Tag Archives: grimm

Publishing News: A Forthcoming Essay on Fairytales, Religion, Race, and Politics

Brer Rabbit from London Charivari

Brer Rabbit from London Charivari (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A few months ago in April, TheoFantastique had a call for papers, for Fairytale Collection, asking for a new critical engagement with fairy tales and how they have become popular in fairytales.

“Due to the popularity and familiarity of the tales, not only the layman, but also people inside many academic fields, who are concerned with such works, will find this book more than interesting. Given that this book will consist of a collection of handpicked essays concerning various aspects of these diverse adaptations of the literary fairy tales, an assortment of readers should find this book and its topic of great interest.

While our interests are broad and inclusive, we are particularly interested in papers that discuss fairy tales in contemporary popular culture (TV shows, movies, graphic novels, advertising, toys, video games, popular literature, etc), revisions and adaptations of fairy tales, and pedagogical uses of and approaches to fairy tales. Still, we are interested in as wide an array of papers as possible, so please do not hesitate to send a submission on any fairy tale related subject may it be on cultural significance, on gender, aspects of masculinity and femininity, theory, etc.”

Today, I am happy to announce that I received word that my controversial proposal was accepted to be added to the collection. It was well worth the time and effort. The title of my article forthcoming: “The Soul Of Black Folktales: Race, Class, Ethics, and Humanism in NBC’s GRIMM and Brer Rabbit

My proposal is really too long and complex for a blog post, but I will sum it up with my thesis here:

“I believe that this return of European fairytales to prominence in U.S. American culture is worthy of a critical investigation as it pertains to race, ethnicity, and class difference. In particular, I will examine ideas of European particularity and identity as well as class struggle in NBC’s GRIMM. First, I intend to observe the reception history of the folktales recorded by the Brothers Grimm in their 19th German context and what the implications are for European national identities. By way of comparison, I will also examine Joel Chandler Harris’ dissemination of the folktales passed on by enslaved Africans located in the Antebellum South, and what that meant for black racial identity formation. In both instances, Brer Rabbit and the Brothers Grimm’s stories as folk tales function as secular pedagogical tools aimed at teaching adults and children what it means to be a member of their given culture. I argue that NBC’s GRIMM serves as a hybrid text, as both an other-worldly supernatural (in the tradition of old European fairytales) horror show as well as a this-worldly folktale that addresses contemporary political issues, such as economic inequality and histories of racism, (much like the tales of Brer Rabbit).”

I believe that this article is important for a couple of reasons. First, there has yet to be a comparative study of the politics behind black folktales and European fairytales, and why this is important for the reception of these stories. Secondly, I think it is a good opportunity to have a dialogue with Black humanist and atheist traditions, and their views of black folktales as religious works. Are the politics and histories of black bodies ignored in our readings of Brer Rabbit? What kind of moral agency does Brer Rabbit possess that could be useful for today, and does anti-racist horror tv show like GRIMM have a shared trickster ethic with black folktales?

These are the things I am interested in, and I will keep you all updated!

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ABC's #OUAT @OnceABC: A Complete Ripoff of @Vertigo's #Fables

Today, I come offering an apology to Optimistic Chad. In his post, Why I Don’t Watch Storybook Shows On Network TV, Chad argued that NBC’s Grimm and ABC’s Once Upon A Time “borrowed” elements from Vertigo ComicsFABLES. I had not read FABLES, so I still argues (and I still do), that Grimm is a better show, because it dealt with racial identity and justice ideas (something progressive and race in the horror genre): see Why Grimm is Better than OUAT. Chad remains correct in his points, but Grimm has its own world and has more elements and tropes found in Joss Whedon‘s ANGEL (the Buffy the Vampire Slayer spin-off)– this has to do more with David Greenwalt, one of the producers of the show working on Angel as well: see my first post on GRIMM’s similarities with ANGEL.

I also want to offer Chad a huge gratitude of thanks, because for my Blerdieth Birthday, well over a month ago, the Optimist bought me the first 3 volumes of FABLES, and I am sooooo glad he did. It is one of the best comics I have ever read. There are so very few differences between FABLES and ONCE, I would almost say Once is a copyright violation if it wasn’t so wonderbread and tamed compared to FABLES.

Let’s start off with the frightening similarities. FABLES is a comic where the characters from our favorite fairytales have been exiled into this world. Those characters call themselves Fables, and regular humans are referred to as Mundies (those who live mundane lives). The correlation between living in exile (the margins), assimilation, and racial identity are fairly obvious. This became clear to me when one character ________________ joins the Confederate army during the Civil War in one of the first`volumes.

In FABLES, the political leader (officially) is old King Cole the Mayor of Fabletown, but he’s never around, so his deputy mayor, Snow White takes care of all of the Fables and their business. Now, she is not exactly an antagonist, but she certainly is not the most popular Fable in Fabletown. Her actions, including marginalizing Fables who do not look like Mundies to The Farm somewhere in upstate New York does not win her any friends. She’s tough, she has to make tough decisions, and she is surrounded by a number of cronies such as Bigby the Big Bad Wolf gone all reformed and nice, as well as Little Boy Blue) to do her bidding.

