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Posts Tagged ‘Fairy Tales’

Feminist Fabulists: Telling Stories, Changing Perspectives, and “Pretty Little Liars”

In ABC Soaps, feminism, Perspective, Pretty Little Liars on September 16, 2014 at 7:59 am

Phoebe B.

The villains and heroes of a story often change depending on who’s controlling the narrative. Consider the many recent re-thinkings of classic stories from the evil characters’ perspective.

Wicked, for example, re-tells the Wizard of Oz from the Wicked Witch’s (aka Elphaba’s) point of view. In so doing, an entirely different story is spun: a young girl discriminated against for her skin color fights an unjust system, only to be cast as “wicked” by the Wizard’s corrupt administration.

Similarly, Disney’s newest princess fairytale re-imagines Maleficent (masterfully played by Angelina Jolie) in the titular character as a woman scorned—her majestic wings violently stolen by the King, her former childhood sweetheart. As narrated by Aurora, Maleficent’s supposedly evil nature—and by extension her violence—is filtered through a rape-revenge fantasy narrative. The film casts her anger and desire for revenge as rooted in trauma rather than the product of pure evil—a move that doesn’t function to justify her violence but rather explains it.

Both re-tellings further complicate familiar narratives by foregrounding relationships between women that don’t fit within patriarchal structures. Sleeping Beauty’s re-telling of Maleficent’s story, outside the confines of her father’s violent ideology, reveals that the theoretically bad fairy was Aurora’s true protector, a complex person capable of love. In Wicked, a similar relationship of rivals is recast as a best friendship and alliance between the “good” witch Galinda (aka Glinda) and Elphaba.

This is the trick of perspective: when we flip it and re-imagine stories from the viewpoints of outsiders, we begin to see the dangers of limiting ourselves to just one narrative (check out Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s beautiful Ted Talk for more on this.).

Like Wicked and Maleficent, the ABC Family series Pretty Little Liars foregrounds perspective, casting doubt on the reliability of any singular narrative and particularly those that attempt to frame women within patriarchy. But it goes even further in championing the multiplicity of narratives that emerge in communities of women, suggesting the importance of reclaiming and re-writing our own diverse stories.

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