x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Fairy tales for Singaporean adults

Singapore is putting an adult twist on the moralistic message of fairy tales.

We all grew up reading fairy tales, stories featuring goblins, elves, or trolls and carrying lessons and morals for the young. Most of these tales end happily, but only after twisting through darks woods or scary scenes of beasts, fangs and witches.

Singapore is putting an adult twist on the moralistic message of fairy tales. But its stories are arguably scarier than those of the Brothers Grimm.

The government there is using iconic fairy tale imagery and prose to convey messages on a critical public health issue: a shrinking population.

In the Singaporean version of Snow White, for instance, Snow White is happy since she has seven kids who kiss her every day. In the remake of Alice in Wonderland, meanwhile, Alice is a wild and reckless girl too busy discovering the world to settle down. The Singapore version warns that such behaviour "has a biological cost for women".

Patronising young people will not lead them to behave in ways that parents, or governments, would like. More likely it will prompt indifference. Kids at least feign interest in fairy tales, even if they are just looking at the pictures. Adults would just skip to the last page and then turn the book over.