Intertextuality / Little Red Riding Hood Little Essay

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Intertextuality / Little Red Riding Hood

Little Red Riding Hood, as in the traditional version of the fairy-tale familiar to present day English language audiences, has just been eaten by the Big Bad Wolf, then rescued from his stomach. This is what she has to say, in lyrics written by Stephen Sondheim for Into The Woods:

And I know things now, many valuable things

That I hadn't known before:

Do not put your faith in a cape and a hood,

They will not protect you the way that they should.

And though scary is exciting,

Nice is different than good.

Now I know, don't be scared:

Granny was right,

Just be prepared.

Isn't it nice to know a lot?

And a little bit not… (Sondheim 69)

Sondheim is quite consciously allegorizing the story of Little Red Riding Hood as a story about a girl's experience of puberty. But how did Red Riding Hood manage to turn its wolf into a sexual predator? The same tendentious reading of the fairy tale is echoed in the 2005 film Hard Candy, which starred Canadian actress Ellen Page. (That Page would later become Oscar-nominated for a film about a pregnant teenager demonstrates that her metier as an actress apparently involves narratives
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of adolescent sexuality.) In Hard Candy, Ellen Page plays a postmodern intertextual Little Red Riding Hood.

The important thing about the Little Red Riding Hood of Hard Candy is her intertextuality. I am using this term to mean something specific -- something more than allusion. If I made a film about a girl who robs banks, while wearing a red hood, and called it Little Red Riding Hood, that would be an allusion, even I were to name her antagonist Police Commissioner Wolf. The reason this hypothetical film is not intertextual is because although it alludes to the Little Red Riding Hood story, it does not also allude to an Interpretation of that story. Intertextuality not only requires a knowledge of some original text, it requires a knowledge of a school of interpretive thought about that text. Calling two characters Adam and Eve is an allusion -- but using them to make a point about Original Sin is intertextual, since it requires not only knowledge of the text (in this case, Genesis) but also a knowledge of traditions of how to read that text (in this case, Christianity). In this case, Hard Candy is doing something more than alluding to Perrault and the Brothers Grimm. Although in one crucial way Hard Candy sets itself up as its own form of cinematic fairy tale, insofar as it invites us…

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