Do humans, especially women, internalize the subliminal messages found in most fairy tales? Anne E. Beall, Ph.D., thinks so. Males are also fed covert messages. According to Beall, in Cinderella Didn’t Live Happily Ever After, women bring beauty and men bring intelligence, status and wealth to most situations within fairy tales. “The other message [for women] is that passivity is fine and facing abuse without any response will eventually be rewarded…. Just hang in long enough and magical things will happen.” (p. 11-12)
Beall and her team analyzed 169 of the Grimm Brothers fairy tales. Males in these tales tend to be active, powerful and wealthy. Women often tend to be beautiful and passive. Those women who exhibit power and agency within the tales are usually characterized as ugly, evil witches or stepmothers. One of the few exceptions, according to Beall, is Gretel in the Hansel and Gretel tale. Gretel defeats the witch by pushing her into a hot oven.
Also, some stories depict characters as purely good or evil. For example, Beall points out that Snow White is portrayed as pure goodness while her stepmother is totally evil. Who, in reality, would admit to being entirely good or evil? We all have goodness and evil within us to a greater or lesser extent. And goodness usually triumphs over evil. Beall “identified a clear demonstration of a good person overcoming an evil one in 106 stories…. In general,…stories where evil characters prevail are rare.” (p. 46)
Who Brings Home Cinderella?
In those tales where goodness triumphs, the person who conquers evil is predominantly male. What does this mean for young girls in society? And must boys always be the strong person in every situation?
In Cinderella Didn’t Live Happily Ever After, Beall delivers her analyses of the various aspects of fairy tales in a straightforward, understandable language. Her erudite articulation lends itself to agreement with her opinions whether or not anyone identifies as feminist. Well done.
I received a free copy of Cinderella Didn’t Live Happily Ever After from iReadBookTours in exchange for an honest review.
Cinderella Didn’t Live Happily Ever After: The Hidden Messages in Fairy Tales
by Anne E. Beall, PhD
Beall Research, Inc.