While thinking of ideas for this blog post, I was sitting by my 13-year-old brother Ryan and decided I should just ask him some questions. I didn’t really expect to get an answer from him…but I did. Here’s the conversation:
RYAN: *being sarcastic* I feel like there’s a lot of pressure on me right now.
C: Just tell me what you think about fairy tales.
R: It’s a story.
C: What kind of story?
R: It has a beginning, a middle, and end. [Again, with the sarcasm]
C: Okay…Why is a fairy tale different than any other story?
R: I mean, just look up the definition on Google.
C: *Major eye roll* Seriously.
R: Fairy tales are girly.
C: Why are they girly?
R: They’re all pink. And there’s, uh, princesses and stuff.
C: But what about the manly ones? Peter Pan and Robin Hood?
R: I don’t know. They’re just girly.
Traditionally “Boy” Aspects That Can Be Found in Fairy Tales
- Fairy tales, at least the originals, are filled with giants and sword fighting and gore and action…not necessarily “girly” things.
- The majority of these fairy tales were written by males.
- A lot of them are filled with male protagonists.
- Dragons. Demons. Even cyborgs. You name it.
So why, even though there are things that can clearly be called”masculine,” are fairy tales for the most part considered girly?
Here’s my blunt answer: Marketing. For some reason companies have marketed the fairy tales directly towards girls. And I’m sure there are reasons behind that…but to me, this is the root of it. The example I’m going to use today are the covers–the first thing people will see when they see a book. The first impression they receive. And let’s be honest. We all judge books by their covers.
I looked through fairy tale books on Goodreads and picked out some of the covers for you. It was really hard for me to find any that didn’t seem to be targeted solely to girls. I did find a few, but about 75 or 80% of them seemed to targets girls.
Can you see the difference? The vast majority of fairy tale books and retellings look like this top row of books. With pretty girls in pretty dresses with their hair and makeup done perfectly. Often some pink (why I threw in that middle-grade Frog Princess). Loopy and beautiful cursive. This is what people think of when they think “fairy tale.”
Now these are some of the books that are considered in the “fairy tale” genre but just by looking at them, you can tell that they’re not solely targeted for girls. And I think that’s sad. This bottom row looks way more kick-butt than the top, but you’d never know if one of those innocent/beautiful/why-is-your-make-up-so-perfect girls is actually also kick-butt and awesome. You’d never know if there’s also a kick-butt male protagonist in the story because that’s not what is focused on. But she’s beautiful and girls will like her, so that’s what matters.
Besides just the covers, most modern fairy tale retellings are written with girls in mind, at least that’s what it seems like. They’re usually written by girls and for girls, whether that is intentional or not. The main character is usually a girl, sometimes a princess, with an often hunky boy for the romance factor. And, yes, I admit to liking many of these books.
But but but. Where are the modern fairy tales written by whoever for whoever? Dual perspectives. Boy leads. Girl leads without a boy to romance her but instead as a kick-butt best friend. Just some ideas off the top of my head. I don’t know. And there are the greats out there. Neil Gaiman, my hat goes off to you. The people who designed the covers above, my hat also goes off to you. But I want to see more of it. I want my 13-year-old brother to feel okay if he wanted to sit down and read a fairy tale. To not feel like that’s too girly of a thing to do. You know?
What do you think? Why is there this stigma and how can we change it? Do you know any good fairy tales that aren’t targeted just towards girls? Let me know!