While it may appear to some people (Joel) that I’m quite the bigot for being Jewish and “hating on Jews,” I’m actually rather fascinated with the whole culture behind such a conservative following in this modern society. Because of that, these rabbinical stories resonated with distinction far beyond “normal” Germanic fairytales.
From a purely mechanical standpoint, the main character is almost always a Rabbi, and he is always wise. When the tales narrate about the Rabbi’s wife, she is usually nagging and just as unappreciated as in traditional European fairytales. A lot of the Jewish fairytales identify the Rabbi by his trickery that allows him to overcome the typical obstacle of some Christian fellow or a biased judge. The major themes from these Jewish fairytales revolve around dealing with oppression, rising up out of a pit; these underdog themes reflect the culture of Judaism, which, in being such a minority, resorts to its strong sense of community and togetherness that keeps the religion and culture alive (and, thanks to Israel’s sometimes questionable actions, in the news as well). It is this community that pervades the fairytales: the Rabbi acts on behalf of his community, not to better himself.
The fairytales show that (1) regardless of current state, it could always be worse, (2) God is within you, not surrounding materials, (3) a little cunning will always beat out brute force, and (4) people share a collective thought process regardless of religion or culture. Some of these are common morals that mirror Jung’s collective unconscious theory (4) and can be applied to many other fairytales (3). (1) and (2), however, seem more unique to Jewish fairytales (not conclusive).
Perhaps the only fairytale that nearly parallels traditional fairytales is “The Rabbi Who Was Turned into a Wolf.” From the overzealous wife who wants her man, to the common theme of homoeroticism (rabbi around boys all day long), to the archetype of the wolf (carnal animal in bed+intelligent man at heart=female desire), the fairytale reeks of Germanic tradition. And who’s to say it isn’t Germanic, considering it is in the Mayse Buch, a Yiddish (Hebrew+German) collection. And in the end, the woman gets “what she deserves” for trying to cheat her husband with the Godly powers of the ring. The interplay between the Divine and the Earthly (the ring and the wishes granted to the Rabbi and his wife) further reinforces the common theme that one cannot interfere with the gods or their heavenly powers; one must rely on external forces for that (like letting the fairy godmother swoop in at the most ooportune time).
The “rise tale,” as Cinderella’s “rags to riches” plot conveys, gives a false message to the young female audience that the mistreated girl who keeps her mouth shut will eventually live a happy, validated life. However, this fantastic motif leaves no room for reality, especially considering ti only exacerbates the misogynist roles given to women. We see that in the common Cinderella story, the mean, domineering stepsisters almost rip the shoe out of the Prince’s hands to try to fit in it; they even cut their toes and heels to physically cut off their masculinity so they can fit into the “dainty” shoes. Yet the entire time they forget that by actively taking the shoe, they are assuming the masculine role by putting the shoe on themselves. The submissive Cinderella bides her time sifting around in the ashes, waiting for the Prince to slip the shoe on her, allowing him to assume the “proper masculine” role. Only then can he find the right girl, the virgin prototype female that is his soulmate: Cinderella. Thus, the end of the story in which the Prince settles with his destined woman only furthers the premise in the majority of Grimm-era fairytales that women are submissive and men make all the important decisions.
How can a child read this fairytale, amongst others, and NOT think that she should just let the right man come to her, that from the “ashes” she lives in now will burst forth a bright, perfect future. Now, just because these fairytales feed children these socioculturally backward morals does not imply that they never come true; a woman can always woo a rich man with her breast implants and find herself bathing in dolla dolla bills instead of ashes. What these stories always fail to recognize is that money and marriage to a “Prince,” whether that implies rich beautiful man or just means the one man whom a woman honors and feels a special attachment, often does not translate to a rich life in terms of self-fulfillment and productivity. Money cannot buy everything, and that statement is cliche only because it is true the majority of the time!
Telling anybody that putting things off now for a future full of awesomeness does nothing but keep people looking towards the future. Nobody seems to notice that this motive plagues our current society; always looking ahead to a future full of money/a perfect family/a perfect car/ a perfectlie, Americans skip the present and keep working themselves into a hole (forgetting that the body can only run on so few hours of sleep and so many Big Macs and Starbucks on the go before it shuts down). No wonder our population continues to get more and more obese and less and less happy working longer and longer hours at jobs where title matters. So perhaps people have bought into the rags to riches motive, thinking that working toward a future will only make it perfect. Except people in reality don’t have birds to help them sift through seeds, or more realistically, tax and mortgage papers.
And do not even get me started on magic. The fairy godmother that always appears to help Cinderella (yes, that’s you, Whitney Houston, when you helped out poor Brandy) is obviously just the powerful helper that emanates the glory and divinity Cinderella’s biological mother possessed in comparison to the dreck that is currently the stepmother. But thatneverhappens in real life. People are too concerned with their own futures to take a step back and look at someone else’s.
I wouldn’t let them give me that hairdo even if it meant $5 million and a co-starring spot in a movie.
