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Saturday, August 4, 2012

Snow White Fairy Tale - Deconstructed

The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales - Bruno Bettelheim

Snow White is usually considered a fairly harmless fairy tale to be read to children or by them. Bettelheim in The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales  goes deep into the unconscious psychoanalytic messages lying submerged in these tales.

Women Who Run With The Wolves - Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Pinkola Estes in her Women Who Run With the Wolves, a Jungian analyst, digs for the TRIAL secretly lying in the story for the reader or teller to be communicated unconsciously to the girl child.

The Savage Mind (Nature of Human Society)
Claude Levi-Strauss

Levi-Strauss blasted open the structure that is present in anthropological rituals, folk tales, kinship systems, practices, myths and legends. A structuralist analysis became the method of choice in researching and writing about all of the above for a few decades. Until Foucault whose method of genealogy modified this way of seeing, not replacing it, as it is still a valuable frame, just adding an alternative way.

The Oedipus Trilogy - Sophocles

For example, to take a familiar myth: the Oedipus myth, so central to Freudian theory. The Oedipal Phase occurs when the boy fixates his libido on his mother. He wishes to have his mother, to marry her, to replace the father, to do away with the father with wishes to kill the father. These "incestual" desires for the mother and the wish to kill the father require the boy to identify with the father and give up the mother. This is a brief summary most people already know.

When Levi-Strauss applied structural analysis to this myth he turned to the observed object of aggression. The boy wishes to do away with his father to leave him a clear field with his mother. 

Levi-Strauss however, observed that the first act of aggression was that of the father! The father directs the shepherd to take the baby boy and set him on a mountain top to be exposed to the weather and wild animals. It has been prophesied that the boy will kill his father and marry his mother. To avoid this the boy has to die, and the father directs his death.

Things change now, don't they. The first act of attempted murder is that of the father against the son. Freud was not a careless thinker, but since he was not thinking within the frame of structuralism he did not "see" it; he certainly did not include it in his theory, and so it went unnoticed until the 1940's or so when Levi -Strauss began working on it in his field studies with primitive peoples.

Snow White contains a dirty little secret. The aging beauty of the mother, who has been made into the stepmother to disguise and mask the tale for real mothers, makes clear that the beautiful woman ages, becomes less and less desirable, and is replaced by her daughter - younger women. This is in the inevitable ongoing history of human life. But the queen is evil, she is the evil queen because she wishes to "kill" her daughter, the younger women, from jealousy, from a narcissism unable to accept that life changes, that she ages. One of my speculations is that the evil is projected on the queen, when perhaps the evil is in a culture that only values youthful beauty.

In fact the real secret is that Snow White is about Death, disguised of course, since Death is never acceptable, especially in children's stories. Children are very concerned with death, but death is a subject to be avoided at all costs with children. Another fantasy of immortality we burden them with. But they know, and also know it is not to be discussed.

Which is where the Fairy Tale enters because it tells them about aging, Death, the loss of beauty and love, all concerns children are very concerned with on an unconscious level. They dream about it. They know in their hearts.
In Asia white is the color of Death and Mourning

Do not be fooled that this tale is not intuited by the adults making this movie. They are making a movie about Death, and Death is denied in western culture. It is there anyway. Sanders feels it, Kristen feels it, Liberty Ross feels it. Liberty is aging, her beauty is aging, Kristen is the young beauty. No amount of feminist inversion of Snow White changes any of this. It merely acts as a mask to obscure Death even more. The poisoned apple the queen gives to Snow White to put her in an endless sleep is Death faked as in Breaking Dawn. The reference to The Sleeping Beauty is ignored. The "sleeping" is the unconscious state the young girl enters during latency until awakening in sexual adolescence. The "sleeping" is also a simulation of Death. Snow White needs to wake up! She also needs to free herself from the influence of the Mother. This is not lost on Kristen. It lies deep in the western mind. It is not lost on the director/ the father who guards his daughter, who is also aware of her beauty, but not his own incestual wishes, and the fact that he will have to give her up to a young man, when he himself feels her attraction. It is not lost on the mother who does not want this awakening which means her time of love and beauty is soon to be over. Liberty Ross knows this. So all these feelings are churning on this movie set, all underneath the surface everyday working environment.

So we got an irruption. Why is it a surprise?

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