Politically Correct Bedtime Stories
Politically Correct Bedtime Stories: Modern Tales for Our Life and Times is a book by James Finn Garner, published in 1994, in which Garner satirizes the trend toward political correctness and censorship of children's literature, with an emphasis on humour and parody. The bulk of the book consists of fairy tales such as Little Red Riding Hood, the Three Little Pigs and Snow White, rewritten so that they supposedly represent what a "politically correct" adult would consider a good and moral tale for children.
The revisions include extensive usage of politically correct buzzwords (and parodies thereof), deliberately stiff moralizing dialogue and narration, inclusion of modern concepts and objects (such as health spas, mineral water, and automobiles), and often feature a plot twist that reverses the roles of the heroes and villains of the story (for example, the woodsman in Little Red Riding Hood is seen by Red Riding Hood not as a heroic saviour but as a "sexist" and "speciesist" interloper, and Snow White's evil stepmother ends up with a positive portrayal while the prince and the seven dwarves are portrayed as chauvinistic).
Politically Correct Bedtime Stories was Garner's first published book (or, in the words of his similarly satirical biography blurb from the book, "his first processed tree carcass"). More than 2.5 million copies have been sold in the United States and it has since been translated into 20 languages. Garner wrote two follow-up books: Once upon a More Enlightened Time: More Politically Correct Bedtime Stories and Politically Correct Holiday Stories: For an Enlightened Yuletide Season, the latter book satirizing political correctness during the Christmas holiday season. In 1998, the three books were compiled into an omnibus collection called Politically Correct, the Ultimate Storybook. All editions of the Politically Correct titles are currently out of print.
- 1 Stories
- 2 Other satirical content in the book
- 3 Writing style, common themes and recurring elements
- 4 See also
- 5 References
The following is a listing of the stories in the order they appear in the book.
Little Red Riding Hood
Based on the popular fairy tale of the same name, this parody includes as its main themes mocking the idea of anti-"speciesism" and the more radical branches and concepts of feminism (such as using the spelling "womyn" instead of "women" throughout, a pattern that is repeated in other stories in the book), and is one of the several stories in which the ending is completely altered from the original fairy tale.
The woodsman (who saves Little Red Riding Hood and her grandmother in the most well-known versions of the tale) ends up beheaded by the grandmother, who leaps from the wolf's mouth of her own accord after a "stirring" moralizing speech from Red, who states that womyn and wolves can solve their own problems without a man's interference. This comes after of course Red Riding Hood has labeled him as "sexist" and "speciesist" for deciding to try to save Red Riding Hood by killing the wolf. The wolf, Red Riding Hood, and her grandmother then form an "alternative household" together.
The Emperor's New Clothes
This is a parody of the eponymous fairy tale. The well-known ending is not entirely changed, but the outcome of it and moral of the story nonetheless do.
The Three Little Pigs
A parody of the fairy tale of the same name, in it the wolves are greedy capitalists and the pigs are natives forced off their land who later become freedom fighters or "porcinistas", parodying the Nicaraguan party Sandinista National Liberation Front, or Sandinism. The big bad wolf succumbs to a heart attack.
A parody of the classic Rumpelstiltskin story.
Instead of turning the straw into gold by magic, the girl (Esmeralda) and Rumpelstiltskin take the straw to poor farmers, who use it to thatch their roofs; in better health, the farmers become more productive, which improves the local economy and eventually leads to the overthrow of the prince and Esmeralda's being rewarded with gold. Esmeralda is then able to thwart Rumpelstiltskin's plan to take her first-born child by guessing his name, however unlike in the original tale, she only guesses it because his "Little People's Empowerment Seminar" nametag is still on his body. Angry at the idea that her reproductive rights were almost taken away from her, she moves to California and starts a birth control clinic and lives happily ever after—as a "fulfilled, dedicated single person."
The Three Codependent Goats Gruff
A parody of the Rapunzel fairy tale, with a completely different ending.
It features the twist of the Prince having connections in the music recording industry; having heard her sing, he wants to make her a star—and profit heavily from merchandizing both her voice and her appearance. He soon convinces the witch that she should agree to the deal, and stay on as her manager. However, Rapunzel, disgusted by the idea of her voice being exploited for capitalist gain, climbs out of the tower and runs off to become a folk musician who performs for free in "coffee house".
Cinderella's "Fairy Godperson" (who is male) reluctantly agrees to dress her up for the ball. However, she is so attractive in her impractical shoes, clothing and makeup, that every male in the ballroom goes mad for her and a brawl begins that eventually results in the death of every last one of them. The women, jealous of Cinderella's ability to make men go mad for her beauty, at first turn on her; however, the clock strikes midnight, and she is transformed back to her peasant garb—and is so happy to be in comfortable clothes again, that the other women decide they're now jealous of her comfort. Instead of killing her, however, they remove their own corsets and dresses and impractical shoes and dance around in their "shifts and bare feet". Covering up the real reason behind the men's deaths, they take over the kingdom and open a clothing company that produces only comfortable and practical clothing for women.
