382. Splitting apart (IX)
“Why do we see so many children’s classics reinterpreted to be ‘dark’ or ‘sinister’?” The questioner used Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland as an example—a Disney production, just as with the softer cartoon from the 1950s. When I look around at “my” Baby Boomers I actually find them to be in many ways softer than I am—softer than their grandchildren—and that can in part be attributed to a childhood where Rupert the Bear and similar, frankly, wholesome cultural products were the norm.
The tendency to produce “dark” inversions or takes on popular children’s classics is justified by a facile thought process that blossomed in the ‘60s—though its roots are antient. This outlook holds that innocence or gentility represents hypocrisy and, therefore, should be torn down as a moral imperative. Hence the 1950s and the Victorian era are held in absolute contempt because these time periods produced considerable restraint, and also, actually, an affection for soft and cosy products, such as Peter Rabbit and his friends.
For various reasons, perhaps connected to the invention of the teenager, many people who grew up in the ‘60s never matured; they remained permanent adolescents. As with all teenagers, the ‘68ers have mistaken maturity for smoking, sex, and drinking—perhaps swearing, as well. Teenagers are impatient to do all these things—and more—and are also contemptuous as regards childhood; of course, they are often still partially embedded in their childhood—even the toys of childhood—but they hide this carefully to cultivate a certain image with their peers.
The view comes about because it sees being adult as being about doing certain actions, particularly in an XXX sense. The consequences from the actions are immaterial, all that matters is that this is “what grown-ups do”. This is combined with a view, gifted to us by Freud and Rousseau, that it is better to express urges than engage in repression—for Rousseau there is purity in these urges—and that, further, in Freud’s mode, children are as sexual and violent as adults. The Victorians and suburbanites of the ‘50s just could not handle the truth, man—fuckin’ hypocrites! So to abolish hypocrisy and reveal the awful truth, we must feature Alice engaged in sexual exploration with a Rampant Rabbit—painted jet black, of course, because this is the awful reality beneath the genteel hypocrisy of heteronormative sexuality in the 19th century.
What they call hypocrisy is not hypocrisy; it is responsibility—and to cultivate innocence and wholesome sentiments is as real and mature as to drink and use pornography; it is just harder maintain because some people cannot stand innocence. As O’Brien says in 1984: “I can’t stand innocence to exist anywhere. I want everyone corrupt.” Philip Pullman, a popular contemporary children’s fantasy writer, stated in an interview that he hated the innocence in Narnia and would destroy it if he could—sounds a bit, er, Satanic really. Pullman actually expresses ideas that Lewis would put into a villain’s mouth. To refrain from malevolence and create a safe garden for children to play in is not hypocrisy; it is not hypocrisy to lie to the Devil—and people who say it is want to let the Devil into the garden. Be assured; they also lie, except they lie to everyone and not just the Devil—hypocrites.
Those who want the darker reality also live in a walled and protected garden—just like the flower children of ‘68. The real old tales—the type collected by the Grimms—are much darker than Burton or Pullman; but dark not in the superficial sense—in the sense that everyone takes drugs or drinks to excess, though sometimes they do. No, the old tales are barbaric and have a very strict justice within each story that the ‘68ers flee from. You get Alice in Wonderland in a fairly civilised environment; and you get the Grimms when the goblins want to gobble up spoilt children and make rich broth from their bones…