Thoughts on the Red Riding Hood Trailer

As the words “From the director of TWILIGHT” appeared on the screen, the theater full of Harry Potter fans erupted in titters. Despite the attractive lead actors and starkly stylistic cinematography of the trailer for upcoming attraction Red Riding Hood, it appeared that few were convinced of director Catherine Hardwicke’s attempt at an edgy adaptation of the fairy tale by the same name.

For a fable and folklore junkie like me – whose love for the genre extends far past Disney and further into the realm of retellings by Francesca Lia Block, Robin McKinley, and Gregory McGuire – I suppressed both my excitement and judgment. I enjoy the comeback of fairy tales and mythology in the worlds of cinema and literature (and popular music – although one may question Taylor Swift’s true knowledge of the term “fairy tale.”) At first glance, the image of the lovely hooded girl (played by Amanda Seyfried), awash in clouds of white and red, embedded itself directly to the romantic part of my soul that seeks archetypal visions. The other half of my
soul, the part that thrives on depth and theoretical analysis and was much molded by my background as an English major, immediately sought an allegory.

After all, the original purpose of fairy tales, as far back as ancient Egypt, was to frighten and educate children about the perils of the world. Western tales, primarily those such as “Little Red Riding Hood,” were directed almost entirely at young girls to prevent them from indulging in the dangers and thrills of sexuality. To an even marginally perceptive reader, the colors in the tale represent much of the subtleties – the red hood of the young protagonist not only symbolizes, in several ways, her virginity, but also the standards of oppression under which she is held. The path on which she is to embark is a pre-paved rode of her life’s journey. The wolf, like any beast, functions as a seductive creature whose desires stir in syncopation with hers. Her demise occurs when she falls victim to her own human nature.

I want Red Riding Hood to delve into this rich opportunity to provoke thought and discussion about the views of virginity and sexuality in our society. Some faith is to be had; Hardwicke’s film Thirteen was a far cry heavier than the Twilightfranchise, and she is not a stranger to the delicate and brutal inner workings of teenage girls.

Because it is this percentage of the youth population who will flock to this film, it is a chance to reveal sexuality’s truths – the many beauties of it, and the many obstacles girls still face in their attempts to express it. A film can be visually stunning and maintain its meaning; such is the case of whimsical movies such as Pan’s Labyrinth or The Fifth Element.

I fear its shortcomings – if indeed Hardwicke chooses to indulge the Twihards – will produce a Sofia Coppola-esque adversity (à la the pretty but pathetically shallow Marie Antoinette) and further the appeal of astonishingly pale and passive lead characters engaging in very surface level intimacy.

If the former is true, if Hardwicke’s chromatic and picturesque vision is indeed an intricate adaptation that enthralls and evokes, then perhaps the recent influx of mythical creatures and folklore in the media will prove beneficial for youth thirsty for darkly luminescent cinema. Perhaps Leonardo DiCaprio’s role as producer will have influenced maturity of the characters with personalities that progress throughout the course of the film, rather than characters who function only as handsome mannequins, further promoting unrealistic expectations of what constitutes romance.

But perhaps viewers will be too transfixed only on the sweeping and saturated setting, the wide angle shots of lovers exchanging forbidden glances, and the gorgeous detail of the costumes to critically analyze the underlying morals that are at stake in the tale. As teenage fans of Twilight have proven, the lure of sexuality, the indulgence in faux intimacy and a Victorian-era view on romance, takes priority over any opportunity to evaluate society’s views about it. Unfortunately, those who seek to gain the most from this opportunity are the very ones who suffer most from the silence. TC mark


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  • DeAnna Dawn Tibbs

    Well said, Ashley. I like Amanda Seyfried and the idea of revisiting Little Red Riding Hood, which was an important story in my youth (before we could put a movie on the DVD player or even the VCR). Even Freeway (1996), while not a great movie, was a decent attempt.

    I was excited when I saw the trailer last night and barely noticed that it was the director of Twilight. I told my husband that I was interested and he said, “By the director of Twilight, one of the worst films made of all time!” Sigh…yes, so true. But I did not realize that this same director produced Thirteen…one of the best movies of all time. Thirteen is one of the few movies that I have watched with commentary.

    I also look forward to seeing how feminine strength and power are handled. The trailer implies Little Red as a sole female surrounded by men with power, but also as a female with personal and ethical choices that have a lot at stake.

    • Ashley Noel Hennefer

      Thanks for the response, DeAnna. I love “Thirteen” as well and think this film presents some great opportunities to address similar themes. I have high hopes for “Red Riding Hood” and am curious to see how these issues are represented, if at all.

  • but seriously

    Thirteen was TERRIBLE.

  • Jtprius510

    There is always a great amount of risk involved in the retelling of a children's story, especially when your goal is in drawing out some of its' adult themes. I'm afraid Red Riding Hood is no acception, and from what I read in the synopsis Director Catherine Wicker and Screenwriter David Johnson are going about this film the same way every writer and director goes about the retelling of a children's story. “Set in a medieval village that is haunted by a werewolf, a young girl falls for an orphaned woodcutter, much to her family's displeasure.”(IMDB) Her family has already set up a marriage between her and a man she already doesn't like, and so already this is sounding a lot like the retelling of Alice and Wonderland. I hated that movie. Everyone I saw it with hated that movie. Though I do admire the bold risk that is taken by writers and directors that attempt to retell these stories. One good example that comes to mind when I think of writers and directors that have taken this bold step are Spike Jonez and Dave Eggers' adaptation of Maurice Sendaks Where The Wild Things Are. When Eggers was researching through Sendak's fable, he obviously noticed something in the way these monsters looked and acted and the way they lived on their own. He probably also noticed something in the way our protagonist Max was acting before he had met the wild things. That is why the wild things were posed as adults with issues regarding their levels of maturity. They needed to grow up just as much as Max did. That is why every single one of those monsters and Max were seen as 'emo.' This is a quote that I am taking straight from the mouths of the people who both saw and didn't like what they saw. That is why this movie was not so well recieved by all. People were very turned off by this alternative story line, even though it was what was very necessary in trying to draw out some of these adult themes. As necessary as an alternative story line is to the retelling of these old stories, it is a catch 22 no matter how hard you work on it. A lot of people I know characterized this movie as dark, emo and definitely not for kids. As for the Oscar's, it wasn't even mentioned, which was a great disappointment to me. For every reason why people hated this movie, were all of the reasons for why I enjoyed it. In drawing this alternative story line, Eggers was simply telling audiences everything they did not want to know about the underlying theme of Where The Wild Things Are. This is what normally happens when you are trying to retell a children's story. The synopsis already sounds a lot like Alice and Wonderland and Thirteen, so you'll probably like it, just another tale about another girl approaching those wonderful stages of womanhood. Am I looking forward to it? Yes, I already said that I love it when directors and writers do this. Plus, a lot of hype is already being generated by hiding the big bad wolf in the previews. Who can resist a catch phrase like 'who is afraid of the big bad wolf?'

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