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16 February 2012 @ 02:07 am
Unhappily Ever After: Fairy Tale Consequence Photo Shoots  

What we like about fairy-tales may be that despite the strange and desperate situations the heroes and heroines find themselves in, their stories still end happily for them. And that's usually what parents and precocious teens complain about: Stories with happy endings set up unrealistic expectations. Thus the "Unhappily Ever After" op-eds and artistic renderings, where those plucky and lovable heroes and heroines don't get what they want, or even make it out alive.

Well, I shouldn't say heroes, because the heroines are shown far more often, if not exclusively, to have "bad endings." Fairy tale females are oft pictured suffering as a stand-in for their happy ending - sometimes violently. Thus when a provocative series like Thomas Czarnecki's From Enchantment to Down gains popularity, people cry misogyny. Are they right?

On the one hand, we could see Czarnecki's series positively drawing attention to the real life plights of some women - rape, abduction, exploitation, torture, murder - through familiar fairy-tale characters. However, Czarneki admits in The Daily Mail:

...his aim was pure culture shock.

The photographer was inspired to create a clash between what he calls 'the naive universe and the innocence of the fairy tales' and a 'much darker reality that is as much part of our common culture' provided through imagery we see in entertainment and media.

'So many Disney characters embedded in the collective culture as sweet and innocent creatures that I decided to get out of their recognized fairy-tale frame and universe,' he said.

The problem is, it isn't really Disney characters - it's just Disney women. We don't see fairy-tale males like Pinocchio, Aladdin, or Robin Hood facing sticky ends with the same implied sexual violence. No Hercules crushed between two pillars with his tunic pulled up, or Peter Pan hung from the rafters in his child-size briefs. But violence against women where they remain sexy and beautiful, is not only provacative but popular. And that's what's troubling - these photograhs presented as "culture shock" imply that the fairy-tale hope of pursuing your dreams doesn't exist in a "reality" where girls just get raped and murdered, all the while remaining attractive and alluring.

However, Czarnecki isn't the first to tackle this "real world consequences for fairy tales" in a photo series. In fact, his series reminded me of another shoot by photographer Bruno Vilela called Bibidi Bobidi Boo! where fairy tale heroines are similarly photographed as beautiful corpses.

Though I could also recall other "consequences" photo series that didn't necessitate the death of its subjects: Ex-Disney Princesses by Anna Howard, Fallen Princesses by Dina Goldstein, Behind the Scenes Fairytales by Rosie Hardy, and Grimm's Scary Tales by EbbyLou. All photo series by female photographers.

So that got me thinking: What about a compare and contrast between the photographers work by gender - what was the same, what would be different? How would gender paradigms affect how the photographer would see and shoot their subjects? What would that mean about their attitudes about women?

WARNING: Though not explicitly violent, some of these photos do strongly indicate animal cruelty, rape, abduction, exploitation, torture, and murder. They can be highly disturbing. Viewer discretion is advised.

Requirements for Photos To Appear in Comparison
  • Must be a series of photos
  • Reference Disney/Disney Princesses
  • Focuses on "real-world consequences" of fairy tales
  • Not humor, horror, or fashion oriented

Thomas Czarnecki - My Sweet Prince

Bruno Vilela

Thomas Czarnecki - Too Fast

Bruno Vilela

Thomas Czarnecki - Just A Trap

Thomas Czarnecki - Naughty Girl

Thomas Czarnecki - On The Other Shore

Thomas Czarnecki - Not So Romantic

Thomas Czarnecki - One Last Wish

Thomas Czarnecki - One More Trophy

Bruno Vilela

Thomas Czarnecki - Happy End

Male Photographers
  • Subjects' faces aren't show or not shown fully to the camera
  • Emphasis is on the body and the loose/disheveled clothing or covering
  • Beautiful even in death
  • Subjects appear dead or inert, "helpless"
  • Signs of victimization/abuse (restrained, dresses pulled up, blood splatter)
  • Both are non-American photographers (French and Brazilian); Could be culture commentary from outsider perspective, thus the extreme view
  • Is it provocative because it's a commentary on how real life women can be treated, including fairy-tale women,
  • OR is it provocative because it's how fairy-tale women should have, or expect to be treated? Therein lies the misogyny

Ebby Lou / Rosie Hardy - Snow White's Eating Disorder / Dina Goldstein / Anna Howard

Ebby Lou / Ebby Lou / Rosie Hardy - Cinderella's Abduction / Dina Goldstein

Anna Howard / Rosie Hardy - Sleeping Beauty's Other Needles / Ebby Lou / Dina Goldstein

