HALLOWEEN 2011: BY RISSI C.
Fairy Tales are enchanting and often end on a kiss. Sometimes there is the promise of more, but nearly all of them are merely a figment of something unattainable. Watching the big-screen adaptation of Hollywood’s take on the Grimm classic tale of Red Riding Hood is a mirage of elements co-existing in one fable, all clamoring for superiority. Looking strictly at the filmmaking, visually, it is stunning, like watching an intricate, priceless painting come alive; emotionally, it is a wreck and its depiction of forever love skewed.
The story unfolds in the midst of a love triangle but more accurately it is under a mysterious mantle of discovering the identity of a werewolf who has terrorized the wooded village for two generations. Alas, not much character development is allowed to penetrate the frightening woodland scenes or nature of the story, but what does emerge is in the form of a young woman about to run away with her lover.
Our heroine is Valerie, who is being forced into an engagement with Henry, a wealthy and gentlemanly young man who has cared for Valerie from afar for a long time, despite her girlish infatuation with Peter, her childhood friend. The two of them have been sneaking around for years, meeting in the woods that encircle their village—it is the only place Valerie really feels safe despite the unknown dangers lurking there, and Valerie believes her heart belongs to Peter.
Conflict in relationships is human nature but it has become wearying to continuously experience love triangles in which the woman always chooses the less reliable one over one who is patient and kind. What was it about Peter that appeals to Valerie over Henry? One of the biggest pulls their “love” has is the excitement and danger, and the allure of constantly rejecting and rebelling against society. Peter and Valerie’s connection isn’t so much one that will form a solid building block for a marriage as it is physical. During those stolen moments there really is not one meeting that doesn’t involve passionate kissing and caressing. In contrast, Henry cared so deeply for Valerie that he was willing to let her go for her benefit rather than pursue her and ruin the chance she had at lingering happiness.
Some stories have the “other guy” as a brooding jerk who abuses his position in society and the woman he is betrothed to, but Henry is nothing like that, his character avoids the clichés. That doesn’t mean that we (or Valerie) should settle just because prospects are grim and it looks as if Mr. Right isn’t coming along, so you decide to go for someone who is comfortable and will treat you well. There does have to be a spark, an attraction of some sort (a pull that prompts us to want to know someone better) between two people before love can fully blossom. In Valerie’s case, you get the feeling that is the only glue holding her and Peter together. Lust does not equal the kind of breathtaking love to keep two individuals interested in a marriage for forever and always, something that can start with the smallest of glances and develop into a romance with a strong, secure, and unbreakable link underneath its roots, reaping rewards with beautiful results. We are told to turn a blind eye to those romances because the benefits aren’t realistic, so lust and love are often confused. Instead, passion alone is promoted in nearly all relationships on screen; it is also why so many girls make messes of their love life. Even today, girls can enjoy a happily-ever-after that is grounded in trust and respect; if a man asks more of you than you are willing to give or cannot respect the standards you may have (as Peter did with Valerie; he had no respect for her) then he isn’t worth the time.
Two of the more recent celebrity weddings happened within a week of each other, one of which has been a household name and made millions of girls sigh over the romantic notion that royalty does marry commoners; they are Prince William and Kate Middleton. The second was Christian recording artist Rebecca St. James. Not everyone has followed her career but she has always been an advocate of “true love waits” and I have been a fan for years now. At one point, Rebecca found her belief that she’d be married shaken because she had such a desire to be in love, to serve God in a marriage. With patience she met and fell in love with her dream guy and is happily married. These two examples are vastly different, but what they illustrate is how each woman realized fairy-tale dreams in the real world.
Was Henry right for Valerie? Maybe not, but he was just as stirring as Peter in different ways. His heart was true to Valerie in ways Peter’s wasn’t. Valerie didn’t give Henry much of a second glance because she believed herself in love and was so infatuated with her dangerous woodsman, the guy who was always able to make her “break the rules.” Is that really the kind of place you want to start from in a relationship? That sort of pattern could lend itself to varying forms of manipulation, although it is never implied that Peter coerced Valerie into doing something she isn’t receptive to. Henry’s love, on the other hand, was given without condition or expectation that she would return it; he came to realize that in order to enjoy an honest life, for both he and Valerie’s sake, he’d need to let go of her and what he found instead is courage.
All this story winds up imparting is just how un-romantic the tale is in both its alternate and theatrical endings. Peter leaving Valerie until he can better protect her is a sorry excuse on its own, but the reason behind it is a turn-off, no matter if some feel it is actually telling of devotion on Valerie’s part. Their love is a danger to both of them. Meanwhile, Henry recognized how little he meant to Valerie and his gesture towards her is in my opinion far more romantic than anything Peter does.
Stories like this aren’t beneficial to cultural sects of people who think love isn’t real if it doesn’t involve physical acts, nor do they represent a positive message of revolt to those who do not have a deeper understanding of true love, whether through lack of wisdom or through worldly counsel; the source makes no difference if teens are being programmed to think a way that is detrimental to building healthy romantic relationships.
Red Riding Hood may be billed as a romance but it isn’t, as its messages are not true to the purest form of love (selflessness). And that, in and of itself, is far more terrifying than any supernatural creature. ■