Earlier today, I came across a post on Yahoo! Philippines about a photography project called "Fallen Princesses" by a photographer from British Columbia, Dina Goldstein.
As a child, I wasn't very keen on Disney tales and fairy tales in general, I suppose it was because of my parents ideologies. I also didn't have Barbie dolls. But I do have friends who loved these movies to bits and its because of them that I'm familiar with the Disney princesses and what they stand for.
I suppose some of the tragedies the photographs show aren't directly related to the basic narrative. For example, Cinderella is getting drunk inside a bar filled with old men (daddy issues, perhaps?) and the Princess in Princess and the Pea sits on a pile of mattresses in a garbage landfill. I mean, I get the mattress, but the landfill, not so much. Or that Belle from Beauty and the Beast is undergoing plastic surgery, perhaps to undo the ravages of age with what is to me apalling procedures to turn herself into a beast, too. Maybe I missed something out.
On the other hand, the Historical contexts of Jasmine, Sleeping Beauty and Pocahontas' photographs were something I could sympathize with.
Jasmine, whose locality in the Disney world is the Middle-East, stands in the middle of combat. Albeit, in make-up and posing in a pink fatigue, it made me imagine Jasmine as this naive person who is suddenly confronted by the realities of her region's History. How would somebody so basic in countenance make sense of conflict that goes back many, many years into History? It's absurd, but it's the kind of absurdity that happens when fantasy clashes with reality.
As for Sleeping Beauty, there's something that struck me with the aged prince waiting (until death) for her to wake up. Of course, there are versions of the tale where the prince actually raped her and she woke up already the mother of two children.
And Pocahontas as a cat lady. It's as if the story ended with John Smith leaving her. In his wake, a somewhat afflicted existence as an American-Indian in modern America. The gloom of the T.V., the cats, the picture of a bear, the boat motif (reminding her of a lover long gone), and the T.V. dinner (which tastes like despair) makes one feel, upon seeing the photo, bittersweet.
Though I'm not crazy about Dina Goldstein's project, I liked the idea of going beyond the story and imagining what happens after the fairytale. Often, we just follow the flow of things and stop when it ends too. If it says "happily ever after", we are ready to assume that things go well from that. A few things go wrong, sure, but after every crisis, there's always the expectation that things end on a positive note.
Having said that I wasn't and never was a big fairytale fan, one might assume that I'm immune to the expectation of a happy ending. But not quite so. In fact, I find myself just as desperate for happy endings as any other girl. Again and again, of course, things don't always go as dreamt of or expected. I suppose, I'm only slightly better at handling failure and at least I don't dream of and expect Prince Charming to come to me. (Point in fact, none of the men I ever liked and loved were handsome in the way mainstream ideologies teach us how "handsome" ought to appear. They're more like Frog Princes or Mr. Mole from Thumbelina. But I find them attractively goofy and endearing, and that's what matters to me.)
Sometimes, though, I find myself wishing I had a little more control. Rather than feeling as if someone else is orchestrating my life and I just "ride the high wind" not minding where I end up. There are moments when it feels as if I do not make my own decisions and actions, but instead I'm guided by some great, invisible hand. That I may tell myself that I make my own direction and I'm the master of my soul, but it still seems like an artifice, an unreal construct.
And I don't know if this lack of control is living the fairy tale. Consider this: I don't have to worry about anything since there's someone in charge (as what religion teaches us). Or if the ideal life would be to have absolute control of everything, creating a personal utopia and have no interferences whatsoever.
But either way, I think, the human experience would not complete if there was no interference or pain!
I suppose I also liked Dina Goldstein's project "Fallen Princesses" because she added a dimension and depth to these sacharrine tales by Disney.