The National Rifle Association, in an attempt, apparently, to see if guns can kill anything besides people and animals, is taking aim at fairy tales.
On the NRAfamily.org website (which, by its very existence, is horrifying), it has published its own takes on Little Red Riding Hood and Hansel and Gretel, which it introduces as follows:
Have you ever wondered what…fairy tales might sound like if the hapless Red Riding Hoods, Hansels and Gretels had been taught about gun safety and how to use firearms?
Well, no, I haven’t. But then, I’m not an NRA member. And I have the uncomfortable feeling that people who have wondered about stuff like that are precisely the kinds of people who should not own guns.
But, okay. Even though I’m not a fan of literary mash-ups like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, I decided to give one of these locked-and-loaded fairy tales a try. So I read (and I swear this is the actual title) Little Red Riding Hood (Has a Gun).
It starts off pretty much as I remember. Red has to take a basket of food through the woods to her grandmother, who, for one reason or another, has not yet moved to assisted living. But I started noticing little hints of things to come when I read this:
One birthday not long ago, Red was given her very own rifle and lessons on how to use it—just in case—to be sure that she would always be safe. So, with a kiss from her mother, rifle over her shoulder and a basket for her Grandmother in her hands, Red took a deep breath and entered the woods.
The NRA, displaying the subtlety for which it is famous, has introduced two main points in that paragraph. First, the gun is only for safety. And second, Red has had lessons. This is what the NRA wants us to always keep in mind: guns are just for protection, and should only be used after extensive training.
So now let’s follow Red into the scary woods:
Deep into the woods Red went, playing a game with herself to see how many animal footprints she could recognize in the snow. “Deer,” she quietly said to herself, “squirrel.”
The only possible reason to mention Red’s little game is to let children know that guns are also for hunting. Perhaps Red can even bag a Bambi on the way to grandma’s and cook up some nice venison steaks for the old lady.
Instead, she meets “the biggest, baddest wolf Red had ever seen.” So I guess Red had met up with many previous wolves. If wolves were that common in our neighborhood, I might be more inclined to get a real estate agent for my house than a gun for my daughter, but let’s continue.
According to this story, the wolf even has a “wolfish smile,” although I’m not sure what other type of smile one would expect a wolf to have. In any case, “His wolfish smile disappeared for a moment when his eyes fell on her rifle.” That does not stop him from striking up a conversation, though. “‘Where are you going all alone?’” he asks. Unlike the traditional, unarmed Red Riding Hood, this Red doesn’t reveal her destination (“‘I don’t talk to strangers,’” she says), even though the wolf continues grilling her. Finally…
…as she grew increasingly uncomfortable, she shifted her rifle so that it was in her hands and at the ready. The wolf became frightened and ran away.
See that? You don’t have to actually use your gun, boys and girls. Just show it to bad people and they’ll leave you alone. If only I’d had one when I was nine and my personal bully Marc Kravitz was chasing me around Howard Beach, Queens.
Back to the story: while Red pauses for a drink, the wolf, who somehow knows where she is headed despite her not having told him, knocks on grandma’s door.
Now, as I recall the classic tale, the wolf eats grandma, puts on her nightgown, and gets into her bed. Then, when Red shows up, the wolf says he’s her grandma, and they go through the whole “What big eyes you have” routine.
But, in the NRA’s retelling, those lines go to grandma, which makes no sense, because the wolf isn’t in disguise or anything. He’s just a wolf. So why would she say “What big eyes you have,” “What big ears you have,” etc.?
Well, it turns out it’s because she’s stalling, backing away from the wolf so she can reach her own scattergun. I confess to not knowing exactly what a scattergun is, but, presumably, grandma had extensive training in its use. Red then shows up, and… “The wolf couldn’t believe his luck—he had come across two capable ladies in the same day, and they were related! Oh, how he hated when families learned how to protect themselves.”
There’s that NRA subtlety again.
Red and Grandma tie up the wolf, and then the huntsman arrives. At this point, even I’m thinking “Will somebody shoot the friggin’ wolf already!” but, strangely, the huntsman is the only human in this tale without a gun, so he just drags the wolf away. That way, nobody gets killed. Because guns are only for scaring people off, not for opening fire in schools.
Politics aside, I have three problems with this series, which includes Hansel and Gretel (Have Guns) and, coming soon, The Three Little Pigs who, I’m guessing, will also own firearms. It’s not the propaganda per se; after all, what were the original stories in the first place but propaganda to teach children to stay on the path, not talk to strangers, and so forth? The problem is that the NRA stories are essentially saying, “Even if you do stupid stuff, as long as you’re carrying, everything will have a happy ending.”
The second problem I have is with the nrafamily.org website, where the fairy tales are listed under “trending news,” right alongside the NRA’s fashion article, “9 Concealed Carry Purses for Spring and Summer.” Calling Red Riding Hood (Has a Gun) “news” shows us that the NRA has issues with the concept of reality. You know, like when they say guns prevent gun violence.
But those aren’t even the biggest problems. As a writer, I object to the lack of drama. The whole reason fairy tales work is because someone is defenseless. There’s a bad guy, and an innocent person, and the tension comes from wondering how the innocent person will prevail against all odds.
So I really don’t think they should be like:
“‘Fe fi fo fum,’ said the giant, ‘I smell the blood of an Englishman.’”
So Jack shot him.
See you soon.
P.S. On an entirely different subject, Stephanie Cegielski, formerly the communications director of a Trump Super PAC just said this: “President Trump would be President Sanjaya [Malakar] in terms of legitimacy and authority.” I refer you now to my post from December: The Sanjayan Effect in American Politics.