Rosie Hardy - The Little Mermaid's Big Accident / Dina Goldstein / Anna Howard

Anna Howard / Rosie Hardy - Belle's Drunken Mistake / Dina Goldstein / Ebby Lou

Rosie Hardy / Anna Howard / Dina Goldstein

Rosie Hardy - Pocahontas's Carbon Footprint / Dina Goldstein

Rosie Hardy - Rapunzel's Mistake / Dina Goldstein - Rapunzel

Female Photographers
  • Emphasis on the subject's face and expression, making them more person than object
  • Wider variety of "consequences" per Princess, some of it self-inflicted
  • Greater personal agency - even though some of the women are engaged in destructive behaviors, they're doing the action to themselves and not being subjected to it
  • Props are more often being used by or are in the subjects' hands
  • Neutral consequences - Some of the situations are more compromise than outright unfortunate, taking the bad with the good or surmising that "Happily Ever After" doesn't necessarily mean "Happy All The Time"
  • Larger reflection on modern or societal ills within the photos - resource conservation, guerrilla warfare, May-December romance, substance abuse, animal hoarding
  • Even the photos where women are "dead" or bloodied they still appear to maintain some control (having bitten the apple, holding the bouquet)

I like the female photographers' work because it doesn't objectify the women as passive objects the way the male gaze does. It is disturbing to look at pictures of dead fairy tale characters, that's why it's so culturally shocking. But what's even more disquieting is what the pictures unintentionally highlight about how these photographers view the agency of women: that they're little more than victims terrible things are bound to happen to.

What are your thoughts of the photos?

Anna Howard | Ex-Disney Princesses
Bruno Vilela | Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo
Dina Goldstein | Fallen Princesses
Ebby Lou | Grimm Scary Tales
Rosie Hardy | Behind the Scenes Fairytales
Thomas Czarnecki | From Enchantment to Down
Current Mood: thoughtfulconcerned
Takochacusha on February 16th, 2012 07:43 am (UTC)
I really like your commentary here! Maybe the different photoshoots have different reasonings/focuses behind them, but the ones by the men definitely give off the impression that sexual and physical violence are the only interesting issues women deal with, while the photoshoots by the women deal with domestic life, drug abuse, depression, self image, political conflict, and illness. Which... comes off as QUITE a bit more thoughtful or at the very least more creative.

And the lack of faces in the first sets is really kind of disturbing. It's the whole "let's portray a dead woman, but ~sexy~" trope which I freaking hate (I guess it's called Drop Dead Gorgeous on TVTropes).

The focus on princesses, ignoring other embodiments of pure childhood innocence like Pinocchio, Peter Pan, and so on, kind of bothers me but I think it's mostly because the princess franchise gets pushed on us so much and if you're going to make a set, it's one of the first things that comes to mind. Like, people might be walking in a store and see the aisle filled with princess stickers and want to give it a dark twist. I can understand that. But yeah, I'm just kind of annoyed how much attention and criticism the princesses get from society while Disney's many non-fairytale-based, non-princess movies are largely ignored as if no one watches them and they don't have any effect on kids. And male characters DON'T get picked apart to see if they live up to the standard of Good Role Model for Children. Nor do they get photoshoots where they've been abused while looking sexy.

I have many feelings, evidently.
Abigail: Disney Angstmdmbrightside on February 16th, 2012 07:54 am (UTC)
It's the whole "let's portray a dead woman, but ~sexy~" trope which I freaking hate (I guess it's called Drop Dead Gorgeous on TVTropes).

Ah, that's a really good name for it! I kept trying to come up with a pithy way to describe it, but that's perfect. And yeah, it's the number one thing that bothers me about these photos.

We'll have reached equality when I have to read essays about all the terrible subliminal things Robin Hood or King Arthur teaches little boys to subjugate and undermine their confidence. Kind of like the male pin-ups, I now want to make a photo series similar to Bruno/Thomas's just to highlight how ridiculous and damaging it really is.

We can have all the feelings. It would feel empty not to.
(no subject) - life_subaquatic on February 16th, 2012 07:18 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Megan!meiki on February 16th, 2012 09:08 am (UTC)
This is really interesting! Thanks so much for posting these. I had seen the Dina Goldstein photos floating around tumblr, but not the others. Her's are still my favorite I think, there's a lot of creativity in her choices.

I totally agree with your critiques, and I also just feel like the photos taken by the men are generally less interesting. They're all just the same dead/captured/abused theme without much thought put into the story.

I would like to see more takes on these sorts of photos with heroes too. I think Disney does tend to push the princesses a lot so I understand the choice somewhat, but it would still be nice to see.
Abigail: Disney Angstmdmbrightside on February 16th, 2012 08:54 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you found it interesting! I was somewhat worried it would prove too controversial.

