LITTLE RED IN THE NEW ‘HOOD
This morning I had the opportunity to accompany Little Bit’s preschool class to a production of “Little Red Riding Hood.” Those of you familiar with this classic story might have had some difficulty recognizing it.
In this modern version, it seems the wolf is “allergic to meat,” and only wants a bite of the birthday cake Red is bringing to her Granny. Granny, a spry 40 something, gives the hunter what-for when he suggests she stay home and let him do the protecting. Furthermore, she forbids him to bring his gun along on their expedition to find the missing Red. She’ll just use her Super-Granny karate chop on that wolf, she assures him.
Red is a feisty chick on roller skates who lectures the audience on the importance of wearing your helmet while skating or riding a bike. She overwhelms and intimidates the poor vegetarian wolf, and having asserted her dominance, befriends him.
In the end, the four characters chase each other around and accidentally knock the cake over. But not to worry, having learned that everyone is OK, they can work cooperatively, each using their own strengths, and make a new cake. Hooray!
Through the whole play, I had one thought in my mind: Thank god my husband isn’t here. Not one to suffer fools gladly, he would have been on his feet, shouting at the actors. “You’re not a wolf, you’re a wuss!” And “If you tried to karate kick a wolf it would eat your foot!” All of the preschool teachers in the theater would have risen, en masse, to put his butt in time out.
Later, I pulled out my copy of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales and read the original story, which was called “Little Red Cap.” As you may recall, the wolf tricks Red into straying from the path, eats Granny, and then eats Red when she finally arrives at Granny’s house. The hunter cuts the wolf open with scissors and frees the women, then fills the wolf’s belly with rocks.
The thing is, these fairy tales are archetypal stories. The characters serve as templates for people in that category. Red is the innocent maiden who, having been led from the path of righteousness finds herself in quite a pickle.
But wait, why would she be Red and not Little White Riding Hood? Isn’t white the universal symbol of purity and innocence? In fact, Red is red because she bleeds, making her that most dangerous of creatures, an unmarried (and therefore uncontrolled) fertile female. Naturally, the wolf (archetypal male) cannot control his impulses around this daring temptress and eats (screws) her, thus winding up with the woman in his belly, clearly a metaphor for what really happens- she winds up with the wolf’s baby in HER belly.
In the new millennium version, Red claims all the power. She screws the wolf, Granny emasculates the hunter, and they all live happily ever after in a non-traditional family structure in which we can all hook up with whomever we like because there really are no bad guys, nor are there any consequences for failing to control our impulses and oh my god somebody please stop me!
EDIT: just to clear up some confusion: my daughter’s class did not perform the play, they went on a field trip to see a professional production at a theater. It was performed by adults.