A Disney fairy tale gone wrong?
A local student group has put a new spin on fairy tales for kids--one encouraging couples to have more babies. Called ‘The Singaporean Fairytale', discover why this project has sparked controversy. Could it be a Disney fairy tale gone wrong?
Disney fairy tale or not, these fantastical stories for kids are made up of Disney princesses and heroes–or at least, that’s how we remember them. Well, not for this Singaporean youth group, apparently! In an attempt to redefine and localise well-loved fairy-tales and nursery rhymes such as Jack and Jill, Snow White and The Golden Goose, the group has come up with ideas believed to be controversial.
Perhaps, there is the age-old Disney fairy tale and then there’s the Singapore fairy tale! Or is there?
Yet, even with the disclaimer at the end stating that it is all down to personal choice, one can’t get over the feeling that the fairy tales are steeped in gender specific notions, not to mention the greater emphasis of the character of the female in the greater scheme of relationship, marriage and fertility.
“The Golden Goose was prized for her eggs, that shone light in brilliant gold. But there soon came a time she could make them no more, For her egg-making device was rusty and old.” The tale might be told with tongue firmly in cheek but at the same time it comes with an alarmist moral — “1 out of 3 women over 35 will have problems conceiving. 2 out of 3 women over the age of 40 will not be able to conceive at all.” If that is not an example of fear-mongering, we don’t know what is. This particular reworked fairy tale also reduces the woman’s worth to that of a baby-making machine, a concept that is deeply rooted in the past and should not have a place in our generation.
This is the new standard of the Singaporean fairy tale retold through cartoons by four final year Communications students from NTU for their Final Year Project. And in true Singaporean style, a campaign has been borne out of it. The project is called ‘The Singaporean Fairytale’ and its members seek to entertain and educate the public (especially youths) on what it takes to start, live and be a family in Singapore. The teams’ website features 15 updated and reworked fairy tales along with facts and figures on fertility, marriage and parenthood.
The tagline, The Singaporean Fairytale –“You can have it all…if you only choose to,” assumes many things. Firstly that a Singaporean’s definition of a fairy tale ending is to get married and have kids. Secondly, it discounts the fact that ‘having it all’ is a matter of choice. Both these things are far from the truth, especially since people are struggling to buy a house or even land a job.
With these things in mind, the team behind it has found themselves at the end of some harsh criticism both locally and internationally. Aware’s executive director Corinna Lim said, “This project reinforces negative gender stereotypes and frames the problem of Total Fertility Rate as women’s sole responsibility. It puts women who choose not to have children in a negative light.”
Echoing the belief that the cartoons are portraying these women in a less than attractive way is Jennifer Lai who wrote on Slate.com, “Aside from being grossly condescending, these stories ignore the myriad valid reasons for young women to delay marriage and children—and the fact that some women might not want either of those things. Instead of encouraging women to learn about the risks of having children at a later age, they just make women feel bad for pursuing things other than motherhood.”
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Singapore has spearheaded a multitude of campaigns to ‘educate’ her citizens on family planning as well as marriage and parenthood. Some such as the ‘Stop at Two’ campaign have proved more effective while others such as the ‘Have three or more, if you can afford it’ have made less of an impact.
The Singaporean Fairytale offering is government-backed and funded by Project Superglue in line with the National Family Council’s efforts to develop a Family First mindset among youths. While the project might be unique in principle, their execution might have missed the mark.
Despite this, the team has remained positive and believe that their project has been effective in ‘raising awareness of fertility among young adults.’ After all, as the saying goes: “There is no such thing as bad publicity”.
Disney fairy tale or not, the public has decided. Now, we’d like to hear your thoughts.