I’ve always loved animated television. Growing up I didn’t have cable, so the only two T.V. stations that came in that were somewhat child appropriate were Cartoon Network and FOX. In other words I grew up watching animated cartoons like The Power Puff Girls and The Simpsons (super appropriate for a six year old to be watching, I know). Fast-forward 12 years later and here I am in college taking a class on Russian fairy tales. Yup, you heard me- fairy tales. Besides the fact that it’s totally awesome to be a young adult learning about fairy tales for actual college credit, I thought it was even cooler that I would get to watch animated variations of fairy tales and then blog about it. So that’s exactly what I’m about to do. Hopefully you all are as excited to hear what I have to say about my animated fairy tale obsession as I am to tell you about it. So enough chitchat. Let’s get down to the analytical, philosophical and nitty-gritty meaning behind the social aspects of the light-hearted-not-so-light-hearted fairy tail of Russia: The Bun.
In the animated film, The Bun, the main underlying idea/moral of the story is that bad things happen to little children who run away from home, as told by the mother fox at the end of the film. This is evident in the film because the grandma creates the little bun before it runs away- dodging the rabbit, the wolf and the bear before he gets tricked and eaten by the fox lady. Yikes! Like I said- it may be child appropriate but it doesn’t mean it’s child friendly. 🙂
Now that we’ve clarified that children will probably be scared s***less to ever leave their house again for fear of being eaten alive by a giant talking fox; let’s talk some more about the fox. Yay! The first thing I noticed about the fox lady in the film was that she (indeed) was a lady. The film made it quite apparent that the fox was a woman based on her specific attire (dress, apron, bonnet) and her make up (rosy cheeks, long eyelashes, etc.). The film provides and interesting paradox when examining gender roles. At the beginning of the film, you see a stereotypical scenario where the grandpa is working on a machine in the field- a hard labor activity usually assumed to be performed by men- and the grandma is picking fruit-a task mostly associated with women. The grandpa then orders the grandma to go inside and scrape the bottom of a barrel for flower in order to make a loaf of bread. The grandma then responds with, “Whatever grandpa says, grandma will do,” which engrains the idea in the uncorrupted minds of sweet little innocent children the higher social standing of men over women. Grrr. But! What is interesting about this film (and where the paradox comes into play) is that at the end of the movie, it is a female fox that is the only one smart and witty enough to trick the little bun into being eaten by luring him in with her kindness to sit on her long elegant nose before devouring him, while the male rabbit, wolf and bear all failed. This being said, another interpretation, however, could be that the female fox is the villain of the story. This paradox between women being subservient and evil, but also smart is one of the unique and defining social aspects of the animation that is not always seen in other films or fairy tales.
Now that we’ve explained the prevalence and significance of gender roles, lets talk about another social aspect within the film: cultural influence. Despite the fact that the cartoon was in Russian with English subtitles, and was assigned for a RUSSIAN fairy tale’s class, within the first 30 seconds of watching the film, I could tell I was not about to watch a fairy tale based out of the U.S. The strong presence of cultural influence was fascinating to me. Everything from the attire the characters wore (the long dresses and bonnets that the females wore to the shoes, pants and patterned shirt the male characters wore) to the small clothing details (the lace and specific patterns on the clothing) screamed rural Russia to me. Song and dance was also was also prevalent. The little bun would sing in order to buy himself some time to escape from the animals. In fact, in all four cases, listening to the little bun sing was the only thing that mattered more to the viscous and hungry animals than eating the little bun. Even the fox lady let the little bun sing to her before devouring him.
Looking back on all the animated television I watched at six years old, I can only imagine what I would have to say about the social meaning and influence behind it all. If I can get this involved in a 14-minute film about a singing bun with talking animals, I would love to hear what I had to say about gender roles and cultural influence in The Simpsons. But perhaps I will have to save that rant for another time. 🙂
As always, thanks for reading. Until next time.
The Bun (S. Merinov, 2013)