The 2001 computer-animated film Shrek brought great popularity to the genre. Parodies soon eclipsed traditional fairy tales. The genre garnered some praise for its more modern views but was also criticized for supplanting the traditional stories.
The genre of ‘Fairy Tale Parody’ grew in popularity following the “Fractured Fairy Tales” segment on the The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show in 1959, where well known fairy tales were presented with altered storylines for a modern audience. Since then, fairy tale adaptions have pervaded contemporary popular culture - subverting, shattering, and altering understandings of classic fairy tales, with the digital revolution significantly contributing to the dissemination of these new tales in the 21st century. There are two types of fairy tale parodies – one focused on mocking the fairy tale genre and individual tales themselves, and the other, reformatting tales to include more serious morals and social messages - literary scholars and critics tend to focus on the tales that reflect the evolving sociocultural conditions of the 21stcentury. The fluid nature of the fairy tale and the evolution of technology has allowed fairy tales to permeate a wide range of media, providing these parodied tales with means to be presented in more creative and advanced forms, and providing the creators with an ability to alter the audience’s reception of the stories being told. This fluidity of the genre has allowed Fairy tale parodies to mutate over time, and to be portrayed in a plethora of forms - not only literary parodies but live-action and animated film and television, poetry, comics, and music, that have provided audiences with ubiquitous access to these complex narratives.
Traditional fairy tales are believed to be derived from myths, relevant to religions of the time and as storytellers discarded religious connotations, the fairy tales became much more secular. As society progressed, and authors began writing fairy tale parodies, pertinent social and political matters became the key focus of the tales, and the question of “what, if any, is the role and function of such tales in the evolution of human civilisation” (Burkert, 1979), was fundamental to the development of these parodies. Parody is “governed by intentionality” (Hutcheon, 1985), thus when crafting a parody of traditional fairy tales, writers borrow, both consciously and unconsciously from other cultures in an “endeavour to imbue their symbolical stories with very specific commentaries on the mores and manners of their times”. Writers of fairy tale parodies decide what is relevant in society and communicate this crucial information through their tales, utilising memorable motifs, stereotype subversions and intertextuality. The parodies are radical and significantly deviate from the trajectory of the traditional tale, modernising the previously explored ideologies to resonate with a contemporary audience and allow readers to question the principles of existing narratives. Fairy tale parodies will resonate with an audience if the configuration of the tale is adapted, and meaning is transformed to fit the relevant social and cultural context. If a parody of a tale does not alter the text to fit the contemporary social context and instead recycles content of traditional narratives, they are to be considered imitating existing stories to affirm traditional ideologies and prolong a conservative message.
To parody a fairy tale for children has some differences than in doing so for adults. For children, tales are retold to make them more comprehensive, to teach simple moral lessons suitable for the contemporary audience or to rouse greater senses of wonder and imagination through alternative endings. When parodying a fairy tale for children, in the form of a fictional picture book, authors often preserve the ‘happy ending’ convention, as a practise governed by a motivation “to enculturate children in societal codes”. For adults, the parodied tale acts as a means for carrying social and political dialogue regarding issues of the time – often with a heavy focus on feminism - a widely acknowledge and important approach to modern tales that allows authors to alter oppressive social representations.
Fairy tales have always been hybrid in their nature, borrowing from multiple simple genres – with a key focus on, fables, fantasy, romance, and magical realism - to form their own. Fairy tale parodies further this hybridity, disrupting and defying the traditional form of the tale through the following distinctive characteristics:
Children's books that have been classified as fairy tale parodies:
Politically Correct Fairy Tales and Politically Correct Bedtime Stories: Modern Tales for Our Life and Times by James Finn Garner have been called "Adult fractured fairy tales ... still humorous but the humor is for adults".