Saturday, June 05, 2004

The Good Bad Boy

Alison Lurie's essay The Good Bad Boy in The New York Review of Books (link courtesy of Arts & Letters Daily) shows that Carlo Collodi's Pinocchio is a much darker and complex character than Walt Disney's remake. It describes the progression from infant to adult as a metaphorical journey from inanimate object to animal to human, and draws lessons about the price that will be paid for idleness. For example, here's Lurie on Pinocchio's stay in Funland: "The moral (as true today as it was in Collodi's time) is that poor boys who quit school and hang about doing nothing and enjoying themselves are apt to end up as exploited and overworked laborers—or possibly dead."

Disney's version is shown to be pabulum; and it makes me wonder about the eclipse of Grimm's Fairy Tales in today's childhood culture. I was exposed to some of them as a child, but by no means all; they're completely invisible these days.

However, children's appetite for grim stories remains, of course; these days it's satisfied by Harry Potter and his ilk.

A sweater has been defined as something a child is made to wear when its parents are cold. Likewise, sugar-coated stories are what they made to listen to in order not to frighten the grown-ups.

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