The first time it happened I thought it was going to be a one-time deal: I saw the trailer for Red Riding Hood. In the childhood story that I loved, Little Red was a sweet granddaughter who was too trusting and because of it her grandmother was eaten by a hungry and manipulative wolf (or if your parents fed you the tamer version, Little Red’s grandmother was in the closet the whole time). In the new Hollywood version, however, there was a love-triangle and people wearing wolf masks for no apparent reason. I rolled my eyes, I vowed not to see it, and I changed the channel. Case closed.
Sadly my hopes that this would be the only fairy tale ruined by Hollywood were all wrong. Since that disaster, there have been many movies that vow to give a “twist” to a classic fairytale. The problem with these remakes isn’t just that they are all happening at once (although that’s not helping); it’s that they all want to destroy the source material. Take, for example, the two competing Snow White films. Snow White and the Huntsman better known as “the movie where Kristen Stewart had an affair with the director” and Mirror Mirror a.k.a “that other Snow White movie.” Both films tried to make Snow White a feminist heroine; something that I’m not against, but really isn’t what happened. Once Snow White left she willingly took on the role of a stereotypical 50’s wife. I know that is part of the “twist” but the twists don’t work.
These movies want to change the original story but still maintain the air of a fairy tale. But, the reason those fairy tales worked in the first was because of their strict, simple structure. Yet these remakes complicate that very structure. For example, in the recently released Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, Hansel is diabetic and there is apparently a sacrifice of children on the witch-holiday “Blood Moon.” (I have another very specific problem with this movie. The characters are supposed to be siblings and yet Hansel has an American accent and Gretel has a British accent ... ) All of this new information doesn’t add depth it just adds weight. The beauty of fairy tales is that even while they’re tragic, they are still light enough to make us happy.
Unfortunately that’s not the direction things seem to be heading. Friday, Jack and the Beanstalk will become Jack the Giant Slayer and in 2014 Sleeping Beauty will be retold from Maleficent’s point of view.
My fear is that if these Hollywood movies keep revamping I’ll never be able to embrace the simplicity of my childhood stories again. I’ll be turned into one of those old-hags from the fairy tales who turns good things bad. Because that’s what these movies do. They take our good old-fashioned fairy tales and make them bad.