Seems like Hollywood has fairy tale fever. Beastly is already in theaters and Snow White and the Huntsman film and Mirror, Mirror are coming soon. Now, Catherine Hardwicke’s Red Riding Hood, starring the wide eyed Amanda Seyfried, the veteran Gary Oldman and the sizzling Shiloh Fernandez, is loping into theaters today. There seems to be a real hankering for fairy tale film fodder these days. I for one can definitely say that I am excited by the prospect of enjoying fairy tales all over again.
As a child, I vividly remember the rush of feelings stories like Little Red Riding Hood evoked. Fear, excitement, suspense, urgency, all of these emotions triggered a visceral reaction within me, awakening something that had lain dormant, waiting to be realized. It definitely made me want to write stories of my own. I enjoyed the darkness of the grim fairy tales, the irreverent disregard for the sensitivities of a young audience. Once upon a time, fairy tales were meant to frighten little children. They were fables that often divulged a hidden meaning, messages that may have been too complex for a young mind to fully comprehend in its entirety, but surely no less realized. The warning was clear in most of these stories — beware. They were filled with mysterious characters, evil villains, magic, fantasy and danger. The words fairy tale could be misleading, as many of these stories were chilling as well as thrilling.
I think we all have fond memories of the classic Red Riding Hood story antics:
“Oh my! What big eyes you have! Oh my! What big ears you have! Oh my! What big teeth you have!”
What child doesn’t avidly recall squealing with glee and only half feigned fright when the wicked wolf finally leaps into revealing his true nature and responds, “All the better to eat you with my dear!” Simply delicious.
Now Catherine Hardewicke of Twilight fame has chosen to present us a more mature version of Red Riding Hood. It looks dark, edgy, atmospheric and full of all the sexual undertones that were only metaphorically referenced in the original fairy tale. Make no mistake, this was always a tale that warned unwary girls of the dangers of falling into the lustful embrace of beguiling boys. Guard your morals and chastity valiantly! it cautioned. Will we now see for ourselves just how seductive the lure of the wolf can be? This re-imagined version of Little Red’s tale seems to have the cloak of innocence stripped away, and all the voluptuous sexuality of the story will be revealed for an adult audience.
Hardwicke, who I believe to be a master at capturing the nuances of restrained desire and lustful angst, has re-imagined this classic story for an adult audience. Just how far she will stretch the boundaries of the original will be interesting for me to find out as I am off to eagerly watch the film tomorrow. I’m curious as to how she will portray the wolf to us. It’s obvious many were not fans of the wolf in Wolfman, so will she give us a mythical wolf cloaked in mystery? Or will she reveal the wolf to us in all his terrible glory, bared for all the world to see and either marvel at or despise?
I’m sure the movie will be hot, I’m sure it will be sexy, but will it be enough to satisfy and tantalize an audience? Or will our earliest memories of the original archetypes be too pervasive for us to escape and make it difficult to accept a new version that definitely isn’t for children? One thing is for certain, Catherine Hardwicke has cleverly captured the famously iconic vibrant red of Red Riding Hood’s cape. That color will become as firmly entrenched as the original fairy tale in our collective conscious, even if this new film fails to strike the right chords.