draper (Re-enchantment digital animator) talks about linear vs non-linear storytelling processes.
    In non-linear you have no control over how content is accessed and experienced. Both Gibson & Draper are from linear backgrounds.
  • Draper showing the different design stills from the development of Cinderella’s Wheel of Fortune (on the site).
  • Great images of different ways they communicated site design. Picture attached so you don’t feel too left out.
  • Gibson: non-linear positives: layering, potential to work poetically; interactivity.
    Disliked: things “disappearing into the bowels of IT”; every image being an accession number.
    As Maslin elaborates – the IT requirements turn ‘an intuitive process into a logical process’.
  • Maslin outlines challenges of producing an innovative project like Re-enchantment eg no established business model, rapid technological change.
    When #Reenchantment started, flash was big news. #changingtimes
  • Maslin encourages anyone looking to do a transmedia project to talk to universities, rather than traditional funding channels.
  • Q&A! Q: Any similar projects in the world that you could draw inspiration from, or share knowledge with?
  • A: No, tried what we wanted until we were told we couldn’t. (- Gibson)
    Pan’s Labyrinth website was inspiring in its world creation. (- Maslin)
  • I have to say, the second half of that panel was exactly the sort of information I was wanting to get from this symposium.


Working Creatively with Fairy Tales

(Chair: Dr Esther Milne)
Joy Norton: The Curse of The Witch

  • Their darkness fascinates and scares. Assign to Witch the attributes of the “other”.
  • The association of witches with herbal law and healing has been lost over time.
  • In Hansel & Gretel facing their fear of the witch facilitates their emotional growth, learning responsibility.
  • Sleeping Beauty: life can keep us unconscious and asleep when we ignore our darker aspects (witch).
    Something new at the right moment brings life in.
  • Rapunzel: if we’re not careful, our hungers and desires can make us abandon our commitments.
  • Norton encourages us to meet our witch, accept what she has to offer, and start a unique journey into a new and wonderful life.

Adam Hunt: Advertising People are Cultural Thieves

  • Adam Hunt is providing an entertaining vitriol about the sad state of the advertising industry.
  • All purchasing is emotional, not rational. “How else do you explain high heeled shoes?”
  • Successful advertising makes you smile, presents an idea. (“If they feel good, they might just buy your product.”)
  • Fairy tales give advertisers an easy way to present an idea – hook into cultural subconscious.
  • Great example of advertising (& cultural thievery):

Raid advertisement

Dr Meredith Jones and Suzanne Boccalatte: Hairy Pictures and Narratives

  • Jones & Boccalatte are talking about their book Hair.
  • Boccalatte’s interest in hair stems from her journey from hairy half-Italian to laser treatment. Has offered to show us her (hairy) legs later.
  • Exploration of hair as appealing and appalling. “Hair is chaos” – impossible to control. (- Boccalatte)
  • Rapunzel : hair as desireable, magical, shared experience. Cutting of hair=separation from mother &/or castration.
  • Historically: heads shaved as punishment eg for adultery. French women who’d slept with Nazis: hair publicly shaved, and were tarred, packed onto trucks & paraded through the streets.

  • Gender duality of hair associations/expectations. Cosmetic hair removal treatments. Pictures of merkins!
  • Beauty and the Beast, Bluebeard – lure of the hairy beast. Desire.
  • Hair as a keepsake, hair is memory, hair as life, hair as death.
  • Trunkbook.com – submissions (art & stories) open for the next book, on the theme ‘blood’. NB: Will only publish 1 menstrual & 1 vampire submission.

