Last week I blogged about my lack of enthusiasm for Snow White. This week though, I have changed my mind about the girl. Prior to reading the comic Fables, I had never liked the character of Snow White. She is always made out to be a stereotypical female whose talents include cleaning, cooking, and occasionally combat when it is necessary for her to prove herself. Her story has been changed many times, adapted and reworked to make her into someone new, but despite these changes I was never really fond of her. That is, until now. In the graphic novel Fables, Snow White is smart, witty, and professional. Elements of the comic keep her true to her original fairy tale character, but she is also kind of a badass bitch. She is the person who keeps the underground fable community running. Despite the fact that there is a mayor who is the face of the community, Snow White is the one calling the shots. We see in the very first scene where she is dealing with the issues of Beauty and the Beast that she has the final say in the fable world and that she is not to be messed with. We later find out that she divorced Prince Charming when she found him in bed with her younger sister. She knows what she is worth and leaves him to stand on her own as a strong and independent woman. She does not have to prove herself by fighting off enemies; she is clearly intelligent and capable. Although she does have a budding romance with Wolf, she does not need a man in her life. She does get emotional when she thinks her sister is dead and she is more than willing to get dolled up in a sexy dress from the Remembrance Day Function. She possesses feminine qualities that the original Snow White had: she is beautiful, caring, and capable of love. However, these are not the traits that define her. I didn’t think it would be possible for me to ever like Snow White, but Fables proved me wrong.
Prior to this week’s discussion, I had never really thought much about the story of Snow White. Sure, I had the 1937 Disney version on VHS, but growing up the film was far from my favorite. I had seen the 2012 version of the story, Snow White and the Huntsmen, but besides the fact that I noticed major differences from the Disney rendition, I didn’t really think too much of the film. It was not until we read the original story by the brothers Grimm that I finally began to notice how creepy this fairy tale actually is. Perhaps I was desensitized by the countless other fairy tale stories that I had heard which also involved evil stepmothers, absent fathers, eerie forests, and so on, but when I come to think of it now, the story of Snow White is pretty disturbing no matter the version. The basis of the tale is that a young and beautiful girl is nearly killed by the mother figure in her life in many unsettling ways due to the fact that she is jealous of her daughter’s beauty. There is also some use of a poisonous apple. While each version may have some variation, this general plotline and apple usage can be found in the Grimm original, the Disney version, the Huntsmen and Mirror Mirror. The original version, written in 1812, had Snow White’s actual mother asking for her organs served on a platter with salt. A later version, written in 1857, had the villain as stepmother rather than birth mother, which was a detail that has been since found in other versions, probably because it was slightly less disconcerting to audiences. The Disney version added cheerful songs and lessons (such as the fun one can have while completing household chores!) to the plot, but under this Disney-fied façade, the story is still frightening. And while the newest versions, Mirror Mirror and Huntsmen, had Snow White as our fearless heroine, this did not distract from the fact that this fairy tale is creepy. No matter the version or the additions to the plot, this fairy tale is messed up and I am unsure as to why we classify it as a children’s story.
Overall, I really enjoyed the Social Media Shakespeare project. Having the character Gertrude was a lot of fun for me, as I imagined her to be much like a Real Housewife (only perhaps more real…Gertrude seems to be a genuinely kind woman. The decisions I made for Gertrude were inspired mostly by the Shakespearean text as well as the Olivier adaptation of Hamlet. The Branagh adaptation of Hamlet helped me to better understand the text, however I do not like his interpretation of Gertrude as having an affair with Claudius prior to her husband’s death. Additionally, I did not like the fact that Branagh had his Gertrude being completely unaware of the fact that she intercepted the poisonous drink from Hamlet.
In my modern take on Gertrude, I had her as a young and beautiful woman who cared most about her son and perhaps the idea of being in love rather than actual loving her husband. She was kind, weak, permissive, easily controlled, caring, and had a strong desire to please everyone around her. She took an interest in frivolous things as a way to remain in ignorance and keep herself distracted from the tragedy around her and the mistakes that she knew deep down that she had made. She cared a lot about her own reputation and the reputation of her family. My Gertrude knew deep down exactly what was going on, but did not want to acknowledge it so as to tarnish the reputation of her family. Much like in Olivier’s adaptation, my Gertrude knew inside what she was doing when she took the drink from the cup. It was her attempt to do what was right, and she could no longer live with the mistakes that she made and the fact that she had not listened to her beloved son.
Last week I blogged about the importance of William Shakespeare, a man whose works will continue to outlive him for still many more years to come. This week’s assigned text and film only strengthened this point of mine, offering two more examples of how Shakespearean works can still be made relevant today. Both the graphic novel Kill Shakespeare and the movie A Midwinter’s Tale are very entertaining and interesting examples of modern works that were inspired by Shakespeare and incorporated aspects of his stories into their own plots. These works focus in particular on Shakespeare’s character Hamlet. When one Google image searches “Hamlet,” many different faces will appear: Laurence Olivier, Branagh’s Hamlet, and so on and so forth. Two less known, and less frequently referred to “Hamlets” are those found in Kill Shakespeare and A Midwinter’s Tale.
Kill Shakespeare had Hamlet as the unlikely hero of this creative story, which intertwined multiple characters and plot details from Shakespeare plays such as Othello, Romeo and Juliet, and many more. The story took off from the point in the play Hamlet in which he is banished to England after accidentally murdering Polonius. From this point on, however, there is little fidelity to the original play aside from the fact that his father’s ghost continues to haunts him. While the only works of Shakespeare that I have read are Hamlet (obviously) and Romeo and Juliet, this lack of faithfulness was apparent for both of these works, and I’m assuming the other plays that it referenced as well. Because of this, reading this graphic novel may not be the best way to study Shakespeare or understand his plays, however, the comic is nevertheless very entertaining. Kill Shakespeare illustrates that the writing of Shakespeare can be adapted in new and interesting ways that will continue to keep his works alive.
A Midwinter’s Tale is a quite different example but is equally as entertaining. This film is not an adaptation of the story of Hamlet, but rather it is the story of a group of actors who put on a production of the play. We see parts of the play throughout the movie and there are references to past interpretations of the play, such as Olivier’s film version, but otherwise the film has a plot of its own that is unrelated to Hamlet. In this film, our Hamlet is played by the director of the production, a loveable struggling actor with a strong love for the play Hamlet. Branagh was the director of this film, as well as his own adaptation of Hamlet, which had many well-known actors and which was quite successful. This illustrates the fact that the story of Hamlet, unlike its author, is far from dead.
Hamlet is one of Shakespeare’s most famous works. It has been adapted countless times in the past and it will likely be adapted many more times in the future. Theaters will continue to put on productions of Hamlet, classes will continue to study the play, and directors will continue to create film-versions that approach the story in a new and innovative way. Hamlet, and therefore Shakespeare, will remain relevant for many more years to come.