Wish Dragon’s Chinese Setting is Actually a Return to Aladdin’s Source Material

At first glance, Netflix’s Wish Dragon comes off as a cheap Aladdin knockoff transplanted into modern Shanghai. Instead of a plucky thief, we meet Din, a nineteen-year-old Door Dash driver, who longs for Li Na, a beautiful model and daughter of a wealthy businessman. His wish-granting dragon calls out these similarities. “Look kid, I get it you’re the peasant, she’s the princess, it’s a tale as old as time.”But the Aladdin similarities—coupled with the Chinese setting—were intentional. Director Chris Applehans …

Taking the God Out of Godmothers

In an era increasingly concerned with all other forms of diversity, where race and ability and discussion of body image are becoming vital tools to “update” classic fairy tales, religion has actively swept under the rug. The bygone ages that birthed our fairy tales were highly religious. The ATU folk tale index documents almost a hundred fairy tales with titles like The Devil in Noah’s Ark or The Angel and the Hermit. But those tales aren’t the ones that make …

Scandinavian Royals and the Power of Fairy Tale Public Image

Previously on this blog, we’re talked about the interplay of British royals influencing fairy tale adaptations and comparing themselves to fairy tale characters. But what are the other royal houses of Europe doing to maintain their fairy-tale image? Continental royalty tend to get buried–at least in English-language media–underneath mountains of headlines about the British royals. Scandinavian royalty seem to take particular effort to showcase themselves as fairy tale figures as they organize storybook-themed public engagements, publish and perform fairy-tale media, …

The Villeneuve Effect: When Adaptation Intentionally Makes a Fairy Tale More Sexist

In 1740, French female writer Gabrielle-Suzanne de Villeneuve published an early foundational version of the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast. She was influenced by other lady salon writers of the time, including Madame Marie-Catherine d’Aulnoy, who is credited with coining the term fairy tale. Every modern adaptation, abridgement, or retelling owes itself in some part to Villeneuve’s tale. Disney’s 1991 Beauty and the Beast settled the heroine in an unnamed village where the townspeople gawk at her for being …

On the Steps of the Palace: Why Princesses Always Pause on Stairs

The fair maiden glides through a door at the peak of a staircase, pausing over the balcony to survey her onlookers. One by one, they stop, and eyes are on her, including the prince’s. The dress drips money and her positioning above the gathered crowd showcases that she is above them, even if she’s a commoner in disguise. Most ballrooms, school dance venues, and wedding reception halls don’t have staircases because that would take space away from the dancing floor, …

Defending Damsels in Distress: the Art of the Video Essay

We’ve all heard criticisms of the Disney princess franchise and the sweet-as-cyanide messages of femininity and passivity they inflict on an unsuspecting girlhood audience. But as a child, I managed to adore the princess pantheon without succumbing to the “harmful” messages about gender roles and body image they supposedly embodied. It was only as a teenager in the early 2010’s that I became exposed to these ideas in the form of blog posts and articles, authored by women a generation …

Cinderella Needs Your Thoughts and Feelings (and so do we)

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic musical Cinderella has been enchanting audiences for generations. Julie Andrews brought the musical to television in 1957, followed by Lesley Ann Warren in 1965 and Brandy in 1997. Our Fairy Tales in Television project is looking for fans of version of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical willing to be interviewed about their experiences and opinions of these Cinderellas as part of Dr. Jill Rudy’s research on the impact of these adaptations. We are in special need …

Wingless Fairies and Wheelchair Mermaids

It’s a dangerous world that birthed our fairy tales. Before the advent of modern science, disease and disaster all too easily left children disabled or dead. Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm lost three siblings in infancy and Wilhlem himself dealt with ill health (scarlet fever, asthma) for much of his adult life. It is no wonder, then, that disabled characters feature prominently in popular fairy tales. Snow White befriends dwarves. Rapunzel’s prince loses his eyes to a thornbush. Cinderella’s stepsisters hack …

Goldilocks, Cinderella, and now Ariel: Meghan Markle’s History of Framing Her life Through Fairy Tale

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s interview earlier this month was a trifecta testimony to the power of fairy tales, narrative, and enduring influence of television. Oprah Winfrey led the CBS-broadcast special that reached over 17 million US viewers-roughly 19% of the US population-and garnered seven million dollars. Because the programming was broadcast during America’s evening, most of Britain was asleep and woke up to pre-formed opinions from across the pond. The interview centered around how the couple felt voiceless before …

Five Things Mulan Did Wrong that Raya did (Mostly) Right  

This post contains light spoilers for Raya and the Last Dragon. Proceed with caution.   The dragon-worshipping nation of Kumandra finds itself entirely lacking in dragons after Sisu, the last of her kind, sacrifices herself to defeat the Droon, a malevolent black force that turns people to stone. Soon after, Kumandra is fractured into five feuding nations, each named after a dragon body part. All cool body parts like Talon and Fang, naturally. No one lives in the land of Pancreas. …