Audience Q&A

  • Q: Why do witches have pointy hats
    A: (by an audience member) Comes from traditional Welsh dress.
  • Q: What about changes to hair during menopause?
    A: Hair as journey: puberty and menopause, phases represented by hair. (- Jones)
  • Lots of questions for Adam Hunt to elaborate on how his anti shape discrimination ad got banned & cost him his job.
    Ad was done as part of the Gruen Transfer. Hunt placed shape discrimination on the same level as racial & sexual discrimination… A. Denton & W. Anderson loved it, but it breached the ABC’s policies & scared advertising clients of Hunt’s employer.
  • Audience keen to discuss the role of hair in Tangled and The Ring.
  • Someone who presumably wasn’t here yesterday has asked if new fairy tales can be created.
    A: World is full of modern fairy tales. “Like Charlie Sheen.” (- Hunt)
    True Grit as modern Red Riding Hood. (- Boccalatte)
    Old becomes new in the retelling. (- Norton)


The Forbidden Room: From Bluebeard to CSI

(Chair: Thomas Caldwell)

  • @cinemaautopsy opens the final panel, The Forbidden Room, with a summation of the tale Bluebeard in his excellent radio voice.

Dr Rebecca-Anne Do Rozario: The Bloody Business of Fairy Tales

  • Dr Rozario wins bonus points for quoting Tolkien in her definition of fairy tales.
  • There are many different ways blood appears in fairytales: on Cinderella’s shoe, congealed on the floor, in a bathtub…
  • Rozario describes the evolution of the Bluebeard tale, with full synopses of different versions.
  • Different appearances of wishing for a white, pale woman with blood-red lips in tales eg Snow White
    In one: a man, having cut his finger, wishes for a woman who looks like his now blood-stained ricotta (only, y’know, more poetically).
  • Rozario outlines modern “Bluebeard” tales eg episodes of Buffy; Dexter; The Mentalist.

Pref Cathy Cole: Bluebeard’s Room – the lure of crime fiction

  • Bluebeard: empowerment through the need to know, solving the mystery, overcoming dangerous situation.
  • Tension created by clue placement. Anticipation of reference in every description, object, line of dialogue.
  • Suspicion as a survival skill.
  • Desire resistence… test of reader’s stamina & morality. To enter the forbidden room or not?
  • Would some of Bluebeard’s wives have been complicent or accomplices in his habits? Contemporary narratives say yes.
  • Bluebeard is an interesting character – charismatic, generous, sexual, foreign. Easy to hate him when he is different?
  • Growth of fear in culture, instilled from young age eg don’t accept candy from strangers, don’t go down dark alleys…
    …allure of crime fiction is ability to lift the lid on this fear, explore it from a safe vantage point.
  • Tropes of Bluebeard eg.need to marry wisely, choose well.
    Can’t help but be reminded of @margolanagan‘s Singing My Sister Down.
  • Cole presents Wikileaks/Assange as modern mystery – Bluebeard or Wife archetype?

Dr Terrie Waddell: The Forbidden Room in Cinema Narratives.

  • Waddell’s favourite fairytale: 12 Dancing Princesses (Brothers Grimm) -> exploration of this sense of entitlement to intrude on female space.
  • Importance for a woman to have a room of her own eg Wide Sargasso Sea, Tomb Raider, The Exorcist, The Hours, Pan’s Labyrinth.
  • Forbidden room as womb: place of safety, place of change. Violation of it= horror eg Rosemary’s Baby
  • “shadow projections of ego discomfort” – Waddell <- perfect description of Prof Cole’s earlier Witch/curse conversation.
  • Waddell’s exploring the archetypes in Repulsion– elements of Persephone, Artemis, Medusa.
  • Forbidden room as a liminal compass to the self – time must be taken to feel each character and narrative strand.
  • Waddell finishes with a J.M. Barrie quote: “Everytime a child says ‘I don’t believe in fairies,’ there’s a a little fairy somewhere that falls down dead.” ❤

Audience Q&A

  • First panel where chair has engaged speakers in discussion-@cinemaautopsy raises Bluebeard/Adam&Eve parrallels; & torture-porn (eg Saw) as spectacle.
  • Great audience questions & discussion in this session… the portrayal of female serial killers (eg Monster, I Spit On Your Grave)
    …if crime writers have an ethical responsibility to portray violence realistically…
  • And that’s it! I’ll be attending the ‘In Conversation with Jeff Lindsay’, but probably won’t have the battery power to tweet it.

