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The Grizzly Gazette

The Grizzly Gazette

The Grizzly Gazette

The Lack of Gothic Motifs in Modern Adaptations of Fairy Tales

The famed classical fairy tales such as those created by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm (The Brothers Grimm) in the nineteenth century have emphasized humanity’s innate admiration for the mystical and fantasy that persists centuries later. 

The classical fairy tales such as the German fairytale “Little Red Riding Hood” and the story of “Hansel and Gretel” use situational irony and foreboding to create a unique storytelling that has an emphasis on moral ambiguity. 

These fairytales, which were usually the offspring of older oral and generational folktales, used moral ambiguity and fantastical elements to create storylines and events that embodied the Gothic fiction genre. 

The genre “Gothic Fiction” or “Gothic Literature” originates from the mid to late 18th century Europe and is a mixture of components that evolve some form of mystical or supernatural feeling or event. 

Since its origins, Gothic literature has always been seen as a “lesser” form of literature and storytelling due to it mainly centering around women lead storylines and fantastical settings or events that encapsulate a feeling of the supernatural and fear. 

Horror and the “unknown” is synonymous with the Gothic fiction genre with both being a key aspect of many fairy tales. 

The Gothic motifs that persist in many fairy tales predating the 20 century contain numerous explicit motifs surrounding death, failure, loneliness, and the sublime.  

These darker motifs are essentially non-existent or “suppressed” when examining modern and recent reinterpretations of modern fairytales. 

By the 20th century, with the advent of the movie industry, classical childhood fairy tales began gaining interest and profitability in the emerging movie industry market. One of the majority multi-million dollar production studios that capitalized on animated retellings of classic fairy tales was Walt Disney. 

While Disney’s older animated films dealt with much darker elements and scenarios, modern Disney films seem to have “toned down” its mundane roots of moral ambiguity for the sake of profitability and respectability, especially within its animated princess movies. 

While most Disney princess movies still contain themes and plot lines surrounding death (the most common trope being a dead parent that has become synonymous with Disney), these animated movies lack the moral ambiguity that many of these movies’ sources and stories come from. 

This toning down of Gothic motifs showcases how modern reinterpretations of fairy tales (especially those that focus on young women) rely on modern media stereotypes/cliches and forms of storytelling that are less ambiguous. 

The commercialization of these fairy tales by Disney in the last century has pushed aside its roots in Gothic literature and fiction for marketability and geared for an image of “family-friendly” material that lacks any sense of storytelling and moral ambiguity. 

Fairy tales have always been timeless and have always been used to teach moral lessons through cruel and fantastical acts or methods. This can also be said for Gothic literature in which stories have always been under some supernatural or fear-inducing context to teach an underlying lesson by using supernatural or romantic elements. 

Calling back to the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm, these tales involve violent and dark elements and that mirror Gothic fiction.  

The toning down or suppression of the Gothic roots in modern reinterpretations of fairy tales in the media emphasizes a growing culture amongst the media that is the effect of commercialization that tones down its original subject matter for the sake of profitability and capitalism. 

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