Two classic fairytales have been re-imagined or “sweetened” rather for today’s tots: , “Rapunzel,” by Sarah Gibb and “Twelve Dancing Princesses” by Brigette Barrager. According to The New York Times, these authors have assumed a “gentler” narrative for these gorgeously-illustrated picture books. Yet, despite tactics to make these stories more kid-accessible, sexist attitudes about women and passivity remain.
Pamela Paul at The Times observes:
As Gibb would have it, the princesses are passive innocents and unaware of the spell – sleepdancing, as it were. They can be rescued only by the handsome young cobbler, Pip, who toils away mending their worn-out shoes. This ends — can you guess? – in a joyous wedding between Pip and the princess Poppy. “And, of course, they all lived happily ever after.” Very attractively, though inactively, so.
I find it quite telling that sex and violence have been removed from these tales but stereotypes about women remain a kosher part of storytelling. There may no graphic scenes in these picture books but children learning that “passive” princesses can only be rescued from spells by a “handsome young cobbler” is just as damaging. Revamp indeed. Reads like the same old trajectory to me.