‘Tigers Are Not Afraid’ Is the Perfect Fairytale for Our Times

‘Tigers Are Not Afraid’ Is the Perfect Fairytale for Our Times

Since Walt Disney and a continuously underappreciated crew of animators brought the classic Brothers Grimm fairytale Snow White to life in 1937, the genre has just about seen it all: every manner of mystical creature, enchantment, and curse, every style of castle, dress, and malevolent sneer. The film’s wild success—it set a record as the highest grossing sound film—led to the adaptation of more fairytales, and those films’ success led, of course, to expansion, recreation, parody, new meta fairytales, whole damn theme parks, and so on and so forth for eternity ever after.

Lately, the ripples caused by Snow White and the Seven Dwarves have been feeling like sultanic waves. Witches and princesses are proving to be the only thing as lucrative as men in capes, and Hollywood is leaving no tiara unturned. Your mileage will undoubtedly vary on the new crop of olden tales. Where some have opted to hew traditional, others have added woke spins; where some choices have seemed destined… there’s also Will Smith’s top-knot. And try as the updaters of classic fairytales might, an obvious fact is inescapable: These stories, with their patriarchal realms, comforting simplicity, and old-fashioned morals, were made for our ancestors, not for us.

No fairytale makes that more evident than a new one to the canon: Tigers Are Not Afraid, from the Mexican director Issa López. Though, if López didn’t call her new film a fairytale, you might not recognize it as one. López’s film is more indebted to the magical realism of Gabriel García Márquez and Isabel Allende than that of the Magic Kingdom, and it leaves out many of the hallmarks associated with America’s godfather of Once Upon a Time. This isn’t a rags-to-riches, up-by-your-bootstraps fantasy; a prince doesn’t rescue and woo a princess; Tigers, ultimately, breaks from reality, but it’s not an escape.

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One hallmark it does include, though, is an orphan protagonist. Her name is Estrella (Paola Lara), and she’s a young, pink-loving, pony-tailed girl living in an impoverished, present-day Mexican city. Her father is out of the picture and her mother’s been abducted by a sinister cartel. When a shooter attacks her school, her teacher gives her three pieces of chalk, each good for a wish. The chalk, though, doesn’t have the clean logic of, say, a genie in a lamp. When Estrella wishes for her mother to return, she gets a frightening ghost spirit. And as she uses her other wishes, she finds they too come with unintended scary or undesirable consequences. In this modern Mexican world, fate and magic struggle to compete with reality.

Mind you, some (or all) of this might just be in Estrella’s head. Before the school shooting, her teacher asks each member of the class to write a fairytale; López leaves open the possibility that what we’re watching is Estrella’s. Whether it is or not ultimately doesn’t really matter. Either way, the magic is borne out of imagination, and either way, imagination is the only way to cope with a harsh reality—one in which there most certainly is rampant gang violence that leaves children parentless and fending for themselves.

Source : Max Cea Link

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