It doesn’t take a skilled gender detective to deduce the target audience of the Rainbow Magic books for early readers. These wildly popular books feature covers that literally sparkle, covered in lithe fairies dressed in pointedly feminine clothing and accessories. The series’ titles boil down to Feminine-Name the Feminine-Noun Fairy (as in Grace the Glitter Fairy or Bethany the Ballet Fairy). They’re published under the pseudonym Daisy Meadows.
These are the girliest girls’ books in Girlville.
Why am I so familiar with these gems of English literature? Because they’re among my six-year-old son’s very favorite books. He devours them, shrieking with laughter at the bumbling goblins. We spend hours playing Rainbow Magic Fairies: “You’re Queen Titania and I’m the Museum Fairy. What could a Museum Fairy’s object be?” Or, “We’re all goblins. Where’s Goblin Steve?” These books are very big in my house.
Well over a hundred Rainbow Magic installments are available, but the plot is always the same. Jack Frost and his goblins have stolen some magical object (the weather fairies’ feathers, for instance). The displaced objects cause some sort of wonkiness (unusual weather, say). Kirsty and Rachel, human BFFs and friends to the fairies, help recover the objects. The goblins are ugly, mean, and male, and they always lose. The fairies are pretty, sweet, and female, and they win through the power of friendship.
Reading the books is actually teaching my son an unexpected lesson: recognizing sexism.
We all know Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and others. Disney latched on to these classic fairy tales starting in the mid-20th century, and they began churning out princess after princess—treating these traditional stories as a marketers’ wet dream, resting on the faith that people will continue to not only buy into these stories, but also into the massive amount of marketing and branding that surround them. But just because these stories remain popular doesn’t mean they’re any less unsettling when you start to pick them apart. Even with the multitude of remakes (television, movies, Broadway, etc...), very rarely do writers and producers seek to infuse a little imagination and creativity, absolving these stories from the tired tropes they’ve come to push. So it was with a bit of trepidation and some skepticism that I chose to watch ABC’s new drama, Once Upon A Time. While the show hasn't worked out all the issues with "Disneyfied" fairy tales, it certainly is a step in the right direction.
I fall more in love with the work of Catherine Eyde every time I look at her art. Her colorful renditions of women, creatures and landscapes both ordinary and fantastical walk the line between twee and haunting, like a gorgeous, uneasy mixture of Grimm's fairy tales, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and feminist sci-fi.
When I happened across this image on my Google Reader, I couldn't help but click through. AtJPG Magazine, I found "Fallen Princesses" project by Dina Goldstein. I was impressed with how the portrait "Snowy" ironically contrasted the cartoonish/iconic Disney outfits with a domestic scene out of the Feminine Mystique, Snow White staring coolly back at the camera all the while.
When the curtain rose at the London premiere of the play Peter Pan in 1904, it unveiled a drama of flying children, fairies, and pirates that would soon become a classic—and inspire countless spin-offs, adaptations, and reinterpretations. On the cinematic side, these began with the 1924 silent-film version of the play, starring Anna May Wong as Tiger Lily. Disney’s animated Peter Pan (1953) has been described as “ageless” (though one wonders if critics took note of the decidedly dated, stereotypical depiction of Native Americans), while Steven Spielberg’s Hook (1991) told the story of a grown-up Peter’s transformation into a mature father.