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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Short Story Saturday: Politically Correct Bedtime Stories by James Finn Garner

Politically Correct Bedtime Stories: Modern Tales for Our Life & TimesPolitically Correct Bedtime Stories: Modern Tales for Our Life & Times
James Finn Garner

Once upon a time, in the olden days, heavy-set middle-aged men would congregate in their elitist clubs, sit in over-stuffed leather chairs, smoke air-choking cigars, and pitch story ideas and plots to each other. Problem was, these stories, many of which found their way into the general social consciousness, reflected the way in which these men lived and saw their world: that is, the stories were sexist, discriminatory, unfair, culturally biased, and in general, demeaning to witches, animals, goblins, and fairies everywhere.

Finally, after centuries of these abusive tales, which have been handed down - unknowingly - from one male-biased generation to the next, James Finn Garner has taken it upon himself (that's right, yet another man) to enlighten and liberate these classic bedtime stories and retell them in a way that is much more in keeping with the society in which we live today.

Politically Correct Bedtime Stories, then is the fruit of Garner's labors. We'd like to think that future generations of fairy-tale fans will see this as a worthy attempt to develop meaningful literature that is totally free from bias and purged from the influences of a flawed cultural past.

If the Jon Scieszka tales were the great slapstick fairy tale parodies for kids, James Finn Garner's Politically Correct Bedtime Stories are what those same kids read when they're all grown up.  Lampooning fairy tales and political correctness itself, these tales are utterly ridiculous and laugh out loud funny.  (Occasionally Scoff Out Loud, too...)

Every single place in a story that anyone could possibly find fault, Garner has turned it on it's head and made it so PC as to be BS... (hence why I'm always abbreviating the series title as PC BS - I doubt that was unintentional on the author's part).
Take for example, Little Red Riding Hood, which opens the collection:
There once was a young person named Red Riding Hood who lived with her mother on the edge of a large wood. One day her mother asked her to take a basket of fresh fruit to her grandmother's house - not because this was womyn's work, mind you, but because the deed was generous and helped engender a feeling of community. Furthermore, her grandmother was not sick, but was rather in full physical and mental health and was fully capable of taking care of herself as a mature adult.
So Red Riding Hood set off with her basket through the woods. Many people believed that the forest was a foreboding and dangerous place and never set foot in it. Red Riding Hood, however, was confident enough in her own budding sexuality that such obvious Freudian imagery did not intimidate her...
There are the obvious things, like the reference to the woods, but even silly little things like the spelling of "womyn" and the refusal to call Red "little" or a girl - this attention to detail and to flipping everything on its head is found through out.
The further along you read, the more it builds on itself and the more ridiculous and funny it gets.  Consider later in the same story, when we get to Little Red's classic line "But Grandmother, what big teeth you have!"  The wolf's reaction?
"I am happy with who I am and what I am!"
and he prepares to eat Red, as always.  And the Woodsman bursts in, of course, but does not get his usual welcome reception.  Instead he is called a sexist and a speciesist for "bursting in like a Neandrathal" and expecting his weapon to do the thinking for him.  Fit and active grandmother bursts up from the wolf's belly, out through his throat, and slays the Woodsman, whereupon she, Little Red and the wolf set up "an alternate household based on mutual respect and cooperation."

Each story ends more ridiculous than the last, all in the name of political correctness.

  • The naked emporer is just embracing a "clothing optional" lifestyle. 
  • The witch in Rapunzel becomes Rapunzel's "momager," raking in the big bucks on Rapunzel's singing voice and good looks. 
  • The spinner in Rumpelstiltskin "guesses" his name because he is still wearing his name badge from the "Little People's Empowerment Seminar."  
  • The 3 little pigs shout insults at the wolf who is looking to take their land ("Your gunboat tactics hold no fear for pigs defending their home and culture!" "Go to hell, you carnivorous, imperialistic opressor!"), then sing protest songs as the wolf huffs and puffs - and falls down dead from heart attack brought on by too much fatty food.  
It's all utterly ridiculous and good silly fun.  And a super quick read, too, with each story only being 2-3 pages, and the whole book being less than 80.  And though this type of humor is certainly not for everyone, if it is yours, I'd recommend picking this one up.

1 comment:

  1. I have a copy of Legally Correct Bedtime Stories, and wow. They are quite ridiculous. I keep meaning to pick up a copy of this one, but I haven't gotten to it yet...


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