Short covers the standard tropes of Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, etc. of course, but (happily) the bulk of the book ventures beyond the predictabShort covers the standard tropes of Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, etc. of course, but (happily) the bulk of the book ventures beyond the predictable and obvious to visit more interesting places. For example, looking at Beauty and the Beast not as a story of a man rescued by a woman's love but as a male maturation tale, she points out its connection to movies like Groundhog Day, Evan Almighty, and Shallow Hal and discusses changing views of what "masculinity" means.
I thought Chapter 4, "Dangerous Liaisons: Demon Lovers and Defiant Damsels," was the strongest chapter, with its genealogy leading from Bluebeard through gothic romances to Gaslight and What Lies Beneath. It would have been even better if she'd mentioned some of the movies that invert this theme -- a demon bride rather than demon bridegroom (e.g., Abandon, starring Charlie Hunnam and Katie Holmes, with its beautifully gradual descent into darkness).
The weakest section was Chapter 3, "Wealth Through Stealth," about ill-gotten gains and riches obtained by undeserving characters through sneaky means (e.g., Jack of "Jack and the Beanstalk" or the young soldier in "The Tinderbox"). I thought the examples -- e.g. The Grifters, In Bruges, Fargo -- were tenuous and the links to fairy tale themes not very well established. Interestingly, she cites The Godfather as a reworking of the classic "A king once had three sons..." with the youngest proving the most worthy, but the analogy fizzles out after that.
One issue I had with the book is that each chapter seems to be written in isolation, either ignoring or forgetting statements made in other chapters. For example, in the opening pages of Chapter 4 we find this: "Fairy tales rarely explore examples of domestic disharmony..." which directly contradicts statements in other chapters, such as chapter 5's mention of "maternal malevolence" and "the darker side of family life." It's also a patently ridiculous statement since in fact marital, sibling, and parent/child conflicts -- sometimes with fatal consequences -- are central to quite a lot of fairy tales.
The book does have an index, though it consists almost entirely of names and titles (oddly, the names of directors are given in parentheses after movie titles; maybe that's common but to me it just cluttered things up). It would have been helpful if the index had included themes/concepts as well, and some of the entries would have benefited from subheadings ("Tatar, Maria" has 32 undifferentiated locators!).
Of course if you are like me you will come away with a looooong list "to-do list" of movies, books, stories and articles, which is always a great bonus of books like this. The account in chapter 1 of the "Lurie-Lieberman debate" was fascinating and I can't wait to track down the original articles.
This book is definitely worth reading for anyone interested in the intersection of fairy tales and films, particularly since it skips most of the overtly fairy-tale-based movies in favor of ferreting out thematic elements and connections in less obvious places. There's a ton of good stuff in the end notes, too (though I wish they'd been footnotes so they could be easily accessed while reading the main content), so don't skip those!...more
OK, I admit it: this tv show is my one and only reality-show weakness.* I have been absolutely fascinated by this peek into an actual functional polygOK, I admit it: this tv show is my one and only reality-show weakness.* I have been absolutely fascinated by this peek into an actual functional polygamous family, by how genuinely dedicated all the adults are to this lifestyle and how normal (if a bit naive) all the kids seem to be. Of course I assume that they put their best foot forward for a television audience, so when I saw this book I snapped it up, eager for more details about the lives of the Browns. Unfortunately, although there are more details, particularly about Kody's courting of each of his four wives, the book fell flat for me on a couple of counts.
First, each section is divided into four parts so that each wife -- Meri, Janelle, Christine and Robyn -- gets to give her perspective on it. (Kody, perhaps appropriately for the patriarch of the family, gets the introduction and the conclusion.) This division is beneficial in the first section, since it gives each wife the opportunity to tell the very personal story of her and Kody's courtship and marriage, and to lay out the expectations with which she entered into plural marriage. It doesn't work so well in the other sections. By splitting the other sections into four, there is no coherent narrative and instead of coming across as four women working to be a family, their differences and difficulties are highlighted. One of the things that all five of the adult Browns have stressed on the television show is that they are in four separate, individual marriages with different needs and personalities. However, all four of the wives have also said many times that they have, or want to have, or are actively working to have, strong relationships with each other and I think they missed a real opportunity here to walk the walk. I'm not suggesting that the rest of the book should have subsumed the different voices of Meri, Janelle, Christine and Robyn into a monolithic first person plural (we did this, we did that), but it could have been told chronologically with alternating paragraphs, or with parts of it told as "we" followed by individual reflections on it. In that way they would have been telling their story as sister wives, instead of as four women who happen to be married to the same man.
