McKenna Jean Princing. Reclaiming the Fairy Tale: The Power of Fairy Tales to Advance Women's Rights and Act as Agents of Social Change in Popular Culture and the Academic Community. Honors Thesis, University of Washington. 2013.
Fairy tales have their origins in folklore, usually the kinds of "old wives' tales" that were primarily told and circulated by women. In the Victorian era, retellings of those tales became popularized by the likes of the Grimm brothers and Andrew Lang, and for decades Disney princess movies have been embedded in popular U.S. culture. Fairy tales, then, are historically associated with ideals of femininity, yet they usually do women a disservice by portraying them in stereotypical ways that conform to female gender norms. Because of their being naturalized in U.S. culture, however, fairy tales can be reclaimed to challenge the female gender norms they traditionally espouse. My thesis examines this dynamic between pop culture, women, and fairy tales, looks at some recent examples of feminist female characters in fairy tale retellings â€” from Gail Carson Levine's award-winning novel Ella Enchanted, to the currently popular ABC television show Once Upon A Time â€” and argues that reclaiming fairy tales is essential to the ongoing women's rights movement, and that fairy tales therefore ought to be taken more seriously within the academic community as powerful agents of social change.