Red Riding Hood

The following trailer was brought to my attention today:

I should first say, in the case of full and honest disclosure, that anything that celebrates the fact that it is made by the same director as Twilight always makes me apprehensive (because, let’s face it, Twilight just isn’t a good movie). But let’s get beyond my own prejudices…

The story of Little Red Riding Hood was one of my favorites growing up. Little Red is told to go visit some (sick) relative and take some kind of present. Along the way, she is pursued by a wolf, who finds her rather tasty. He chats with her and learns she is on her way to her relative’s house. He rushes ahead, disposes of said relative, and disguises himself to fool Little Red when she finally arrives. Little Red shows up and remarks about the relative’s big eyes, hands, nose, and finally teeth – “The better to eat you up, deary” – and either has to flee the wolf, who meets a grim demise, or get eaten, and later rescued by a passing woodsman. There are many different versions, and many different details, but I think this captures the heart of the commonly accepted version(s) today.

Most interpretations of the symbolism of Little Red suggest that this is a metaphor for women and coming-of-age. The red (which is not always red in all of the versions) evokes blood; the eaten relative is the passing of the old generation; and the wolf is the seducer who can corrupt Little Red during her nubile fertility. Or perhaps, Little Red symbolizes a good will envoy, delayed by a terrorist from successfully achieving the mission. Or maybe, Little Red is the budding New World ideology having to combat itself against Old World traditions. The greatest thing about traditional fairy tales is that they can be interpreted many different ways, depending on the frame of reference by the interpreter. The second greatest thing about fairy tales is that they can be revisioned and retold to maintain cultural relevancy. Fairy tales benefit both the culture and the individual, reaffirming our norms, values, mores, so on and so forth.

So then, there’s this movie. Little Red is a beautiful blonde who wears a hood that is clearly not little. And the Wolf is now a warewolf who terrorizes Little Red’s little country village. The trailer implies that Little Red is likely in love with the wolf. And there are some clips that suggest that this is definitely not an innocent metaphor for coming-of-age. What stands out is that:

a) Little Red is now a savior, somehow, though it isn’t clear from the trailer. Since the trailer is leading us to believe that she is in love with the Wolf, her role as savior is likely going to include some kind of sacrifice – she will have to choose between either her lover or her community. This particular theme keeps coming up throughout literature. If the hero chooses love, many people will die and that will weigh on the hero’s conscious. However, if the hero chooses community, the lover dies and likely the hero will never love again, or, at least, not as passionately. Americans favor the individual’s right to individualism and loving whom one chooses, but only if that love does not destroy the entire community, seen as a metaphor for society at large.

b) The Wolf is now a warewolf. In the original fairy tale, yes, it is true that the wolf dons the clothes of the grandmother, but the wolf never once loses his wolfness. The warewolf does change form. Shape-shifting is not a new theme, but it is one that is met in American literature as something to be genuinely afraid of, because a shape-shifter can at any point resemble the person standing next to you, thus making it almost impossible to tell who to trust. Trust is the backbone of community, and once trust is violated, the community breaks down.

So while I strongly believe that this movie is likely going to suck on grounds of technical matters, this does sound like a new myth for community. Now, why are we so concerned with community all of a sudden? If what *they* say is true about the breakdown of community and about the fundamental necessity for community (perhaps a conversation further impacted by the housing crisis and the number of neighborhoods that have emptied because of foreclosures), then movies such as this suggest that our mythology is going into “survival mode” with regards to the community. The myth always precedes the history, so maybe we’ll see new shifts in community and housing in the next few years.

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