Authored by: Sue Short

The Routledge Companion to Media and Fairy-Tale Cultures

Print publication date:  April  2018
Online publication date:  March  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138946156
eBook ISBN: 9781315670997
Adobe ISBN:


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Noting the fairy tale’s ambivalent treatment of crime, a similar tendency is seen in cinema. The examples discussed include cases of sexual violation and the tendency to justify theft as a means of social mobility and to depict murder as equally legitimate—particularly where those responsible for child killing and spousal murder are supernaturally avenged by their victims. As we shall see, where justice is typically achieved, it is found outside the law. While progressive features are noted, not least signs of greater female emancipation in the response to male violence, such vigilantism also questions if we truly have an improved legal system to that reflected in fairy tales, with narratives either placing the onus on victims of crime to avenge themselves or overlooking some acts. In the case of acquired wealth, a theme that can be traced from “Ali Baba” to numerous modern-day crime dramas, we are left with a curious “moral” message. Despite various cautionary tales about stolen wealth (which punish perpetrators for their greed), swindles and heists are still largely celebrated as the only way to get ahead, just as violent retaliation is the sole conceivable means of securing justice in a harsh and heedless world. Modern takes on crime thus differ little to medieval fairy-tale versions: life is hard, and fair means or foul are equally justified in the name of survival.

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