My daughter has recently gotten into “Ever After High” dolls. For those who don’t have a nine-year-old girl keeping them up to date on the latest variation on Barbie, “Ever After High” dolls are (I think) a spin-off of “Monster High” dolls. But instead of the teenagers being the spawn of classic horror movie monsters, they’re the progeny of classic fairy tale characters.
As a writer who’s current oeuvre consists largely of “fractured fairy tales,” let’s just say I largely approve of this idea. What I find particularly interesting about this spin on fairy tales is that the high school “haves and have nots” cliques split between those who want to relive their parents stories, and those who don’t.
The “royals” (generally, the kids of people who came out on top in the traditional tales) are all about defending the status quo. They’re what we would’ve called the “preps” back in the 80s. The “rebels” are mostly kids of the villains, who naturally aren’t super enthusiastic about pointlessly repeating their parents’ mistakes so someone else can get a happily ever after.
“Free will versus fate” is not exactly a philosophical topic I expect to see addressed by a doll with a giant head and impossibly large eyes. Still, it makes for an interesting opening for some really cool discussions with your kid.
This is not exactly the first time the theme of “you don’t have to repeat the mistakes of the past/your parents” has come up lately in our family. The Boy had a relationship whose similarity to Chris’ and mine might have been a really good excuse for us to let some unhealthy patterns continue. Our parents didn’t intervene in our relationship, and hey, we’re still married after 22 years. But we both know the bends in the path to getting here (and there were a LOT of them). We each spent enough time being the villain of the piece to understand that “happily ever after” always costs somebody.
We made the collective decision to be the Villain in someone else’s story, knowing that sometimes, having an antagonist is vital for someone to become a hero in their own story, instead being stuck playing victim and waiting for a rescuer to show up.
As an adult, I’ve had a couple of relationships where my “mentor” ended up functioning as more of a cautionary tale than a guide. It’s disappointing, because as much as I like “forging my own path” and all, a freakin’ map with “this is how you get to success” marked neatly on it would be nice, just once. I could (and probably do) whine about my Obi Wan turning out more like Palpatine.
Or I could be grateful for the opportunity to learn from someone else’s mistakes instead of my own for a change.