Gustav Doré: Bluebeard

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Fairy Tales Re-imagined: part one

March 17, 2011 at 5:47 pm (Conferences) (, , , )

Fairy Tales Re-imagined: from Werewolf to Forbidden Room was a two day symposium (10-11 March 2011) exploring the evolution, and contemporary relevance of, fairy tales. Presented by Film Art Media, Inside Out Productions, and ACMI, a significant amount of time was devoted to Re-enchantment, something I have been tweeting about quite a bit in the last few weeks. Re-enchantment is a rather exciting new project that embodies transmedia – that is, it adapts content (pertaining to fairy tales) for communication across multiple platforms – including an interactive website, a series of interstitial animated documentaries (airing on ABC TV), and audio recordings of fairy tales (airing on ABC Radio National, as part of their Sunday Story program).

Sadly, the symposium did not seem to be well advertised (I discovered it whilst trawling ACMI’s online calendar of events), and a few people expressed disappointment about this. While I don’t currently have the time to produce a glorious, in-depth write-up of the whole shebang, I did keep up a fairly comprehensive live-tweet feed, replicated here in a tidier, more logical fashion. (With interesting links! And pretty pictures!) I know it’s still not the same as being there in person, but as an attendee I am very happy to answer any questions and engage in discussion about anything I’ve tweeted.

Warning: contains adult themes and language.

Welcome and Introduction

  • Tony Sweeney (Director & CEO, ACMI) is thrilled to be able to use the word ‘zeitgeist’ in the opening speech.


Re-enchantment – the hidden world of fairy tales for adults

Sue Maslin (Producer, Re-enchantment), Sarah Gibson (Writer/Director, Re-enchantment)

  • Sue Maslin pimps Re-enchantment. Grew from personal interest into this immersive journey into the hidden meaning of fairy tales.
  • Re-enchantment targeted at 15years+; everyone who’s grown up with fairy tales & maybe wondered why they span time & cultures.
  • Colourful, playful surface, but depth of content that allows hours & hours of online exploration & education.
  • Emphasis on engagement and discussion, showcasing multiplicity of fairy tale interpretations.
  • Screening of Re-enchantment short on forests… ‘they remind us of times we are emotionally overwhelmed by fears and anxieties’. Is technology a barrier to experiencing traditional fairy tale emotions and situations eg getting lost?
  • Erotic subtexts to Red Riding Hood… a visual showcase.
  • Re-enchantment has gateways to 6 story spaces – Bluebeard, Cinderella, Hansel & Gretel, Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, & Snow White.
  • While Re-enchantment doesn’t retell these stories there is a book in each space that contains different versions of the tale.
  • Can I just say I love the animated artworks in Re-enchantment
  • Exploring the Bluebeard section of Re-enchantment – the different interpretations. (Let’s look at the Misogyny Room!)
  • Death as entertainment – do we use fairy tales to anaesthetise ourselves? #Bluebeard
  • Beauty and the Beast missed out on its own space in Re-enchantment, but gets a mention in the short Beastly Husbands.
  • FYI All ten shorts, as well as being on iView, are on the Re-enchantment site.
  • Great audience question on disability access to Re-enchantment site.
    A: All audio commentary is available in text form. ABC will close-caption the shorts that they air.
  • Maslin announces they’re in discussion with two publishers about a picture book for adults around these themes.
  • ABC in progress of creating apps of the 3min shorts.


Woman and Wolf – the inspiration of Red Riding Hood

(Chair: Dr Terrie Waddell)
Dr Kimberley Pearce: Girl Meets Beast: the Power of the Pelt

  • In Charles Perrault’s Red Riding Hood tale (1867), RRH was devoured by the wolf (in her grandmother’s bed).
  • Modern retellings of Red Riding Hood integrate girl & beast – psychologically empowering, & evoking themes of vagina dentata.
  • Pearce explores films Teeth and Hard Candy, & novel Inhuman as modern, sexual, violent Red Riding Hoods. ‘The Power of the Pelt’.

