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Fairy tale interrupted

Feminism, Masculinity, Wonder Cinema

Allison Craven

Feminism, masculinity and fairy tale figure within an extended analysis of Disney's Beauty and the Beast (1991), in light of the live-action remake, Beauty and the Beast (2017). The history of the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast is compared with Disney's adaptation which centralises the figure of the Beast rather than the heroine, Belle. A flagship during a key period of Disney’s corporate expansion in the early 1990s, in the first section of the book, the production is situated with respect to gender histories in the corresponding period: the rise of post-feminism, and its implicit disavowal of feminism, the mythopoetic men’s movement and the crisis of masculinity. The following section canvasses views of masculinity in second wave feminism and the role of myth and fairy in key works of feminism. A critical discussion ensues of twenty-first century wonder cinema in which the influence of feminist ideas is seen to circulate within the pastiche treatments of fairy tales and enchantment.

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10. Fairy Tales Alive: Reliving Wonder in Live-action Remakes


The previous chapter suggested how, in corporate wonder cinema, the element of transformation pertains most strongly to the changes in medium. This is especially so with the remediation of classic animation as live action which poses a different spectacle of retelling of fairy tales compared to fully digitally-animated productions, like Shrek. For Belle, in view of her live-action remake, the relevance is suggested by two such remakes of ‘classic’ animated films, Maleficent, and Cinderella, which enclose re-readings of the earlier animated films.

Maleficent is a prequel to Sleeping Beauty, which was, in turn, an adaptation of Charles Perrault’s ‘Sleeping Beauty in the Wood’.61 Elsewhere I have described Maleficent as a readaptation of Sleeping Beauty in which the former tale is so parodied as to be effectively redacted (Craven, 2016). Maleficent is narrated by Aurora (Elle Fanning), the heroine of Sleeping Beauty, and rendered as a belated justification for Maleficent’s malevolence in the earlier tale. Cinderella (2015), on the other hand, is a retelling for young adults of Disney’s animated Cinderella (1950), a production more directed at young children.

Through these films Disney implicitly responds to the criticisms it has attracted from its feminist audience, as if atoning for its long-term stereotyping of the girl/woman in fairy tale. In the case of Sleeping Beauty, this is notwithstanding that Tatar suggests that ‘feminists’ have long targeted Sleeping Beauty as ‘the most passive and repellent fairy-tale heroine of all’ (2014, 142). She does not refer to Disney’s...

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