Mark Rust gave an insightful presentation exhibiting the benefits and limitations of deaf storytelling. Whereas literature is obviously written and is thus “composed for the eyes,” poetry and prose translate into ASL through kinetic shapes and movement. The deaf culture relies heavily on emotive performances to stress the impact of their signing, and signers rarely adhere to spelling out all their words. Rather, they interpret what they want to say through their movements and facial expressions and essentially fabricate their own signs based on how they convey meaning at that point in time in which they are expressed.
By individualizing their own symbols and images, signers mirror the passage of fairy and folk tales through generations because each narrative, story, cinematographic story is simply an individual’s interpretation of the message being conveyed. Thus, the deaf culture stresses individualism in defining what symbols/images/movements mean, as folk and fairy tales stress that each culture redefines and edits stories to better align with their morals and ideals. In a way, the deaf culture is its own myopic representation of folklore because each individual has his or her own code in which they communicate and tell stories, but almost anyone can decipher what they are saying by what Jung may call the “collective unconscious:” a canon of associations by which all people associate certain symbols and movements with meaning. Deaf culture is our current society’s folklore!
I’m almost positive Joel thinks I’m going to rip him a new one in reviewing his blog; in reality, I was quite impressed with how concise his statements were for how much thought and input they each have. I thought his comparison of Cupid and Psyche with the Frog Princess was incomplete and disorganized, but that doesn’t mean that it was devoid of material; I still understood the ideas he touched on.
Furthermore, knowing that I write incredibly lengthy and detailed blogs, I am always looking to improve my precision with words, and Joel provides an excellent example of sticking to a less imaginative, yet fully detailed analysis. For example, his Snow White vs. “Sonne” comparison was fairly short, yet it said more about his actual in-depth analysis of the video and his own opinions tied in than I could ever incorporate into those few paragraphs. What Joel may leave out in expressive voice in his pieces he certainly makes up for in content and validity of analysis.
Never mind that I actually enjoyed the music in “Sonne” (a first for the usually metal Rammstein), the video touts a perversion of the classic Snow White tale in its removal of the Queen in favor of a more sinister Snow White herself.
The original tale pairs a beautiful and ignorant Snow White as the daughter of a jealous stepmother, who bans her from the premises and tries to kill her three times, the last one being temporarily successful. The stepmother, without much of a physical presence of the king in the story, instead broods masculinity within herself by calling on ironically feminine objects (a lace corset, a poison comb, and a white/red apple) to murder her stepdaughter. Rammstein’s Snow White reflects the same overt masculine qualities in the queen because, instead of cleaning the house and playing the role of chipper subdued housewife, the monstrously tall Snow White spanks the miners (dwarves) for not getting her enough to gold to snort. She portrays greed and consumption, taking from the dwarves both goods and services (like shining her apples). She casts aside the traditional female role of housewife in favor of playing dirty with the miners who keep her company; she steals the main role in the story from the queen.
The video continues with Snow White’s self-inflicted death from overdose of what we presume is something produced by the miners. There is no queen to test Snow White’s ability to adhere to the dwarves’ advice; instead, Snow White consumes herself in greed. Her self-absorption mirrors that of the queen in the traditional story in that she dies because Snow White, at her wedding, forces her to dance in red hot iron shoes to death. This ‘dance,’ per se, is the punishment of being so feminine as to be obsessed with oneself while trying to mask it with masculinity by killing off the competition (Snow White). Thus, the queen essentially consumes so much that she is responsible for her death, as is Snow White in the video.
One major difference between the story and the video is that the queen dies at the hand of a masculine object, the red hot iron shoes. This symbol of male power complements the idea that such a shallow woman can never hide herself under a veil of masculinity; that is, women will never be able to live up to the standards of being a male. However, in the video, no prince comes to save Snow White and prove that masculinity overcomes all. An apple that grows at the tree next to her atop the seventh mountain falls and breaks her glass coffin. The apple is her symbol of power in that she carries them with her and forces her slave miners to shine them for her. Thus, the video perpetuates masculinity in the female role by proving that her masculinity, her overt power, is what saves her from her own greed-induced death. The video essentially parallels masculinity with power and instills it within a woman who, however self-absorbed she may be, will be saved and continue her anschluss against the ranks of meek men. The video reverses the traditional role of women mirrored in both the original Snow White and the Queen to comment on the power and permanence of masculinity.
Seeing such a sexual, perverse warping of a fairytale made me instantly favor Rammstein over the original story. To tower the woman over the men, who most would think of as strong and diligent considering they are miners, and take advantage of their goods and services puts a significant gender role reversal on traditional men and women. Not to mention that the video sides with feminists in showing how a woman does not need a man to complete her; rather, the woman only need consult her inner masculinity, her burning fire, to get exactly what she wants. The video does not tackle the Seven Deadly sins like greed and gluttony; instead, the sinner gets saved by her own means. The video, to me at least, stresses that individuals are responsible for their own actions, but that it is not impossible to get what you want out of life. Take advantage of your surroundings, and nobody will cast a spell on you or come after you. But when you land in a pile of shit, you have to crawl your way out. I love that self-determinism; I love that video.
And this one too: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UEQ6G8fjipA&feature=fvst. It’s not so much the video, more that I just love this song after playing it on Guitar Hero!