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WU 1
Avery Wu
Writing 39B
Professor Zainab
3/42019
Of Heroes and Princesses: TED-Talk
Hello. How is everyone doing today? Good? Well, I am about to make your day better.
After an agonic, six-year waiting period, Disney has finally released a sneak-peek for “Frozen
2”! Needless to say, I am excited! Now, I know what you are thinking: “But, Jane, you are too
old to be looking forward to a children’s movie?” Yes, I am not a part of the film’s target
demographic, but I cannot help but feel thrilled at the thought of seeing two of my favorite fairytale heroines on screen again. For me, Elsa and Anna are more than just the princesses of this
modern era. They are a sign that the feminist outlook on fairy tales has begun to reach the mass
media; that times might change just enough so that young girls do not have to grow up in world’s
populated by heroes and damsels in distress.
See, I grew up watching fairy tales. They were everywhere when I was a child. In a way,
they were almost inescapable – the girls spoke about their favorite princesses while the boys
begrudgingly admitted that the princes were cool, too. There was so much merchandise – toys,
clothing, school supplies – and so many activities that would be princess themed. Even if we
look beyond the popular, film adaptations, fairy tales are still everywhere. They are among the
first books that our parents purchase for us and some of the first texts that we study in school;
whether the traditional versions found in written form or their film adaption, the stories of young
girls and boys, of princesses and heroes, were everywhere I looked. It would not be long before I
WU 2
became enamored with the subject, just like it would not take long for this infatuation to
dissipate. In fact, during a routine Google search, I stumbled upon a lengthy entry in some blog –
which, full disclosure, lured me in a with a promising picture. In its three-page length, the
anonymous author explained her problems with Disney’s fairytales. My teenager self was
outraged – how dare she disrespect what I love? At the same time, though, I was hooked. I had
never considered, not once, the many problematic elements that you could find we seen these
creations. In fact, up until that point, I had been working with the understanding that fairy tales
were meant to encompass the highest ideals of a society. I had grown to see the princesses of
these stories as the epitome of girlhood; their princes, always so charming, where the perfect role
model for young boys. It turns out though, that things are much more complicated than that.
Let’s look at Sleeping Beauty, for example. The animated version, from a distance, looks
like a romantic story of a beautiful young maiden who is rescued by a benevolent prince, who
has fallen madly in love with her. It was such a dreamy story, until you started thinking about it.
How did two individuals, who had never interacted, fall in love? Better yet, why is it considered
“true love” despite it being completely one-sided? Belle has no idea who he is. So, not only is
this scenario implausible, it is also entirely unethical. The kiss is entirely nonconsensual. The
Brothers Grimm version is even darker: Sleeping Beauty does not wake up to the soft sensation
of lips upon her mouth, but to the throbbing pain of childbirth. After falling asleep to near death,
this girl – likely my age, then – had to wake up to such a traumatic experience. Implied, but
never stated, is the sexual assault that must have led to such a scenario. This gnarly scenario is
not unique to that story. In “Fitcher’s Bird”, for example, young girls are abducted by a wizard
and taken to a cabin. In this place, the women are told not to enter a room, where their
predecessors’ dead bodies are found. They always end up going in – who would not feel
WU 3
compelled to search the home of their captor? – and were always killed for it. Each time, the
Wizard would speak: “You went into that chamber against my will,” he said, “and now against
your will you shall go into it once again. Your life is finished” (Grimm, 2016). He has no
problem justifying their murder and neither do the authors, who frame their killings as being the
result of unthinking curiosity. Though there is an attempt at redemption, at the end, when one of
the would-be victims manages to trick the man, it does not detract from the underlying message.
Women, when they disobey men, can be killed as punishment.
With examples like these, it is no surprise that feminist scholars like Andrea Dworkin –
one of the most influential, radical feminists from the Second Wave – would include fairy tales
in a book called “Woman Hating”. Her main criticism was that women, in most fairy tales,
functioned only as passive victims, to be either sacrificed or rescued by men (Joosen, 2004). The
women had no agency in these stories and, when they did, it was rarely to the best of their
interest. Disney’s Ariel and Pocahontas make life altering decisions to dedicate themselves to
men they barely know. If a woman dares stand up to herself, then it means that she is likely the
villain. They are the only female figures who deviate from what is expected of them as women.