In ONCE, storybook characters have been placed in exile by a spell. The antagonist is the Evil Queen, Mayor Regina who is surrounded by cronies like Sidney, the Uncle Tom Man In the Mirror, the Mad Hatter, as well as the former sheriff, The Huntsman. Regina marginalizes other fairytale characters by placing them in a secret jail, persons such as Belle. The premise behind OUaT, having had whitewashed the central idea behind FABLES, is that everyone find true love. So much like Doctor Who, Supernatural (SPN), and other shows, the family is affirmed, and loneliness is viewed as some cold isolation. The disappointing thing about ONCE when it comes to race is that one of its key writers Jane Espenson has even lamented over the fact that not enough people of color are represented in the science fiction/fantasy genre, see Espenson’s introduction to Leigh Adams Wright’s essay “Asian Objects In Space” in Finding Serenity: Anti-heroes, Lost Shepherds, and Space Hookers in Joss Whedon’s Firefly.

The wardrobe choices for Regina and Ruby of Once are very similar to those from FABLES’ panels, of Snow White and Molly Greenbaum of Fables. Molly is only a Mundy though, and not a werewolf like Once’s Ruby, but the fashion choices are so much alike, down to the waitress uniform, there is no way one could deny that ONCE is at inspired by FABLES. There is nothing wrong with said inspiration, but they need to give credit where credit is due, to Bill Willingham and his team.

As for now, I’ll still watch ONCE, but it’s no longer gonna record on my DVR.

I’m hoping to read even more FABLES though.

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Non-Violent, Social Action (Or, "why I don't watch storybook shows on network TV")

So, I am the consummate comic book nerd. I have been avidly reading since I was 11, and I can say with great confidence that the comic book medium has as much, or even greater, potential for telling really, really good stories as any other medium. This includes every use for story that you can think of. The upsides are moral learning,  life-myth building, and indoctrination of certain truths, can all be had through the medium of comic book, and often to great effect. The downsides are the medium can pander,  play into stereotypes, dumb-down great ideas, and promote the myth of redemptive violence like comics invented it. Well, all that to say, it is rare that a comic really, truly reaches out of the book and grabs me on an artistic, narrative, guttural, emotional, AND spiritual level. The last book of note that did this for me amazingly well was a comic called Fables.

Fables is a comic about Fables. It concerns storybook folk in real life situations and was written by a chap named Bill Willingham. And if I could boil down everything I would want to share with someone regarding faith, life, death, hope, and a better world, it would be in the Fables story called “The Good Prince.” It really made an impact on me. So perhaps you can imagine my utter glee when I found out in 2006 that NBC was going to make Fables into a TV show!!! Well, it didn’t last long. NBC had the script with NBC writer Craig Silverstein in production, but it fell by the wayside. No problem, though!

ABC picked up the rights to Fables and got Stu Zicherman and Raven Metzner to write the script. It went nowhere either. And I was pretty glad that the rights to the series reverted back to the creators. That was, until I found out that both of those networks (NBC and ABC) waited until just after the rights passed back to the creators to announce that they were both producing  shows based on Storybooks.

Probably a coincidence, right? Until you actually look at the plots.

Fables: A bunch of storybook folk exiled from their own lands into a modern town and no one knows they are fables.

Once Upon a Time: A bunch of storybook folk exiled from their own lands into a modern town and no one knows they are fables.

1st story arc of Fables: A reformed Big Bad Wolf solving the murder of Snow White’s sister, Rose Red, a red-clad party chick, meanwhile trying to navigate in a world where the Fables are all around us but no-one knows.

Grimm: A tough policeman he’s from a legacy of paranormal cops trying to protect regular people from the Fables that are all around us but no-one knows. In the pilot episode, the policeman is paired with a reformed Big Bad Wolf to solve the murders of red-clad young women.

Bill Willingham appears to like his relationship with the studios, likely with en eye to working with them in the future, and so like any good PR guy, he has distanced himself from the controversy. But I don’t buy it for one single second. You bastards could have done something amazing. Could have told the beautiful, moving, spiritual stories I was waiting to see come from a TV show worthy of Buffy or Firefly. But rather than pay royalties to a man that deserves every penny, you stole his ideas, nearly whole cloth (but just different enough to defend them in case of litigation) and both produced this nonsensical crap within one year of each other. I’ll call you cheap whores and I’ll do it again, in the tradition of Ezekiel. You aren’t even trying to hide it. You lust after your lovers whose… you know what? Nevermind. I have spilt enough virtual ink on this. Just know that I have not and will not ever watch a single damn episode of those shows when I can go back and read their superior source material. My protest, such as it is.

[Edit: Added relevant links, FYI]

ABC commits to ‘FABLES’ pilot FROM Comic Mix

Once Upon A Grim Fable: How Similar Are OUAT and Grimm to FABLE from Slate

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