Jazmina Cininas: The Girlie Werewolf

  • Men were the most famous werewolves but many women were burnt at the stake due to their ecclesiastically-recognised weakness to the devil.
  • Superstition persists in modern times eg Lindy Chamberlain

Jazmina Cininas: A two-legged dingo stole Lindy’s tears

  • “If she has many hairs she is a monster” – the werewolf myth in modern beauty ideals.
  • Fun fact – tomatoes are linked to werewolfism. Originally known in Europe as the “wolf peach” – an aphrodesiac and hallucinogenic.
  • Cininas is full of fun facts – “to have seen the wolf” is French slang for loss of virginity.
  • Less fun, the fate of those with hypertrichosis (“werewolf syndrome”). Julia Pastrana joined a freak show, then when she died the owner had her embalmed & continued to exhibit her (in the mid-late 1800s).

Prof Barbara Creed: Eroticism of Being Devoured

  • Prof Barbara Creed presented a very in-depth, Freudian look at the eroticism of being devoured (Red Riding Hood). Too difficult to tweet!
    I’m not sure I grasped all the ideas, but I know I’ll never see the line “All the better to eat you up!” in the same way again.


If The Shoe Fits – interpreting Cinderella

(Chair: Dr Constantine Verevis)
Dr Meredith Jones: The Princess and Makeover Culture

  • Makeover culture: TV show The Swan; Princess Dianna vs Kate Middleton; Lady Gaga…
  • Sleeping Beauty, Snow White – women rewarded for passivity, for stillness & silence.

Her voice was ever soft,
Gentle and low, an excellent thing in woman.
– King Lear (5.3.275)

  • Michael Jackson: makeover culture gone too far.
  • Current shift towards transformation as psychotic and evil eg Black Swan. Dr Jones bets Middleton won’t evolve as Dianna did.

Sarah Gibson: The Shadow of The Slipper

  • There are over 1,000 versions of Cinderella and over 130 Cinderella films.
  • Stepmother giving preferential treatment to her own children was a common scenario when mortality rates during childbirth were high.
  • Modern Cinderella interpretation – a challenge to face your own feelings of envy – overcome it + self-doubt to achieve what you desire.
  • Why didn’t Cinderella’s father help her? In some versions he’s as much of the problem – incestuous desire.
  • In some versions Cinderella’s stepsisters are punished – pulled apart by wild horses; chopped, boiled & pickled (& sent to their mother).

Prof Peter McNeil: The Horror of heavy Feet: or Why Cinderella Must Have Her Light Shoe

  • Peter McNeil is giving a history of shoes.
  • Shoes as sexual representations: the way “you enter a shoe… like penetrative sex”.
  • Scholarly debate on the size of Cinderella’s shoe, which is not a feature in all versions of the story. Historical fashion of small feet eg foot binding.
  • I’m really not keeping up with all the names of shoe designers that are being dropped. #outofmydepth
  • However, interesting point about shoes being only item of clothing independent from the body. Hold their own shape.
  • Shoes as mysterious – hidden structure, especially sneakers. Stilettos still cannot be entirely made mechanically.
  • Shoes as representations of class: barefoot=poverty, shoe fashion.
  • Cobblers are the male Cinderellas – profession lowly & difficult prior to the invention of high fashion. Self-made men eg Jimmy Choo.

Audience Q&A

  • Q: What is the difference between myths and fairy tales?
    A: Myths are about culture, fairy tales are about individuals. (- Gibson)
  • Recurrent audience questions around Disney and sanitisation of fairy tales.
  • Good audience question on whether it is possible to create brand new fairy tales.
    Answer: it’s already happening with contemporary fiction speaking to psychological experiences eg @MargaretAtwood, Angela Carter. (- Gibson)
  • Oh goody! Someone asked further about Jones’ “contemporary transformation as psychotic” and brought up The Red Shoes.
    Jones’ response: personally, views violence in older fairy tales as psychotic eg Snow White’s stepmother made to dance to death in hot shoes.
  • Q: Could there be a fairy tale about aging?
    A: There’s some contemporary Baba Yaga stories eg Baba Yaga Laid An Egg (- Gibson)
    Jones thinks there will be a continuing shift towards fairy tales featuring aging, wisdom, etc with aging population.
Gustave Doré: Perrault's Little Red Riding-Hood

Gustave Doré: Perrault’s Little Red Riding-Hood

Part two of Fairy Tales Re-imagined.

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