Shooting the Oogieloves The argument against Bowdlerization This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

April 9, 2013
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Once upon a time, there were two movies, one called Brave and one called The Oogieloves Great Balloon Race. The director and writers The Oogieloves had a dilemma on their hands, for they believed that movies for kids were becoming too dark and too intimidating for children. Therefore, they made a film they thought would appeal to adults and children by making it 3-D, cute, outlandish, and interactive for the audience; almost like Rocky Horror Picture Show only no sexual innuendos and no chocolate underwear. The films structure was simple, three Oogieloves (which look like over-sized toddlers who died their hair and skin to resemble Muppets) lose their balloons and go on a journey to find them, and they need your help! I do apologize if I sound like Dora the Explorer, but that is the real plot of the film and yes like Dora, the audience has to sing, dance, and do silly actions to move the poor little plot along to find balloons. Thinking the film would be a great success, it was marketed very heavily with an interactive movie poster, mind-screwy trailers, a website, and above all things a spot on Parenting magazine; But things changed for the Oogieloves when the heroine of Brave, the spunky Scottish lass Merida shot them down to win the top of the box-office. However, Brave is no ordinary Disney fairy-tale; it is a tale about a relationship torn by two different perspectives. One is driven by conformity and tradition (Merida’s Mother) and one is driven by strength and rebellious individuality (Merida), which is mended together in the end by acceptance and understanding. Despite the movies dark and sometimes Grimm-like notions of danger and magic, the movie is a great example of no matter how shadowy or scary a fairy-tale is it still ends with a good outcome; except when it comes to Hans Christen Anderson, he is another story. The question is why is there a comeback of dark and edgy adaptations of fairy-tales? If so, will Bowdlerization and Disneyfication be gone for good? Well here is a good time for a story…

It all started when the Brothers Grimm recorded the oral traditions of the people of Germany and Austria at a time when oral storytelling was in danger of becoming lost due to the advent of the mass printing of books and other documents including the Bible. They went village to village copying down fairy-tales and folklore by word of mouth, which were told to children. What is the meaning of fairy-tales and why are they told to children. The reason being according to psychologist and many who study myths are because, they teach children how to deal and cope with the dangers and situations that constantly bombarded their lives. Such as the death of a parent, getting face to face with a hungry wolf, getting lost in the woods, and even how to deal with magical and mysterious objects or people whether they are good or bad thus the term “fairy-tale”. Because rural life during this time was harsh and very dangerous, many of the tails involved incredibly graphic, torturous, and violent situations some, which were humorous like in Loony Tunes or Monty Python, and some that were just plain dreadful. An example of this contrasting violence is in one obscure tale called The Juniper Tree. The tale is about a mother who whishes for her son to have hair as black as ebony and lips as red as blood (sound familiar?) after the son is born a famine hits causing the mother to gorge on Juniper berries, and dies. She is buried underneath the juniper tree by the father, his daughter, and her young brother. Latter on we are introduced to the stepmother who likes the daughter but hates her brother; because of this, she sets up an inciting trap for the brother. “I would like to have an apple,” asks the brother so she brings him to a box and then when he enters, she locks the box, roast him and latter chops him up, and serves him in a stew for the father and daughter to eat (yes, cannibalism in a children’s story). At night the daughter finds her brother’s bones and buries them under the juniper tree, then after that out of the tree emerges a phoenix that flies away to retrieve a sack of gold, a dress, and a millstone. When the phoenix comes back, he gives the daughter a dress, the father a sack of gold, and for the stepmother…SPLAT! the millstone. When all the gifts are given, he sets himself on fire, and reveals himself as the daughter’s brother. The part with the cannibalism is quite disgusting while the part with the millstone landing on the stepmother is the equivalent of Wiley Coyote being hit on the head by an anvil.

