Tales from the Velvet Chamber of course owes much to Angela Carter’s critically acclaimed collection of fairy-tales, The Bloody Chamber published in 1976. Carter’s Beauty, from Beauty and the Beast, stands in stark opposition to the classical version. Her Beauty is cerebral and intensely sexual, a canny and powerful wench who has her wits about her, and is well aware of her power. The Beast ravishes her on his large luxe bed in his dead kingdom. Yet, she enjoys her role as sexual object, because just as easily, she swaps it out for the role of “bad girl,” a heroine with balls. She is a woman of power and agency; both object and subject. She alone escapes the fate of her hapless predecessors.
One of Angela Carter’s strategies is to reveal the hidden societal and religious constraints these women had to endure. She shows us the broader social and political picture. Carter believed that “a successful retelling delicately re-imagines the story’s content while preserving the boundaries of a form that led to such remarkable narrative stability.” The idea is not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. The idea is retain the original magic, the original enchantment, the glamour, the timelessness that is evoked with Once upon a time.
In addition to revealing the political or societal constraints as Angela Carter does, authors can write beyond happily ever after---- what happens to the Wicked Stepmother after Cinderella marries the Prince? What if the Wicked Witch of the West reconstitutes herself from a puddle of water and sets out on a new and different path? And what if a strong dose of female eroticism is combined with the mystery, the romance and the deep structure of myth? If Mary Magdalene can rise up after 2,000 years with a new story, then so can Medea and Medusa.