The first thing you should know about Into the Woods is that it’s a musical. The second thing you need to know is that it’s actually a really really good musical. You don’t go through the pure torture of listening to characters sing non-stop for a lengthy duration of 3 hours (remember Les Misérables?). No, the Into the Woods characters actually pause for breath in between songs and talk to each other. More than being a literal place (which it is), The Woods is also a metaphor for going astray. So be prepared to not fall in love with fairytale characters from Into the Woods! This article highlights adultish themes present within the movie that forces many of our beloved fairytale characters to get real:
1. Cheater Cheater, pumpkin eater
“I was raised to be charming not sincere”. With these words we know why Chris Pine wasn’t allowed to shave for his role as Prince Charming in the movie. Because when he uttered these words it made it all the more easier to hate him for cheating on his new bride with his stupid beard on. While Cinderella’s Prince has always been criticized for being unable to recognize the woman he spent an entire night dancing with, his role as a playboy with a wandering eye finally does this part of the story justice. More than seeing Cinderella as his soulmate, he sees her as his conquest and once he has successfully claimed her, he gets bored. Seems pretty familiar in this day and age yes? For Charming, it is the thrill of the chase that matters and not the ultimate prize.
While we don’t condone the Baker’s wife for her adulterous actions, it is easier to forgive her because she shows remorse and wants to go back to her family and fix things.
2. Runaway bride
Some girls pursue guys because they want them to be the one. And then you have some girls who run away from guys because they fear they have found the one. How many times have we run away from a person because that person is too good to be true? Cinderella finally found everything she ever wanted in her soul-mate. And it scared her because her greatest fear was finding true love and not being loved by her soul-mate for the person that she is, rather that she would be judged by her social status. A problem all girls and guys of this generation face-Will he/she love me if I’m poor?
3. We are never ever ever getting back together
The bottom-line is Cinderella and the Prince don’t make it. They got married fast and divorced faster. Quite in keeping with the marriage scene of the masses at the moment. But rather than crawling under a rock and wishing she had never been born, Cinderella shows spine when she chooses to leave her cheating husband and live as a single woman on her own independent terms.
4. Charmed? I’m not so sure
Cinderella preferred the simple life to a privileged one. She has never been portrayed as one aspiring to riches but more as a person who is one with nature (she talks to birds, for Christ sakes!) and who is looking for someone to love her in her rags (read in her own skin). She followed the path less travelled by. Modern day rebels who go against the modus operandi can relate.
5. Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen, nobody knows my sorrow
The funniest song in the movie was “Agony” where the two Princely brothers dramatically battle each other to prove who feels the greatest pain. More than sit down to understand the pain and walk through the shoes of the other, they prefer to rip open their shirts and become modern day drama queens because well…..freedom of expression and all that. Much like the people we meet in daily life, it’s a wonderful representation of how love is more show and tell than “Let’s make this work!”.
6. Heel, boy!
No pain. No gain. Even Cinderella’s sisters weren’t spared their share of misery and had to loose toes and heels to make the shoe fit. And even when it did, they found out the hard way that size does matter. Metaphorically we can compare it to the things that young adults do to themselves, so that they will be acceptable in the eyes of others. Especially when they reach the marriageable age. Also it is the parents of young adults who are majorly responsible for encouraging their children to mold themselves to be what others want, physically and mentally, instead of encouraging them to be themselves. If there’s one thing we can learn from Cinderella’s sisters, its that if the shoe fits, then wear it, if it doesn’t, then heel. Even though the shoe fit Cinderella, Prince Charming didn’t stay true to her. Which goes to show that if a person is truly meant for you, he/she will love you exactly the way you are, shoe or no shoe.
7. Hungry for more
When Red starts piling on the cakes in the Baker’s shop, the song “Gimme gimme more” was running through my mind. While Red’s social standing isn’t really indicated, one can tell that she isn’t too poor nor too rich which means she could come from a middle class family. Which means she isn’t hard-up when it comes to food. While the original tale indicates that the food basket was for her granny, the movie indicates that she intended to finish the entire basket herself. Since she is a little girl, her innocent demeanor masks her gluttonous nature.
8. Seeing Red
Being a slave to food is bad. But being a slave to the flesh is worse, especially when one is a pedophile. Which is exactly the tone that Johnny Depp as the Big Bad Wolf sets off, when he meets Red. When put in the context of pedophilia, to say that The Wolf was “hungry for her flesh” would be putting it mildly. Even though the movie sticks to the fairytale and The Wolf eats up Red and her grandmother, that act in itself silently underlines female victims of rape, spanning across all ages. The Baker slaying the Wolf is an indication that such people deserve the axe, while female victims need protection.
The pain of the Baker & his Wife not being able to bear a child is felt by all because it a problem that is closer to home. The hurt, the hope, the desperation to do anything that will help them bring home their little bundle of joy echoes through the minds of everyone who is going through this problem themselves or know people going through this problem.