I think Dina Goldstein put a lot of original thought into her photos, thus why they're so intriguing despite not always making linear sense.

And they're absolutely less interesting! After you've seen one or two, the only question you have is "How will the next one have died?" It's a very narrow focus for a series when other photographers have shown there's more material to each character than the ways they could have been snuffed.

The overexposure of the Princesses does make them a big target. However, a dark Pixar series would be interesting and be almost all male.
(Deleted comment)
Devinlife_subaquatic on February 16th, 2012 07:01 pm (UTC)
I find it to be less "art" than trolling. But then again, I'm not one who really gets art either.
(no subject) - mdmbrightside on February 16th, 2012 08:59 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - madison_face09 on February 17th, 2012 12:23 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - qlbunnies on February 17th, 2012 05:25 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - madison_face09 on February 17th, 2012 11:35 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Nalyubuitesjo_fitz on February 16th, 2012 02:57 pm (UTC)
The first set is stupid, let's make them dead and sexy. They were just tacky and thoughtless.
The second set I can get behind. These focus more on real issues. Some of them are really pretty and really sad at the same time. I think she got what she was going for.
lizziebusyblizziebusyb on February 16th, 2012 05:00 pm (UTC)
personally, i dont like that princesses are always being the target for subjects on rape/ ugly social issues, etc. These artists are taking what is being meant to be innocent and wholesome and turning them into something ugly- which has, of course the 'shock' factor to capture people's attention. The princesses are meant to be figures we can look up to, yet not to be taken TOO seriously at the same time, right? To portray them in such a way, I feel that the princesses are the victims of social commentary :(
On the other hand, I WOULD like to see something like that done about the disney Princes, just for equality's sake, although it WOULD be very disturbing to see my favourite princes become something sinister =(

Edited at 2012-02-16 05:01 pm (UTC)
Abigail: Disney Angstmdmbrightside on February 16th, 2012 09:06 pm (UTC)
I'm not a huge fan of appropriating childrens characters for social commentary, either. Does that mean this photo series is intended for children? While that's clearly inappropriate, beyond shock value they do very little to spark discussion or make people think critically. Fairy tales exist in morally simplistic universes and the lessons we draw from them are equally simple. Trying to re-frame them to fit modern or social problems over-complicates them and ends up not working beyond provocation.

I actually think a Disney Heroes version would be more disturbing because people aren't used to seeing men or boys so victimized, which in itself is a whole new level of depressing.
(no subject) - lizziebusyb on February 17th, 2012 03:56 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - accidentalzombi on February 18th, 2012 01:00 am (UTC) (Expand)
genforever246: Artiegenforever246 on February 16th, 2012 06:36 pm (UTC)
The first set with the male photographer photos seem very offensive to me. Why do all of them have to be raped? Is there any point? Yeah females can be raped but that does not mean that that is the worst thing possible. Men can be sexually abused too. I feel that this is setting up a category that is saying that women are weaker than men which defeats the whole purpose of this in the first place if there even is a purpose. It's mainly that part that offends me for the first set. What is the point? No really, what is the point? We all know that being sexually abused to terrifying but just suggesting that women are the only ones who can suffer that way is ridiculous.

As for the female set, it was better for it represented how endings do not all end happy and that the real life is dull. But isn't that why we need fairy tales in the first place? We want to escape reality. What is the point of creating all these beautiful stories and people if we are not allowed to relate to them?

Honestly, I just feel against both of these sets. It's been a constant battle against overly compulsive feminists. Girls do not learn to only rely on princes from this stuff, girls learn to rely on themselves! To make themselves better so that people will respect and love you more. It isn't about vanity, it is about striving to make yourself the best you can be. It isn't about following an unrealistic path, it's about faith and hope! WHY FEMINISTS, WHY STUCK UPS, WHY DO YOU HATE THE GIRLS SO MUCH!? Why why why!? DX
we_are_zombies on February 16th, 2012 08:01 pm (UTC)
I consider myself a feminist and I'm a big Disney princess fan. Snow White's my favorite, even!

The princesses are so well-known and loved by younger girls, it's not surprising they're popular targets for these kinds of criticisms. It's not necessarily a bad thing to look at things with a critical eye, especially when it's children's media. I like to think that we should be able to have communication on these issues, since both sides have reasonable arguments. Sometimes it's just tough to get people to be civil, haha.

I think the problem comes from individuals who are repeating the criticisms they hear from others and not thinking about it themselves (the 'Ariel traded her fin/family for a man' argument comes to mind). These photos seem to be an artistic manifestation of those crits. Most people don't believe children's movies are worth thinking about in any depth and tend to just latch onto the first opinion that they can justify cleanly, which I think is a shame.

