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I went to a great talk by Jack Zipes and a light went on.  Little Red Ridinghood is the Virgin tale of sexual awakening.  She is threatened with being devoured, raped, or killed as she explores her sexual nature, depending on which version of the tale you read.

As a Virgin, her kingdom is discouraging her sexual awakening with all sorts of warnings because it makes them uncomfortable.  And she faces real dangers but she carries on because she needs to feel alive.  In the classic Disney telling of the tale she is saved by the woodsman and never really completes her journey of sexual awakening.  The message seems to be she needs others to keep her safe and would be better off conforming to the wishes of her kingdom.  But many movies have her accepting herself as a sexual being.

The movies An Education, The Accused, and Shadow of a Doubt all follow the Virgin structure in a Little Red Ridinghood way with the Virgin completing her journey. 

In all these movies the Virgin starts in a protected (Dependent) world where she is warned not to stray from the path her culture wants for her.  But she is curious and wants to feel alive in the world.  Sarah dances seductively in a bar, (The Accused) Jenny accepts a date with an older man who opens a world of excitement and pleasure (An Education).  Charlotte wants to feel more alive, for her mother (her future) to be more joyful and she wants Uncle Charlie to come and bring this to them (Shadow of a Doubt).

But this is the story of Little Red Ridinghood and the Virgin is playing with the wolf.  The Secret World in The Accused is imposed on Sarah.  She is unable to expose what happened to her and force society to say it was wrong because her lawyer cuts a deal.  In An Education, Jenny keeps what she does on her dates with David secret from her parents and goes against the rules of her school because nobody can show her a way to be joyful as a woman in the world they are guiding her towards.  She holds her world with David for herself so as not to be stopped even when she knows it is wrong.  Charlotte keeps the secret of Uncle Charlie’s murderous past because he has brought her mother an ideal of happiness, something her father has failed to do. 

In the end, the wolf is killed and the Virgin has found a place to be seen.  A place for her sensual being, and all girl’s sensuality , that is safe (the Kingdom is Brighter).

In many retellings of Little  Red Ridinghood she remains naive, getting closer to the wolf as she notices how big his eyes are and how big his ears are.  She is intrepid and drawn in at the same time until she is in great peril.  She may live in a world of patriarchy that discourages her from questioning what she is told, but her Virgin’s journey is to question and choose her own values before she gets devoured.

Storytellers who simply keep Little Red naive and have her Rescued are robbing the audience of the true growth of the Virgin.  It is a false rescue if it serves to re-enforce the need for her to comply to the warnings and make her world smaller.

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