The princesses, on the other hand, never have to worry about that. As I looked more and more
into the details in the fairytales, I came to realize that what I saw as the ideal to aspire as a child
– my role models – was not really my own. It was a structure above me, beyond me, that
expected me to idealize them. And I did. Most of my friends did.
Now, I am not saying that the old princesses and their originals were always a caricature.
Going back to “Fitcher’s Bird”, for example, there is one figure that rebels at the end, standing
up against the unjust status quo thanks to her cleverness. In “The Little Mermaid”, the devotion
of Ariel can be seen as a positive trait, if one assumes that it extends beyond her temporary
WU 4
crush. The villains, despite being aligned with evil, can serve as twisted role models of their own.
There is always something that one can learn from them. I am happy that it is not necessary for
one to press a magnifying a glass at a story to find this positive representation. I am happy that
we now have Frozen and other stories like it.
Because of these modern stories, I was able to connect with this childhood of interest of
mine. I was able to reconcile my current understanding of women and womanhood, of sexism
and patriarchy, of the power of storytelling, and my appreciation for these seemingly sexist
stories. Though for a while I believed that it was impossible for fairy tales to escape this nature, I
would come to realize that it was not the case; they did not have to be negative and I did not need
to stop liking them. In fact, they could prove quite useful. In a classroom experiment, a group of
researchers who specializes in multicultural education, found that they could incorporate fairy
tales into their classrooms. They did not use the classic fairy tales, of pushy beasts or poisonous
apples, but the heartwarming comedy of everyone’s favorite ogre, Shrek. A modern fairy tale,
Shrek presents a message of self-acceptance and the reconciliation of difference that is
absolutely wholesome. It is, as researchers Sturgess and Locke claim, a good tool with which to
teach children about accepting others for who they are and learning to love their true selves
(2009). Like it, joining the trend of modern, motivating movies, “Frozen” teaches children about
sisterly love and female empowerment, while “Brave” destroys the idea of the damsel in distress
and reaffirms the importance of motherly love. “Tangled” shows an equitable relationship, not
one where Rapunzel depends entirely on Fynn. And “Shrek”, boldest of all, dared to present a
princess that was not perfect.
So, I am excited about Elsa and Anna and the future of their kingdom. I am dying to
know who they are facing and how they will overcome – and they will overcome, because the
WU 5
new generation of princesses is not one that will push for poise and passivity. Rather, they exalt
the passions of girls and boys everywhere. For the record, we are finally giving boys, too, female
role models. The heroine will no longer be exclusive to the girl and the hero to the boy. Most
importantly, these new take on fairy tales does not seek to dictate what a girl or a young woman
should be – feminism has never quite managed to determine this, as women are not a
homogenous group (Joosen, 2009). Instead, it only provides different, powerful options for girls
to choose the one that is best tailored to them. It gives them what they should have always had: a
fire raging inside of them. I really cannot wait for “Frozen 2”. I hope that the films that it will
undoubtedly inspire also share this same purpose and scope – for the sake of young girls
everywhere, I hope you hope so, too. Alright, I’ll “Let it go” now. Thanks!
Works Cited
Grimm, Wilhelm, and Jacob Grimm. The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers
Grimm: the Complete First Edition. Edited by Jack Zipes and Dezsö Andrea,
Princeton University Press, 2016.
Joosen, V. Feminist criticism and the fairy tale. New Review of Children’s Literature and
Librarianship, 10(1), 5–14. (2004) doi:10.1080/1361454042000294069
Sturgess, J., & Locke, T. Beyond Shrek: Fairy tale magic in the multicultural classroom.
Cambridge Journal of Education, 39(3), (2009): 379–402.
doi:10.1080/03057640903103744.
WU 6
Wu 1
Avery Wu
Writing 39B
Professor Zainab
3/4/2019
Rhetorical Analysis
In “Of Princesses and Passivity”, I present a transcript of a TED Talk-style speech about
the subject, fairy tales. Specifically, the subject covered is the negative depiction of women in
traditional fairy tales and the changes that have taken place in recent years. Because of the genre,
audience and subject matter chosen, the written section of the text is presented as a script.