It's not a feminist problem, it's a 'people suck' problem. I can understand where you're coming from, though, it can be very frustrating.
(no subject) - swanpride on April 9th, 2012 10:13 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - mdmbrightside on February 16th, 2012 09:25 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - genforever246 on February 16th, 2012 11:06 pm (UTC) (Expand)
shivatopiashivatopia on February 16th, 2012 07:49 pm (UTC)
I agree that I just don't get why people would gravitate toward this style of "art." Sure, art is subjective, but being attracted to this type of uglification of established Disney characters (specifically princesses, in this case), just reveals the dark lens of the artist to me. The first thought I have is that this artist/photographer probably has a troubled soul. It's like Anne Rice's dark erotic novels based on the story of Sleeping Beauty (and I think we can all agree that Anne Rice's literary works are dark). Why even go there? I'm sure they have their reasons, but I'm positive that I don't share their vision.

That said, I appreciate your analysis of the differences in the products of the male and female photographers given this rather disturbing material. There is a very stark contrast in how the subject matter is presented, and it does not help the men's position at all...
Abigail: Disney Angstmdmbrightside on February 16th, 2012 09:28 pm (UTC)
I think it's a preference to show the characters in that situation, but I agree it does show the artist's darker disposition. How they got to that dark place, however, can be interesting to analyze.
Emily Louiseteamlouise on February 16th, 2012 07:58 pm (UTC)
Thank you for posting this!

I think this is very interesting and I agree with the commentary. The first set is totally boring and unimaginative -- it relies solely on sex and cheap shock value. YAWN. And offensive. The projects by female photographers make much more a statement and show much more thoughtfulness.
Abigail: Disney Angstmdmbrightside on February 16th, 2012 09:30 pm (UTC)
You're quite welcome!

I quite agree. I do like the range and creativity in the female photographers work over "... and here's another dead body."
we_are_zombies on February 16th, 2012 08:14 pm (UTC)
I like Dina Goldstein's photos. There's something in them that's missing from the others. They make me feel more. It's a bit masochistic, I guess, but I appreciate them. Maybe because they're well thought-out for each princess? 'Cept Belle; I don't know what's trying to be said there.

I'm not big on using the princesses in social commentary, though. They always end up so unhappy, and I love them too much to like the photos. Instead of saying 'hm, yes, as women we trade our dreams for sex & heroin! IT MAKE SO MUCH SENSE!' I want to give the girls a hug and never let go. ;__; They DID have to earn a happy ending, guys, let them have it already!

The first set was boring and uncreative. The 'beautiful women in peril!' hook has never really interested me, and that's all it has going for it.

Edited at 2012-02-16 08:15 pm (UTC)
Abigail: Disney Angstmdmbrightside on February 16th, 2012 09:36 pm (UTC)
I think Dina is one of the older photographers in the group, at least among the women. There's a more mature eye to her work that allows her to create a broader range of realities, even if they don't have much to do with the Princess they're depicting.

I'm not big on using the princesses in social commentary, though. They always end up so unhappy, and I love them too much to like the photos. Instead of saying 'hm, yes, as women we trade our dreams for sex & heroin! IT MAKE SO MUCH SENSE!'

This is perfect comment, I love it XD I never really get the Princess and drug use photos either because none of them really seem to need or would want to use drugs, much less abuse them to the point of overdose. I'm even including Alice because she was already in an altered reality - breathing the Wonderland air was probably enough to alter her consciousness.
(Deleted comment)
madison_face09: Cinderella's Bookmadison_face09 on February 17th, 2012 12:20 am (UTC)
LOL me too!!!!
madison_face09: You Can't Tell Me To Heal!madison_face09 on February 17th, 2012 12:27 am (UTC)
I found the male ones a bit disturbing. Like "OH......well, um....." while the females ones seemed more...touching, I guess? They actually made me feel pity or something for them, instead of just being disturbed. Those male pictures just made me wonder what is wrong in that guy's head, that he spends all his time doing this.
persoconchii on February 17th, 2012 12:35 am (UTC)
you know what, Thomas Czarnecki photos offend me not even because of the Disney costumes, they offend me as simply tasteless!!
Yes lets all pose our models as dead hookers in dark creepy places... [/sarcasm]*facepalm*
Belle de Winter : Princess of a Parallel Worldbelledewinter on February 18th, 2012 01:44 pm (UTC)
I agree with everything you just said.

The pictures taken by women seems to really focus on what can happen and how they are harmed, but they remain alive. The pictutre is not a discarded pair of heels and an image of shown flesh. All they seem to do in the male photographer pictures is get raped and killed - not impressed at all.