Tag Archives: Folklore

Zwarte Piet: A Racist Caricature?

By Guest Contributor Keisha Wiel, cross-posted from Anthro Meaning People, Dope Meaning Awesome

I wasn’t going to originally post anything on Zwarte Piet but, after seeing discourse after discourse on the holiday of Sinterklaas, I decided to write about it. Ah, where to begin.

I celebrated Sinterklaas as a child. Since my parents were from the Dutch Caribbean, we would go every December 5th to the Dutch consulate in New York City and eagerly sit with the other children (we were usually the only children of color) while Sinterklaas handed out our presents. And, of course, to accompany Sinterklaas, this saintly white man who represented a bishop, were his ‘helpers’ or Zwarte Pieten (Black Petes). These would usually be men, or women, dressed up in blackface with an Afro wig and bright red lipstick. The legend goes that if you’re bad, Zwarte Piet will take you in his burlap sack to Spain. So naturally I was mortified of Zwarte Pieten (Black Petes) as a child. You mean to tell me that this dude who dresses flamboyantly and has this jet black makeup on his face is going to collect me and ship me off to Spain with him? OH HELL NO!!

As I grew up and learned about Golliwogs and minstrel shows, I started to notice a pattern. This beloved holiday that I celebrated as part of my ‘heritage’ seemed to overlap a lot with blackface in America. The similarities are undeniable.

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The Evolution of Snow White

By Guest Contributors Paul and Renee, cross-posted from Fangs For The Fantasy

One of the newest trends we’re seeing in speculative fiction is the revisiting of fairy tales, especially in a modern setting–they’re almost a unique sub-genre of the Urban Fantasy and Fantasy genres.

And, in many ways, this is very important to do as fairy tales are some of the very first stories many of us are exposed to as children. Unfortunately, they’re also very old stories–and contain a lot of very old and sadly prevalent tropes that have stayed with us over the years. Generations of children have grown up with stories of helpless princesses, passively waiting for a handsome (and anonymous–after all, any man will do if he’s in the right place at the right time) prince to save them from abject peril. There is no question that this iconic image–repeated over and over in fairy tales, has had a profound effect on our culture, our society, and our view of gender roles, and there have been numerous excellent posts deconstructing the damaging messages of fairy tales.

There is no fairy tale that can be considered more centre stage than Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. An ancient tale, it rose to prominence when it became Disney’s first full-length animated movie and was forever cemented front and centre as not just a fairy tale–but the fairy tale. The ultimate tale of the protagonist–poor, helpless, sweet and oh-so-fair Snow White is attacked by her evil stepmother, while she helplessly sings to wildlife and eventually resides in a glass coffin to be rescued.

This is clearly an image that needs challenging–and, appropriately, Snow White is front and centre of the fairy tales that are being revised for the modern world. Between Once Upon A Time, Mirror Mirror, and Snow White and the Huntsman, we see a very different princess. The modern Snow White does not lay in glass coffins awaiting rescue. Her reaction is to attack, not to run away in fright, or maybe sing a little ditty to bluebirds. The modern Snow White kicks arse, she wields a sword, actively hunts down the Evil Queen, and she stands shoulder-to-shoulder with her Prince Charming.

One of the things that we love most about Once Upon a Time is that, while Mary Margaret may be the soggiest lettuce in town, Snow White is a highwaywoman, a fighter, and a swashbuckler–every bit Prince James’s equal. Snow White is no longer a prize to be claimed, no longer an object to be won, and no longer a passive element in what is supposed to be her own story. And if she needs rescuing, she is quite capable of rescuing herself, thank you very much.

This is both so very needed and very empowering. It’s powerful to not only create new stories that empower marginalised bodies, but re-examine these old tropes and challenge them in a way that not only sets a new paradigm but highlights how wrong the old paradigm was.

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What’s Not Going Bump in the Night?: The Missing Folklore of Supernatural [TV Correspondent Tryout]

By Guest Contributor Kendra James

There are five stories I would love to see added to Supernatural Canon:

  • A Gettysburg battlefield ghost haunting focusing on one of the many Civil War era tales.
  • Anything dealing with the Salem Witch Trials and Tituba.
  • A Gullah or Southern African-American story, like The Talking Eggs that takes Sam and Dean to the Cape Fear region or lower, into South Carolina.
  • Anything that deals with a haunting dating back to the days of slavery, in the vein of The Legend of Pin Oak.
  • A trickster story where the trickster isn’t a white male, but some personification of Anansi, or Br’er Rabbit. (Or, in my wildest dreams, a Heyoka personification, but that is neither here or now and probably far too complicated for network television…)

Unfortunately, after six seasons I’ve given up on ever seeing these or anything that reflects the folklore and legends I grew up with as an African-American kid.

For those of you not in the know, Supernatural is a show about two brothers, Sam and Dean Winchester, who travel across America with an arsenal in the back of their old ’67 Impala so that they can battle various supernatural beings across the country. Aside from the good looking male leads  — a staple of any CW show, here played surprisingly well by Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki — the thing that kept me coming back when I started watching was the focus on playing around with American Folklore and its use of America itself as a setting. For a show shot in Vancouver it captures the essence of the country with a surprising attention to detail. From the fabled western highways to the roadside diners to the small country towns, America is as much of a character as the characters from her folklore.

Well, part of America, anyway, and therein lies my problem.

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