Michael Fumento: HBO'S Anti-Whitewashed Fairy Tales

January 01, 1996  ·  Michael Fumento  ·  Michael Fumento  ·  Education

Hanselito and Gretelcita? Rumpelstiltskin as a Jamaican with dreadlocks? Are these characters from the best-selling tongue-in-cheek book Politically Correct Bedtime Tales? Even the goose isn’t allowed to be white.

Guess again. Thirteen of these are currently being delivered deadpan, direct to your living room each Sunday, courtesy of HBO’s Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child. The critics have fallen all over each other in their rush to praise the cartoons, which adopt traditional European stories to non-European ethnic groups. USA Today calls them "multicultural and mega-enjoyable." In what HBO calls "entertainment with a purpose," the shows feature among their voices Daphne Zuniga’s as that of a Latino Cinderella, Buffy Sainte-Marie as Native American princess Snow White, and Whoopi Goldberg as the Voodoo Diva who imprisons long-tressed Rapunzel. In Jack and the Beanstalk, not only are all the players black but so even is a rabbit that jumps out of a magician’s hat. In Little Red Riding Hood (or "Happy Coat" in this China-based tale) even the squirrels have almond-shaped eyes. That squirrels do not have the extra fold that characterizes Asian eyelids is irrelevant. Even nature bows to the PC gods at HBO. It seems only one major ethnic group has been left out. Of over 90 voices used in this series, just one appears to belong to a token white of non-Hispanic descent. Somehow "No Whites Allowed" doesn’t seem to be a good message to send kids. This is not the only disturbing message here. What kind of mentality says that Asian American children can’t sympathize with a character who’s not Asian American, that Hispanic children can’t relate to non-Hispanics? It’s not just offensive but demonstrably false. The only people who suffer under the delusion that minorities are some sort of monolith are whites. To live in any major city with a substantial black, Hispanic, and Asian population is to be quickly relieved of this fantasy. In my former city of Los Angeles, the blacks reserve their greatest animosity for Hispanics and Asians, while Hispanics and Asians feel the same way about blacks. Certainly you won’t find Hispanics especially identifying with a black sharecropper Jack or blacks identifying with a Hispanicized Hansel and Gretel. Somehow the German story of the Pied Piper of Hamlin becomes the Pied Piper of Harlem. Since when is robbing a culture of its heritage poltically correct?

Moreover, only whites believe that Asians feel any special kinship with each other. Asians, in fact, are more likely to marry whites than Asians of a different ethnicity. A Chinese Little Red Happy Coat is probably far more alien to most non-Chinese Asians than would be a white Riding Hood. As such, the title "Fairy Tales for Every Child" is Orwellian. The original Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson stories were truly for every child, with appeals to universal emotions, curiosity, and fears, while these are aimed very narrowly at particular ethnic groups. Literature is supposed to help you see something through somebody else’s eyes. An American of whatever color who has never seen a wolf without interceding zoo bars or a moat can hardly identify with a little girl of any ethnic group traipsing through a dark lupine-infested forest. That’s part of the attraction: to learn about another culture and another time and the fantasies of another people. HBO’s series ultimately is not multi-cultural at all; it’s simply anti-western culture. Nobody says you can’t relate to Aesop’s fables unless you’re Greek, or that tales of leprechauns are limited in their appeal to persons of non-Irish background. The Tales of the Brothers Grimm and all of Western culture are every bit as much the legacy of my Italian-American father, Filipina-American friend, and my recently nationalized Indian friend as they are of my friends named Kaufman and Hoffman. Saying this would have sent into a fit that self-appointed guardian of Germanic tradition, Adolf Hitler, yet it is so. If it’s okay to expropriate a culture’s good aspects, then it’s only fair to do similarly with the darker side of Western history. Why doesn’t HBO make a new Roots in which Asians and blacks man the slave ships and Levar Burton’s character Kinta Kunte becomes a Tom Cruise character named Kevin Klein? Oh, and don’t miss HBO’s new Schindler’s List, in which the evil concentration camp commander Amon Goeth becomes Antonio Gonzalez played by Edward James Olmos. If HBO really wanted to perform a valuable service, instead of changing traditional tales to fit other ethnic backgrounds, it would have researched and presented actual tales of from those backgrounds. Has Disney’s most recent success made all of us forget that previous smash hit featuring nothing but dark-skinned people on the other side of the world — along with one giant blue genie? Just as America has always welcomed people of all cultures, so too does it welcome their folklore. Let’s have more of that, rather than anti-white washing the tales from Western Culture.