Sunday, 16 March 2014

Breaking the Magic Spell!

This was a really interesting read by Jack Zipes. He offers Radical Theories of Folk and Fairy Tales. Since I'm doing a blog on fairy tales, it makes sense to take a look, right?

"Every ruling class produces sensual present-day products of a better life. It produces needs in the masses which it cannot satisfy. To be sure, the palaces are not built for the masses. However, the needs of the masses are measured by them. This is most fully and freely articulated by fairy tales." (93).
                                                                                 Oskar Negt and Alexander Kluge,
                                                                                 Offentilchkeit und Erfahrung

Zipes discussion of fairy tales, bourgeois thinking, culture and mas media, makes a good point. Fairy tales do illicit in everyone a search for "present-day products of a better life", take for example Cinderella. She cooks, she cleans, she does household chores, picks up after everyone and takes care of them. So that they can lead carefree lives because Cinderella is carrying them all and not receiving back any of the rewards, until of course a rich Prince falls in love with her.
A rags to riches story, the message that despite starting from nothing you can have everything.
It is a very modern trait, the masses accumulating products for a better standard of living.

The Grimm's Brothers Fairy Tales, on the other hand focus on the simpler things in life, such as food, morality, the rights and wrongs in life and more times than not they are linked with the theme of hunger.
It's fair to say the brothers believed in the biblical reference 'to lose is to gain', experiencing something like hunger is to appreciate it when you have a full stomach or not take for granted what is already yours. This is perhaps the reason why they use 'humble' foods to illustrate a point for example, if we use the Grimm's brothers version of Cinderella she is given the task to pick out lentils from ashes as a test and if she succeeds her step-mother will allow her to go with them. I'm sure you've guessed this was a trick but the point is lentils are not considered luxurious. As a dish by itself, you can only really make lentil soup, a theme the Grimm's brothers keep to. For example the fairy tale 'Donkey Cabbages', 'The mouse, the bird and the sausage', 'The crumbs on the table'. 

Horkheimer and Adrno, however, argue "the purpose of production is to make the people into bigger and better consumers with no regard to the quality of the things they produce and consume. Culture expressions are mediated for the people by an industry which seeks to make the masses into automatons not autonomous beings" (98). Eek!

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