Thursday, 11 November 2010

Another childhood memory ruined

We can all thank Hollywood for introducing the word 'reimagining' into the cultural lexicon. This horrible term manages to distance film makers from the admission that they've run out of fresh ideas, whilst at the same time allowing them to declare that they can improve on a classic story.

But the 'reimagining' phenomenon isn't exclusive to movies - it's also starting to make itself felt in other media, such as children's stories. The latest example, currently being held up as an example of 'what happens when liberals get hold of much-loved stories' - is the tale of three little pigs.

You know how it goes - three pigs, three different building materials, and a lupine Jehovah's Witness that's determined to his paw in the door. There's more huffing and puffing than an Ann Widdecombe/John Sergeant dance-off, and it ends with the third pig congratulating himself for choosing a brick domicile as he cooks the wolf for supper. 

Times change, and so too do the cultural references we all recognise. So someone obviously thought it was a good idea to give the porcine triplets a 21st century update. In the new version of the story, piggy number three is clearly an architecture student, and erects a fancy adobe-style residence. 

His two siblings aren't just gormless straw and twig-dwellers either. They diagnose the wolf's laboured breathing as signs of myocardial infarction, and offer to do the counting as their brother administers CPR. Once he's recovered, the wolf tells his saviours that he had no intention of 'eating them up' (he's a vegetarian of course), and was simply looking for flatmates. 

In the fairy tale books of my childhood, the pigs would have cut open the wolf, filled his belly with rocks and tipped him down a well before he had a chance to offer to whip up a caramelised onion quiche. Instead, these prickly porkers "throw up their hooves in exasperation" and berate the wolf for his failure to communicate clearly. Having forced him to say his line again, the pigs decide to let their new pal move in and even "remodel the adobe house so that there was room for all of them". In fact, all that's missing from this thoroughly modern update is Kevin McCloud on hand to film the building work. 

All of the values introduced in this new version of the story are worthwhile - co-operation, communication, understanding, even the gentrification of neighbourhoods. The problem is, it spoils the simplicity of the message and confuses kids as to the intention of the story. "I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll build you a nice new wet-room" just doesn't have the same ring to it. 

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