Second, which may be the fault of their editor or ghostwriter, the "voices" of each wife are barely distinguishable. In reality they're radically different people, as one can see on the show: Meri is organized and quiet (and always seems a little sad), Christine happy-go-lucky and more volatile, Janelle reserved and businesslike, Robyn sweet and hopeful. On the page, however, we can't see or hear them so we need something to bring them to life: dialog, action, expression, a unique voice. Alas, it's almost all tell ("I am this kind of person, she is that kind of person") and no show so it's hard to tell them apart. It's made even more difficult by the fact that all four of them discuss similar difficulties in adjusting (jealousy, misunderstanding, uncertainty about their place/role in the family, etc. This was disappointing, as I was looking forward to gaining a more in-depth knowledge of each of them.
So, if you enjoyed the show, this offers additional backstory, but it's clearly a tie-in and couldn't stand on its own merits. Despite these shortcomings I did enjoy the book. There's a bit more discussion of their religion in the book than in the show, and the stories of their courtship and marriage were nice to read. They're honest about the difficulties of plural marriage, and they don't hide the fact that there were and are times when they really struggled. After reading it my opinion hasn't changed: I admire these women and the interesting family they've forged. Meri, Janelle, Christine and Kody (it's too early to tell about Robyn) are clearly good parents with high expectations for their kids but enough love and confidence to let them make their own decisions. They're rational, reasonable people who have chosen an unusual lifestyle, but they've chosen it freely and with full knowledge of what it entails and a determination to make it work not only for themselves but for each other. I can only marvel that they've succeeded as well as they have.
Any edited collection has high and low points and this one is no exception. Some of the essays I'd give five stars, others I'd give one. The two five-Any edited collection has high and low points and this one is no exception. Some of the essays I'd give five stars, others I'd give one. The two five-stars were Haberkorn and Reinhardt's "Magic, Adolescence and Education on Terry Pratchett's Discworld" and David Kociemba's "Why Xander Matters: The Extraordinary Ordinary in Buffy the Vampire Slayer."
The Pratchett essay, which is both entertaining and scholarly, focuses on young witch Tiffany Aching, and does a delightful job drawing its analogy between magical training and the "work of adolescence" which of course is to learn how to be an adult. Reading it was a little bittersweet since Pratchett, who has been a favorite author of mine for years, died recently. Interestingly, the authors point out that Tiffany Aching is the only one of Pratchett's characters whose life, growth and education span multiple books -- and it was recently announced that Pratchett's last title, to be published posthumously, will be the fifth Tiffany Aching book.
Kociemba's paper on Xander is excellent as well, delving into the function of Xander as the only non-superpowered member of the Scooby Gang (he refers to himself in one episode as "fray-adjacent"). Part of the essay is an able and thorough refutation of Lorna Jowett's criticism of the character as passive, weak and feminized, "a new man because he can't be a real man." Kociemba points out that this is a highly simplistic and one-dimensional view of the character; instead, he says, Xander offers a complicated and fluid model of masculinity that shifts from comedy to melodrama to action, and which "undermines the tendency of heroic narratives to suggest that only those with power matter."
Moorman's essay on Willow's sexuality ("Kinda Gay") is interesting in that it broadens its scope beyond the internal events of Buffy to include how the writers and producers thought about Willow's relationships with Oz and then Tara, and why they made the character a lesbian rather than bisexual, which would arguably have been more accurate given her strong feelings for Xander and Oz prior to becoming involved with Tara and, later, Kennedy. (This essay I'd give 4 stars.)
The weakest in the collection is probably Neighbors' "Nerds, Geeks, and Dorks, Oh My! The Teen Wizard as Social Outcast." At 4-1/2 pages (excluding notes) it's the shortest in the book and has little if anything new or original to say.
Other fictional milieus covered in the book include Veronica Mars, Harry Potter, Diane Duane's Young Wizards series (the essay examines the apparent incompatibility between magic and sex), Hex, Sabrina, Tamora Pierce, and Holly Black's Valiant (I haven't read this series but the essay certainly piqued my interest)....more