The so-called “infantilization” of adults by American capitalism and media is a theme taken up increasingly in recent years, whether it is comes in the form of childish consumer values or the glorification of youthful behavior and appearance.
Meanwhile in recent TV and movies, adaptations of fairy tales are everywhere you look, as NPR’s Bob Mondello writes: “The TV show Once Upon a Time and the police procedural Grimm are in their second seasons. Hansel and his sister Gretel are at the cineplex hunting witches with machine guns. Jack, of beanstalk fame, starts slaying giants today.
And those aren’t the only bedtime stories that have been redesigned to keep 20-somethings up at night.
“Two years ago, the big-fanged critter threatening Amanda Seyfried’s Red, in the Red Riding Hood re-conceived by Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke, was a werewolf. A few months after movie audiences heard its growl, along came Snow White and the Huntsmanwith an armor-clad princess doing battle with some nasty special effects. And this weekend, Jack’s magic beans are getting him in trouble not with one giant and his wife, but with a whole army of giants.
“Kid flicks these are not. They’re aimed at teens, college students and maybe the younger end of Generation Y, not the tykes that psychologist Bruno Bettelheim had in mind when he wrote in The Uses of Enchantment that fairy tales help kids grapple with real fears in symbolic ways.
“At age 6, as Disney long ago established, abandonment by your parents is terrifying. So is illness, so is the unknown, and so is that scary old dude down the street. But when you’re 20, there’s a whole new set of fears — fear of commitment, fear of getting pregnant, fear of unemployment. Or maybe of getting busted for drug use.
“In the upcoming Hansel and Gretel Get Baked, a witch lures teens with marijuana, then eats them to stay young. It’s a horror movie — clueless teenagers getting in trouble because they’re clueless teenagers, just going with the flow, passively.”