10. Sins of the father
Abandoned by his father at birth, the Baker’s fears of not being a good father to his son occupy his mind for the second-half of the movie. Many couples who have grown up without families either face the fear of getting close to people or having children. While he found love in his wife, his fear of failing as a father lingered. The Baker is shown in sharp contrast to his father. When faced with the abduction of his first child (Rapunzel) which is the loss of a child nevertheless, he chose to abandon his family. When the Baker is faced with the death of his wife, he chooses to stay and raise his child as a single parent.
Jack is portrayed as being a dumb blonde but his mannerism deceives. More than being what we think is naïve, he was simply different because he believed in the fantastical. While his behavior can be attributed to a child who refuses to grow up because he lives with his head in the clouds, it was because Jack believed in the unbelievable that he ultimately climbed the beanstalk and changed his circumstances for the better.
12. Stealth Mode-On
While Jack must be applauded for his uniqueness, bravery and heightened sense of adventure, we cannot overlook the fact that his circumstances changed because he stole from the Giant. While the original fairytale makes it easier to hate the Giant because the Giant is depicted as evil, the Into the Woods Giant is not evil. He even lets Jack off the hook, when he steals his gold and the golden egg but he only gives in when Jack steals the magical harp. The Giant’s Wife didn’t even come for the gold or the harp but sought vengeance for her husband’s death. Everybody rejoices when the Giants are dead but no one points a finger at the boy who stole. Since Jack is actually good at heart and only stole to make his mother rich and to prove a point to a girl, we don’t want him to be punished. But we have to remember that the Giants were the victims here. It is a reminder that sometimes the innocent are punished while the ones who commit crime get away scot-free.
13. Pretty Much
While Cinderella feared being judged for her social status, the Witch feared being judged for her appearance. While it highlights the mental struggle that women face because they connect the way they look to the way they will be loved, it also represents the fear that women face on getting old. The Witch’s fears are unfounded because Rapunzel didn’t despise her for her looks, she loved her for it. She despised her mother for lying to her.
14. Mum’s the word. Not
Family strains are drawn out through all the characters of the movie. The Baker had a shitty father who abandoned him as a child. Jack’s mum was always criticizing him. Cinderella’s step-mum was practically a bitch who mistreated her and kept her as a slave. And the Witch probably took the cake for Lousiest Parent of the Year because she had an insecurity complex, abandonment issues and a controlling nature. Her other accomplishments include lying through her teeth and breaking up the Baker’s family. Rapunzel is actually the Baker’s older sister although both of them are denied of this knowledge by the Witch.
15. And they lived happily ever after
Rapunzel and her prince were the only ones who really got their happy ending. At least their love story wasn’t all that “tangled” up. Rapunzel’s Prince/ The Other Prince (whom we fondly nicknamed Flynn Rider thanks to Tangled) is shown in sharp contrast to his older brother, Charming. Conveniently unnamed in the film, it is a stark reminder of the fact that the good guys are often overlooked while they are the ones who can actually give us the fairytale life we’ve been waiting for.
16. The Good. The Bad and 50 Shades of Grey
Who is good and who is evil is all pretty much mixed up in the movie. While the Giants and the Witch are supposed to be the bad guys, the Witch only did whatever she had to so that her daughter would accept her. The Giant on the other hand went after Jack because Jack stole from him, while the Giant’s Wife went after everyone else because Jack killed her husband. No Into the Woods character is black and white. More like 50 shades of grey. Well except the Big Bad Wolf- he was 50 shades of fucked up!
17. Wasn’t me
Since all the characters were indirectly tied to the events that caused the Giant’s Wife to descend the second beanstalk, they were all equally responsible for the events that followed. Much less than take responsibility for what had happened, they pinned the blame on each other and strove to absolve themselves of guilt. In this world of cut-throat competition and narcissist values, we are all equally adept at playing the blame game. Even though the last person we admit that to is ourselves.
18. All’s fair in love and war. Wait, what?
While the blame game never reached a consensus, it didn’t matter who was to blame at the end because innocent lives were lost. Bearing a strong resemblance to innocent victims suffering in countries torn apart by war, it also highlights that our actions will invariably lead to our own destruction.
19. Killing me softly
Most of the characters experience death of some sort. Cinderella loses her mother at birth. The Giant’s Wife loses her husband when Jack cuts the first beanstalk. As a result of the Giant’s Wife wreaking havoc when she descends the second beanstalk, the Baker loses his wife, Jack loses his mother and Red loses her mother and grandmother. The inclusion of death within the story stresses that though fairytales may not lay focus on it, death is very much part and parcel of every story.
And they lived happily ever after. Not.
Sadly none of the characters got the happy endings they envisioned, but they made the best out of the circumstances that life met out to them. The movie ends on a note that while the characters didn’t get their happy-ever-afters, there is still hope for a better tomorrow.
Charming not sincere
The Baker’s Wife & Charming
Charming and Cinderella
Cinderella and the Baker’s Wife
The Wolf and Red
Cinderella’s mother & sisters
Want a baby
Jack and his mum
Jack and the golden harp
Rapunzel and the witch
Rapunzel and the other prince
The Giant’s Wife
The Blame Game