The Mothership Connection

Oh man. I’ve been lying low, mostly owing to intense media scrutiny over my alleged affair with Kristen Stewart. Sorry to disappoint any tabloid hacks looking for a sound bite, but I will neither confirm nor deny the affair.

None of this is to deny that Krissy is smoking hot, totally fierce, and eminently kissable in the recent film adaptation of Snow White. The movie is a vivid reminder of our eternal fascination with infanticide, patricide, and Freudian conflict.

For those who need a refresher, the (original) tale breaks down thusly: A queen pricks her finger and drips blood onto the snowy ground. She proclaims her wish for a daughter, with lips as red as blood, skin as white as snow, and hair as black as a raven.

After giving birth to Snow White, the woman dies and is replaced by a jealous stepmother. (In earlier versions the biological mother is the antagonist. As with many fairy tales, immediate relations are subsequently depicted at a remove, to soften the intensity of the controlling issues.)

Coming just before motherhood, the drops of blood represent menstruation. Incredibly, this fairy tale was the only available information on a girl’s period until Judy Blume wrote Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.

As soon as Snow White’s beauty rivals the queen’s, a huntsman is ordered to lead Snow White into the forest and kill her. The huntsman feels conflicted however, and spares the girl. The huntsman is of course a stand-in for the father, who indulges his daughter over the objections of his wife.

The rest of the story is typical, filled with treachery, redemption and comeuppance. It’s an instructive tale about generational rivalry and accepting the limitations of age – both young and old.

On the surface it’s farfetched. But this is familiar territory to any mother and daughter who’ve engaged in crushing fights over permissible middle school attire. (Snow White certainly made the most of her frisky Fräulein outfit.)

Fairy tales take on fresh meaning when seen through Freudian wire-rimmed spectacles. Little Red Riding Hood, for instance, can essentially be considered a walking vagina when one views her enveloped in crimson folds and topped by a protective hood. Her realization of the Electra Complex is textbook; she actually gives the murderous wolf directions to grandma’s house, thereby sealing granny’s fate.

This reading only works when the grandmother is understood to be a stand-in for the mother, with the wolf representing the father. Once again this strains credulity, until one recalls that Little Red ventures into the woods to visit granny. In fairy tales, the forest acts as a savage distortion of everyday life.

With “grandma” out of the way, Little Red has the wolf all to herself. (In the original telling, instead of being saved by the woodsman, Little Red is consumed by the wolf – a handy metaphor for sex.)

If repression is the enemy of enlightenment, then fairy tales help us confront our darkest impulses through the thin veil of allegory. The idea is not to preempt conflict, but to resolve it through awareness and articulation.

For the authoritative Freudian analysis of fairy tales, see Bruno Bettelheim’s The Uses of Enchantment. But anything can be given the Freudian treatment. My fave Freudian reading is of the original Star Trek series, as seen through the prism of the Oedipus Complex. Check it:

Captain Kirk was the father. He was first in command of the USS Enterprise, or mothership, if you will. Spock was second in command, and he represented Oedipus, aka the son. Bear with me a moment: Spock knew that if anything were to happen to Kirk, Spock would be in command of the mothership. But he also knew that killing his captain and best friend was against Federation rules, not to mention totally fucked up. These conflicting desires left Spock in a state of emotional paralysis. As a result, he is purely logical: a Vulcan incapable of emotion, with pointy ears and green blood.

This may explain why all boys have a special affinity for Spock. (But let’s not short change the allure of the Vulcan death grip.) It also explains why Star Trek holds enduring appeal to grown men who still live with their mothers.

There’s lots to say on the intersection of Freud, fairy tales, and pop culture. As for anyone still wanting info on me and Kristen: no comment.

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3 Responses to The Mothership Connection

  1. Ex-Ginger August 13, 2012 at 9:57 am #

    Not to nerd out on you, but vulcans learned to suppress emotions so that logic would not be clouded by it. They were capable, but chose not to express. Does that fuck with the thesis?

  2. Daddy Confidential August 13, 2012 at 12:17 pm #

    Are you sure about that? Spock always looked perplexed by human emotions. If he were controlling his own, wouldn’t he have just been exasperated? The Oedipal analogy still holds, but now I’m feeling insecure about my knowledge of Vulcans. Confession: I never saw Wrath of Khan. Shameful.

  3. Alicia H August 13, 2012 at 5:00 pm #

    I never knew the Queen was her mother or step-mother! I’m too Disney-fied I guess.

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