Though, I must concede that stage directions or any further descriptors are not included in the
text, only the words. Throughout the text, I attempted to adhere to the conventions of the genre,
while also paying close attention to other rhetorical strategies. I believe that there three elements
of the rhetorical triangle were properly integrated into the paper. Likewise, I monitored the
structure of the essay and the rhetorical devices used within it to ensure that it was within the
expectations of the genre and fit for the rhetorical situation.
With a recent announcement of an animated movie, which serves as a modern, visual
version of fairy tales, society is reminded of the many shapes these stories had taken. When it
comes to its portrayal of women, for example, an improvement has been seen within different
decades. This strings of successes have created a good scenario to discuss past problems, present
solutions and future expectations. This exigency motivated the selection of the topic. Modernity,
too, also helped me select my audience. Because high school students, young adults and parents
and educators have become engaged to modern fairy tales, it is best that the conversation is
aimed at them. Younger children would not have been an appropriate target because of the
Wu 2
discussions about sexual assault. Because the audience range is rather large, from teenagers to
experts, the language had to be maintained at a neutral point – simple, but not too common. The
introduction starts rather casual, with words that I believe are easy to relate to by an audience
Because of the genre that I chose for this project, I wanted to maintain as casual an atmosphere
as possible throughout the text. TED Talks have always felt as a rather informal exploration of a
subject; even if the person who is giving the talk is a globally known expert, there is a casual air
to these conversations. In part, this is one of the reasons why these talks can be so impactful,
particularly in younger audiences. According to Loya & Klemm, “Students reported that the
personal nature of many of the talks interested them in the subject, therefore making them more
likely to read other assigned materials or research on their own” (2016). It was also necessary for
me to include, then, as many personal anecdotes as I could, as an accompaniment to the
employment of an approachable tone.
When it comes to the rhetorical triangle – ethos, logos, and pathos – at least two of its
elements were properly exemplified. For instance, when it comes to logos, the inclusion of the
theoretical perception of the fairy tales, as analyzed by Andrea Dworkin or by Joosen. The
appeal to emotion is achieved through the drawing of images with strong sentimental impact –
for instance: “After falling asleep to near death, this girl – likely my age, then – had to wake up
to such a traumatic experience.” There are other examples present throughout the text where
similar statements are encountered, designed with the purpose to elicit an emotional response.
The one shortcoming found, though, was ethos. The one point of credibility that I could find with
the subject was my own, personal interest in the topic. The persona that I crafted, of a fairy tale
fanatic, is loosely reflective of a stage of my childhood; most importantly, it is a persona that can
inspire confidence because of the closeness to the subject matter. However, I do wonder if that is
Wu 3
enough to appear credible. Likewise, there is the possibility that, though I have strived to avoid
them, logical fallacies could be found the text. This, too, would affect the strength of the paper.
Finally, rhetorical devices were included in the text. In part, I believe that the inclusion of
embellishing language can have a positive effect on an audience, particularly if these flowery
decorations follow a dump of information. For instance, alliterations abound in the text:
“seemingly sexist stories”, “modern, motivating movies” and “push for poise and passivity”.
Repetition, too, can be found: “I am happy that it is no longer necessary… I am happy for
Frozen. I am happy for all the other fairy tales that have come forward to further this new
agenda.” Metaphors and similes are included, but to avoid the prose appearing as too dramatic or
too convoluted, they are not included nearly as frequently as other literary elements. These
elements are only meant to serve as adornments, and do not need to take that much space within
the text.
Though this script was hard to create, because I do not have much experience with pieces
that are meant to be presented orally, I think that I met the rhetorical standards required for it.
From the use of personal anecdotes and a casual language that are tailored, specifically, to the
medium, to the employment of the traditional rhetorical strategies and convention that can be
found in any other text, I believe that the text has sufficient layers to come across as credible or
strong. Though, there are some lowlights in it – like the failure to establish a strong enough ethos
or the inability to convey tone or body language – the text can be molded into a successful
presentation. Likewise, I the rhetorical elements used can be modified so that the persuasive
power of the text is heightened. With revisions, the language choice can be changed to make
certain statements more impactful or less intense. However, as a draft, I believe that it can stand
as an appropriate submission for the RIP project.
Wu 4
Works Cited
Loya, M. A., & Klemm, T. (2016). Teaching Note—Using TED Talks in the Social Work
Classroom: Encouraging Student Engagement and Discourse. Journal of Social Work Education,
52(4), 518–523. doi:10.1080/10437797.2016.1198291

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