Gender and Fairy Tales

1This issue of Gender Forum is dedicated to the discussion of gender and how it is impacted by and reproduced in fairy tales. The influence that fairy tales have on our culture is indisputable even today – the Grimms’ tales remain present in children’s bedrooms in the shape of Disney movies, and many cultural tropes, from the evil stepmother to the potion-brewing witch, have their foundation in fairy tales. The contributors to this issues have examined a wide variety of diverse texts – from Angela Carter’s short stories to contemporary TV series – to trace the continued cultural impact of fairy tales in relation to constructions of gender and sexuality.

2The first contribution, “From Courtly Love to Snow White”, comes from Baiqing Zheng. She draws parallels between chivalric romance and modern re-writing of fairy tales, both of which involve the agonies of unfulfilled love. Rather than providing a happily-ever-after ending, the relations between the heros and heroines are often complicated by twists, suspension, revelation, confusion and subversion. Zheng traces these themes in short stories by Robert Coover and Angela Carter, as well as poetry by Anne Sexton and concludes that these revisions of “Snow White” draw a parallel between women in love and women in language, and are committed to disenchanting the constructed feminine myth.

3 In her article “Detectives and bail bonds "persons" as fairy tale hero/ines: A feminist antimilitarist analysis of Grimm and Once Upon a Time”, contributor Nancy Taber explores the re/writing of gendered scripts in the television programs Grimm and Once Upon a Time. Using a feminist antimilitarist framework in her examination of these modern retellings of fairy tales, she argues that gender, violence, and militarism are represented in complex ways that variously position ideas of good and evil, protected and protector, masculinity and femininity through the programs' characterizations of heroic hunters and saviours who are also estranged mothers and sons.

4Contributor Annette Schimmelpfenning in her article “Chaos Reigns – Women as Witches in Contemporary Film and the Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm” makes an argument for the versatility and changeability of the figure of the witch. Starting with an analysis of the construction of the witch in fairy tales, she traces her development through the ages up to her inclusion in modern Hollywood film. Highlighting different types of witches, Schimmelpfennig shows how in all her different manifestations the witch is, above all, always both reflective of and a contributor to persistent tropes of femininity.

5Lastly Caleb Sivyer, in his article "A Scopophiliac Fairy Tale: Deconstructing Normative Gender in Angela Carter’s 'The Bloody Chamber'", illuminates Carter's rewriting of Bluebeard with a focus on the visual. He argues that Carter takes up the flexible structure of the fairy story in order to communicate the experiences of being a woman in a patriarchal society, subjected to certain ways of seeing and being seen.

6The issue is rounded off with a review by Shu-Ju Ada Cheng, who writes about the 2011 publication of Tacit Subjects: Belonging and Same-Sex Desire Among Dominican Immigrant Men by Carlos Ulises Decena. The book, based on academic research as well as personal interviews, examines the ways in which gay and bisexual male immigrants from Dominica to New York dealt with the multiple levels of oppression and stigmatization they were faced with.