Now in the Grimm’s tales, outlandish violence and gory humor was a part of the story and was used as a device to punish a villain or a foolish attempt to gain control over the hero or heroine. When the Grimm Brothers published their stories during their time they were bought by the thousands and translated into many European languages, from then on the Brothers Grimm became the standard for the writing of such tales. Even theologian and author J.R.R Tolkien (the Lord of the Rings guy) said that their stories should be the origin on which all our factices and ideas about fantasy stories come from. Everyone thought the Grimm’s stories were all right except for the French…a man by the name of Charles Perrault thought, “Oh mondure! These stories are too violent for children! I’ll just have to rewrite these so there for kids!” not only did he do that he also wrote in some familiar nursery rhymes, and smacked an old kind-hearted lady on the cover riding around on a giant white goose and called it The Tales of Mother Goose. Thus, we have the first case of Bowdlerization in the world of fairy-tales and a few years latter a trend started to make not just fairy-tales child friendly but other works as well. Many years later, a censor by the name of Thomas Bowdler took several of Shakespeare’s works and made a series of books called The Family Shakespeare. basically he redid the works of the bard and edited them to make them family-friendly, such as making Ophelia’s death in Hamlet accidental rather than suicidal and had the tragedy King Lear have a happy ending. Therefore, a new word entered our media dictionary in his name, Bowdlerization.

Disney films are the most common example of this technique but not nearly as bad as censors for Anamie shows like Pokémon and many others, so bad that it can entirely ruin the shows plot. One example is in an episode called Driatini’s Legend in which the Warden of the Safari Zone uses a gun to protect himself from swarms of Pokémon catchers and thieves like Team Rocket whom in this episode too have guns of their own. His other reason is that a legendary Pokémon called Dragonair lives in the Safari Zone and he wants to protect it. However, when the censors and translators for 4-Kids Entertainment saw the Warden point the gun at Ash and his friends the episode was immediately taken off air and was not duded at all…which is quite ridiculous in America because of the amount of NRA supporters who claim a gun is the best way to protect yourself. A problem with this kind of censorship is because it can be handled in a very narrow-minded way, such a way it makes viewers too biased in addition. Pokémon not only has new characters and moral lessons about friendship and fairness, it also has Japanese cultural values, folklore, and even foods and holidays. If these references to a different culture are cut out for decency, then the Bowdlerization is used to assimilate the American values on a show that is Asian and makes it less encouraging for kids to learn about Japanese culture and be more encouraged to buy the next VHS or DVD.

Could Bowdlerization equal buying power? It can when it involves someone else’s work and when it is marketed as “based on the book by Dr.Seuss” or any famous author, it too can be a victim of Bowdlerization by padding, sugarcoating the dialog, or changing the original plot. The original Lorax was really a story of the decimation of an ecosystem, in the new-fangled version of the same story a boy named Ted is trying to impress his girlfriend Audrey by finding her a real tree (sounds like the writers plugged their ears though the whole entire book in Reading Class). Instead, it was all about the endorsements and the marketing with packages, boxes, and bags. In reality, you cannot find the Lorax in the store, for his message means a little bit more…as well said by the good doctor himself. The book is really about the risk of consumption and today that we know how Bowdlerization and Disneyfication affects how we view and understand the world; we now have come to a place where we can step down from it. After the car company Mazda did a marketing tie-in with The Lorax, many people got angry because they fully understood the meaning and message of the original book and decided to boycott the film’s tie-ins even though it got the top of the box-office. Maybe Bowdlerization and Disneyfication are not yet dead, and perhaps there are still some greedy and overprotective Oogieloves who want to take over the world an sugarcoat our favorite stories; but if we fully understand the full meaning and value of a work like the Grimm’s Tales or Dr.Seuss and embrace it we will be prepared to shoot the Oogieloves.

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topjimmy said...
Jul. 22, 2014 at 9:50 pm
Very good article it really makes you think about these stories in another light. Great Job
MarykThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. replied...
Jul. 26, 2014 at 8:08 am
Thank you very much for observing my article, in the works I'am writing Dr.Seuss fan fiction whitch fallows Bart Collins after he defeats Dr.Terwilliker from The 5000 Fingers of Dr.T the only live-action film made by Dr.Seuss. I feel his works should be enjoyed by fan-fiction, not by corprate studios.
topjimmy replied...
Jul. 28, 2014 at 8:47 am
Looking forward to it and congradulations on the editors choice award on this article!!!  
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