In Which I Realize I Might Have Learned My Moral Code From Fairy Tales

2013-038

Ella Enchanted

Gail Carson Levine

I'm not one to talk about moral codes, really, because I barely think about these things. But sometimes I try to assess my behavior and what I believe in and I've come to the conclusion that I belong to the Stephen Chow School of Non-Moral Thought, wherein the primary tenet is that you can be an asshole, as long as you're smart.

(Also known as the school Gregory House and Sherlock Holmes subscribe to.)

I'd like to tell you that despite this I'm not an awful person, but I can't because I am.

But that's not the point of this story.

Reading Ella Enchanted, I got a very tiny epiphany.

I think children's stories might have shaped my morality.

See, I tend to be rather cutting when talking about people I don't like. I notice the shallowest things, like overbites and pimples and ugly feet.

On people I like, the same things are perfectly adorable, or at the very least, easy to overlook.

In fairy tales and children's stories, the description of the villain is always over the top. Crooked nose, ugly teeth, humps, bad breath, etc.

It's okay to make fun of them because they're evil.

But these same defects on a good person? Now you're the villain.

See?

It's fine to point out and make fun of physical defects if they're on a bad person, but on a good person it's unacceptable.

In the story of my life, obviously I'm the hero. I might be an anti-hero and an occasional Byronic one, but still the hero. People I don't like are the villains of my story.

And so I'm free to be shallow and make fun of their physical imperfections as much as I like without feeling any guilt.

It's a double standard, but at least I know who to blame now.

 

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