This is a 20-year-old film student's perspective on the fairy and folk tales read in my Sophomore Interdisciplinary Studies class. I'm not shy and I don't hold back opinions--whether good or bad I'm always honest!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Little Red Riding Hoodie


When I first saw this cartoon, I laughed for about five minutes...and then I stopped and thought about what the cartoonist is actually saying. And I stopped laughing, because that isn't even a little bit funny.

I found this cartoon on a Yahoo Images search, which linked to a cartoon analysis blog which I hoped would tell me the name of the cartoonist, but it didn't. So I don't know the name of the cartoonist, but I get their point loud and clear: Anyone who claims that murdering someone based on your definition of "suspicious" behavior is dead wrong. The real criminal of that situation is, obviously, the murderer.

I love that he chose Little Red Riding Hood as the analogy for this cartoon, because it works perfectly: it's the situation of a naive, unsuspecting person getting attacked by someone who clearly knows better, but chooses to do the wrong thing anyway, just because he can. The wolf in both the tale and the cartoon knows that Little Red has done virtually nothing wrong, but he has the ability--both physically and mentally--to overpower her, and so he does. In the cartoon, the wolf's claim that Little Red's "suspicious" behavior justifies his decision to kill her mirrors the argument of George Zimmerman, the man who killed teenager Trayvon Martin for allegedly "wearing a hoodie and behaving suspiciously."

That's the social aspect of this cartoon, the commentary on the Trayvon Martin case. But what jumped out at me, especially in light of the discussion I mentioned in class (the conversation in which I tried to defend my position of "Little Red Riding Hood" being a metaphor for rape and seduction of young girls to my astonished friends), is how similar this argument is to the one actually used by rapists: she was asking for it.

It reminded me strongly of another cartoon, one that I'd seen on Tumblr almost a year ago:

This cartoon is pointing out that in our country (and, sadly, in many others as well, though the cartoon doesn't draw attention to that), victim blaming is a huge issue. A woman is raped walking home? Hey, it's her fault for walking alone at night--never mind that she didn't ask the rapist to attack her, he chose to attack her! A black teenager is shot crossing through the neighborhood at night? It's his fault for wearing baggy clothing...and for belonging to a race that's stereotyped as criminals, never mind that he didn't ask to be born that way! A gay teen kills himself after endless days of bullying? It's his fault for coming out! And those are just the examples the cartoon points out; I could think of plenty more, but for the sake of staying on-topic, I won't.

If Little Red were real and alive today, she might call the police after encountering the wolf instead of waiting on the huntsman. Instead of watching the wolf die with stones in its belly, she'd be subject to a long investigation wherein she was blamed repeatedly for walking alone, dressing immodestly and "tempting" the wolf, and stopping to talk to him when she "knew" he was likely to try and hurt her. She would be written off as a "slut" who "asked for it," while the wolf would, more than likely, walk free.

People talk about how it's "easier" to be a woman today than it was in the days when these fairy tales were first published. I disagree. I think that the idea of "slut shaming" (victim-blaming, basically) has stuck around long-term. Even in the original tale, both of the retellings (Grimm's and Perrault's) blame Little Red, not the wolf, for getting eaten. It's her fault because she strayed from the path. It's her fault because she didn't listen to her mother (even though she wasn't warned about the wolves in the first place). It's her fault because she was naive enough to stop and talk to the wolf. It's not the wolf's fault for tricking her and eating her. The closest thing the wolf gets to blame is when the huntsman (who only appears in the Grimms' tale, not Perrault's) calls him an "old sinner." Little Red does get rescued in the Grimm's tale, but she still thinks "never again will you stray from the path," not "When I get home, I'm going to ask my mother why the #@$% she didn't tell me there are freakin' wolves in the forest that she's sending me into alone." It's the same case today--women are blamed for walking alone at night, instead of blaming the men who choose to attack them.  At least in Little Red Riding Hood, the wolf got his comeuppance--in most cases today, the rapist walks free.

Am I overanalzying this? Probably. (I did warn you in the first blog post, I can get a little fired up when it comes to feminist issues.) I just saw so much besides what the cartoonist probably intended in that cartoon, and I thought it worked well with the tale. I know that usually, the best interpretation of the tale is the text itself, but in the case of cartoons--especially political or social cartoons--what isn't said is usually what matters.

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