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  • Fairy Tale Films: Visions of Ambiguity
  • Cathy Lynn Preston (bio)
Fairy Tale Films: Visions of Ambiguity. Edited by Pauline Greenhill and Sidney Eve Matrix. Foreword by Jack Zipes. Logan: Utah State University Press, 2010. xiii + 263 pp.

Pauline Greenhill and Sidney Eve Matrix's Fairy Tale Films—praised by Jack Zipes in his foreword to the collection as being "path breaking" and as filling "a gap in both film studies and folklore" scholarship (ix)—presents a set of ten original essays that individually and collectively expand our understanding of the experiments in genre and intertextuality that have shaped fairy-tale films during the late twentieth century and the early twenty-first century. As Greenhill and Matrix explain, these films range "from fairy tale films proper—those that employ the structure of a recognized fairy tale—to cinematic folklore more generally—which draws upon folkloric motifs commonly found in traditional culture" (8). Stating, further, that "filmed fairy tales are as much the genuine article as their telling in a bed-time story or an anthology," the editors situate their and their contributors' approach to fairy-tale film "not as a break with tradition but as a continuation of it" (3). Thus the central question posed by this collection of essays "is not how successfully a film translates the tale [or a traditional motif] into a new medium but, instead, what new and old meanings and uses the filmed version brings to audiences and sociocultural contexts" (3).

The first essay of the collection, Cristina Bacchilega and John Rieder's "Mixing It Up: Generic Complexity and Gender Ideology in Early Twenty-First Century Fairy Tale Films," focuses on fairy-tale fragmentation, generic hybridity, and gender ideology. Defining generic hybridity as the "incorporation [End Page 124] and integration of fairy tale elements with other narrative strands," such as romance and parody, horror and historical realism, or reality and magic (26), and comparing and contrasting examples of generic hybridity in relation to a range of films "that feature fairy tale elements as a major part of their appeal but do not rely on a single fairy tale plot" (26)—for example, Enchanted (2007), the Shrek trilogy (2001, 2004, 2007), Pan's Labyrinth (2006), MirrorMask (2005), and Spirited Away (2002)—Bacchilega and Rieder examine the extent to which generic hybridity does and does not subvert the traditionalized gender ideology of the fairy-tale genre and particularly of Disney-dominated fairy-tale film.

Enchanted and Pan's Labyrinth receive individual attention in two additional essays that further our understanding of generic hybridity and gender ideology. In "The Parallelism of the Fantastic and the Real: Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth/El Laberinto del fauno and Neomagical Realism," Tracie D. Lukasiewicz develops "the concept of neomagical realism to distinguish Pan's Labyrinth from the conventional fairy tale's acceptance of magic within its fantasy world, and magical realism's incorporation of magic into the real world" (61-62). In "Disney's Enchanted: Patriarchal Backlash and Nostalgia in a Fairy Tale Film," Linda Pershing and Lisa Gablehouse argue that, although Enchanted plays with parody and thus has the potential to subvert traditionalized patterns, in the end "Enchanted appropriates and reworks folk and fairy tale motifs to support a conventional Euro-North American worldview that both obfuscates and reinforces patriarchal ideologies" (137).

Experiments in genre and gender ideology are central concerns in several of the essays in this collection. Christy Williams's "The Shoe Still Fits: Ever After and the Pursuit of a Feminist Cinderella" addresses the extent to which Ever After (1998) qualifies as a feminist film, ultimately arguing that the film "assumes a feminist stance but offers a mass-mediated idea of feminism where individual women can be strong and achieve equality through personal actions that do not, however, challenge or change the underlying patriarchal structure of society" (101). Ming-Hsun Lin's "Fitting the Glass Slipper: A Comparative Study of the Princess's Role in the Harry Potter Novels and Films (2001-2005)" analyzes the "structural transgendering" of Harry Potter such that he is positioned as a male Cinderella (80). Pauline Greenhill and Anne Brydon's "Mourning Mothers and Seeing Siblings: Feminism and Place...


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pp. 124-126
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