A parody of the original Goldilocks and the Three Bears fairy tale, Goldilocks isn't a little girl but rather a greedy rogue biologist bent on tracking and studying the peaceful anthropomorphic bears to make a splash in the scientific community.
Goldilocks attempts to put tranquilizers in the bears' porridge and traps with radio collars in their beds. However, the bears note the "chemical" smell of their organic porridge, and suspicious, discover the traps as well as Goldilocks, who has fallen asleep in the corner of the room while waiting for her targets to return. The Mama Bear and Papa Bear then brutally kill and consume Goldilocks, while the shocked Baby Bear looks on; it is revealed that the family is vegetarian, though the parents made an exception this time.
This parody is based on the classic Snow White fairy tale, with numerous satirical twists (for example, the seven dwarfs, who are referred to as "vertically challenged men", run a retreat for men wanting to indulge in "primal" behavior) and a completely different ending. It has similar themes to the Cinderella parody from earlier in the book.
As in the original story, the queen pretends to be an old woman selling apples which in truth are poisoned. However, during the course of conversation with Snow White, she bonds with her. Forgetting that the apple in question was poisoned, she shares it with Snow White and both fall comatose to the floor.
Meanwhile the dwarfs return—with the prince. The prince—who in the original tale would have awakened her with a kiss—instead is at the retreat to try and cure his impotence, and, attracted to the nubile coma victim, requests to have sex with her; at which point the dwarfs decide that the unconscious Snow White makes a perfect impotence treatment and decide to display her so that they can make more money. However, when they try to move the two women's bodies, the poisoned apple pieces become dislodged from their throats; the women awaken, angry and disgusted at what they overheard while comatose and unable to act. The queen then declares that the dwarfs are trespassers, and throws them out of her forest. She and Snow White later open a spa for women on the same spot.
The Frog Prince
A parody of the Frog Prince fairy tale. The Frog Prince in here is rather a land developer who cheated several landlords out of their property, and was consequently punished by being turned into a frog. Once turned back into a human, the developer attempts to get the princess to help him in his greedy schemes to develop more land, which ends with her killing him.
Jack and the Beanstalk
A parody of the fairy tale of the same name.
The Pied Piper of Hamelin
Other satirical content in the book
The writer and publishers – not content to merely let the stories themselves be the only satire in the book – also featured satirical content in the book jacket author's biography blurb, the description of the book itself ("[...] the stories were sexist, discriminatory, unfair, culturally biased, and in general, demeaning to witches, animals, goblins, and fairies everywhere. [...] We'd like to think that future generations of fairy tale fans will see this as a worthy attempt to develop meaningful literature that is totally free of bias and purged from the influences of the flawed cultural past."), as well of course as in the introduction which goes so far as to include the following breathless passage:
If, through omission or commission, I have inadvertently displayed any sexist, racist, culturalist, nationalist, regionalist, ageist, lookist, ableist, sizeist, speciesist, intellectualist, socioeconomicist, ethnocentrist, phallocentrist, heteropatriarchalist, or other type of bias as yet unnamed, I apologize...
Writing style, common themes and recurring elements
The book features many recurring themes and elements throughout the story. One recurring element is the alternate spellings of "wommon" and "womyn" (instead of "woman" and "women"). Additionally, the inclusion of distinctly modern concepts (such as Goldilocks being a rogue biologist, or Red Riding Hood bringing her grandmother mineral water) is common throughout the book, in keeping with the concept of "updating" classic fairy tales for modern times. Another common element is that many of the previous heroes or villains have had a role reversal, with female villains usually becoming more enlightened or empowered and befriending the heroine. Female characters (with few exceptions) rescue themselves after being similarly empowered and enlightened.
The protagonist of each story purportedly conform to the above-mentioned ideologies to absurd, obsessive levels. The satirical style used throughout the book, from the introduction to every one of the stories and then some, is that of an overly cautious, excessively verbose author who so fears offending or maligning any one reader that he is continually sidetracked and preoccupied by using politically correct (or pseudo-politically correct) terminology and phrasing, to the point of ridiculousness and redundancy. However, the book is absent of polemics—its stories are styled only upon a deadpan context of removing of all traditional bias, stereotype and prejudice from well-known fiction, under the pretense of not warping young minds.
- Garner, James Finn (April 1994). Politically Correct Bedtime Stories: Modern Tales for Our Life and Times. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons Inc. ISBN 0-02-542730-X.
- Garner, James Finn (May 1995). Once upon a More Enlightened Time: More Politically Correct Bedtime Stories. New Jersey: MacMillan Publishing Company. ISBN 0-02-860419-9.
- Garner, James Finn (October 1995). Politically Correct Holiday Stories: For an Enlightened Yuletide Season. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons Inc. ISBN 0-02-860420-2.
- Garner, James Finn (August 1998). Politically Correct, the Ultimate Storybook: Politically Correct Bedtime Stories, Once upon a More Enlightened Time, and Politically Correct Holiday Stories. New York: Smithmark Publishers. ISBN 0-7651-0867-4.