Fairy tales for grown-ups

Samuel Francis

Immobilized by the East Coast Blizzard, I, for one, was reduced to the ignominious fate of watching daytime television, one of the most sinister inventions of the modern mind, ranking somewhat below gas chambers and somewhat above the metric system in the scale of evil. Even worse, I watched a children's show, which, as it turns out, is not so different from grown-ups' television.

The particular show I watched (it's called "The Puzzle Palace," I believe) laid out a tale of several puppets, representing children reading a fairy story. The puppets/children were of all different racial types -- a white boy and girl, a black boy, an Asian girl and a Hispanic girl, and what I thought was an Asian but who turned out to be an Apache Indian lad.

The story they started off reading was the traditional European fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty, illustrated with what seemed to be Victorian pictures. The puppet/children planned to read the story and then act it out. In the story, Sleeping Beauty is described as a beautiful princess with blonde hair, milky white skin and blue eyes. Ditto Prince Charming, described as "handsome" with the same features.

Sleeping Beauty
"Sleeping Beauty" (Maxfield Parrish)

The puppets love the story and look forward to acting it out. There's just one little problem. They all quickly realize that most of them don't look like Sleeping Beauty or Prince Charming. Only the two white puppets can act out the story, and the others toddle off stage in the depths of depression and self-doubt.

Then one of them finds some specimens of what grown-ups these days call "alternative" fairy stories, and she starts reading these tales to her friends. One story is a Chinese version of Cinderella, with a magic fish substituted for the fairy godmother. Another is about an Apache folk hero called "Eagle Man," and others are supposed to be traditional African and Latin American folktales, though they sound suspiciously like they had just been cranked out of computers running sensitivity software.

The puppets/children are all happy, and the rest of the story is a rather repetitious drumbeat of the morals that the grown-ups who wrote the show want the American juvenile television audience to get.

Moral No. 1, of course, is that there are different kinds of beauty. You don't have to look like Sleeping Beauty or Prince Charming, have milky white skin, blue eyes or blonde hair, to be beautiful. Moral No. 2, equally obvious, is that we -- that is, puppets, children and grown-ups -- should not impose our standards of beauty on others. After belaboring this homily for several minutes, the puppets are returned to their boxes, and what remains of the American juvenile mind is left to ponder what it has just absorbed.

Of course, the puppet morality play contains important truths -- there are different standards of beauty, and indeed of good and evil, and it's important for people to know about and understand the differences. But of course also, this whole cute little session in multicultural brainwashing leaves out a few truths that are just as important to know about. Maybe more important.

Britney SpearsUntold Truth No. 1 is that it is precisely because there are different concepts of beauty, truth and goodness and different peoples who don't look or think like each other, that there are different cultures and different countries and nations for those peoples and cultures to flourish in. When different peoples have different countries, their cultures can develop (or not develop) as the peoples who bear them wish. [Image: Britney Spears.]

Untold Truth No. 2 is that for the United States today, our people are finding it increasingly impossible to retain their traditional culture, one element of which is a concept of beauty that describes handsome princes and beautiful princesses in the very terms of the original story. It is increasingly impossible to sustain that culture because mass immigration brings into the country different peoples from different cultures who insist (and can't be blamed for insisting) on retaining their own cultural standards.

Untold Truth No. 3 is the dilemma that virtually no one in the United States today, neither left nor right, wants to face. Given the emergence of a multiracial and multicultural society in this country, we have two choices:

Either we can insist on retaining our traditional standards and cultural norms and thereby effectively exclude those from other cultures that don't share and often can't share them, or we can abandon, dilute, compromise or modify our traditional standards so that we can bring such people in. That's what the puppets do in the TV program. Sleeping Beauty and Prince Charming get shoved aside for Eagle Man.

And that's what the fairy tale of multiracialism and multiculturalism leads to. Maybe, if we really want to preserve our traditional culture, we need to stop immigration entirely, and let different peoples tell each other their own fairy tales in their own countries.

January 12, 1996