RED, from directors Jorge Jaramillo and Carlo Guillot is an interpretation based on the fairy tale “Little Red Ridding Hood”. Jaramillo and Guillot’s interpretation is gruesomely violent, and yet (as I will further explore below), is also a beautiful take on a classic story. Here is a description of the piece from the directors:
“Based on a true fairy tale. As the silhouette of a lonely girl runs through the woods, something in the shadows is lurking her. RED is an animated short film, which presents a new version of the classic tale “Little Red Riding Hood” by Charles Perrault. The directors Jorge Jaramillo and Carolo Guillot explore more thoroughly the drama, horror, and realism of the story. A journey of feelings and moments, with visual and musical elements existing only to carry a clear and strong narrative. In RED the directors based on traditional shadows animation, giving it a new perspective by using technology to create a new concept, while maintaining the visual and narrative force of the classic technique.”
I should also note that Elizabeth Marshall (2004) argued that classic tales like “Little Red Riding Hood” were initially “tied to practices of childhood rearing . . .and disciplining young readers into normative heterosexual femininity and masculinity” (pg. 261). The original tale of “Little Red Riding Hood” was just as violent in that the story functioned as a psychological ploy to discipline children into gender norms. Now we might understand this piece as relates to the sexuality of young girls and rape culture, as Marshall writes,
“Little Red Riding Hood, like constructions of rape victims in contemporary discourses of law and media, was in unauthorized territory, the forest rather than the home, talking in a free and uninhibited way to a male who wasn’t her husband or father. In popular parlance, Little Red “’asked for it’” (268).
“Little Red Riding Hood”‘s violent beginnings has since been diluted as a tale of childhood fantasy, that is until now with Jaramillo and Guillot’s interpretation.
I’m uncertain about the primary audience toward which Jaramillo and Guillot’s piece is targeted. However, given that this piece has since gone viral (largely due to Jezebel.com‘s write-up) and is readily available on Vimeo, I’m sure the piece has been consumed by people of various ages and groups.
Number of violent acts: 1
The nature of violent acts: RED physically slaughters the wolf with a knife and breaks the wolf’s neck, killing the wolf in a violent confrontation. I would be remiss not to mention the psychological violence associated with this exchange. Though RED is an animated girl, one can only imagine that if she were ‘real’ the pychological impact of such a gruesome act would have long lasting traumatic effects.
Harris’ discusses cartoon violence as “stylized and unrealistic” and as a result may “induce[d] fear or desensitization” (pg. 273) in viewers since the events could not happen in ‘real life’. In other words, it seems Harris is arguing that viewers might allow themselves to indulge effortlessly in cartoon violence, which can also be humorous, since there is less ‘real life’ consequences tied to the media itself. Perhaps it is much easier to suspend fear in an animated world. For me, however, this piece is cathartic. If I had to categorize my reaction to the piece based on the readings, I might relate my reaction to the fear-of-victimization effect, with some caveats. I do not necessarily think that RED’s cathartic effect has to do with the idea that the more media like RED that I consume, the more I am afraid of becoming a victim of violence (Bushman, et al., pg. 364). However, I do feel a sense of what Harris describes as an “emotional purging” (pg. 276) when I watch the piece. I enjoy watching RED, not necessarily for the violence acts themselves, but rather because the violent acts are perpetrated on a known perpetrator, the wolf. It may be that I am experiencing what Sparks identifies as post-viewing gratification related to the character, RED, herself. I find pleasure, albeit intellectual, in watching RED kill the wolf. She avenges the death of Little Red, whom she apparently drags away at the end of the piece. This act of vengeful violence appeals to my sense that the wolf, or the rapist/murderer, got what he deserved. RED avenges the victim’s death, and all (seems) right in the world. Aside from the gratification quality of the work, the technical aspects involved in the piece are quite beautiful.
When Walter Benjamin quoted poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, “War is beautiful”, in The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Production, he was doing so to express the aesthetics of war. For Marinetti, the physical structure of weapons and even the printed propaganda associated with war was artful. In the case of RED, (or the technology involved in the production of RED), this piece has an aesthetic, albeit violent, quality. This is not to say, however, that the violent acts themselves are to be admired.
For me, RED is a beautifully produced piece of technology art. The directors tell a story that is both well-produced and thoughtfully mediated with the use of technology. Aside from it’s technical merits, I find that this story is beautiful because I understand that humanity is often found in some of the most gruesome and perverse expressions. RED is essentially an aesthetically stunning piece of callous emotion. Yet I understand that the aesthetics of violence in this case is beautiful only because the nature of the violent act itself is vile.
I also admit that my sense of gratification might be based on prior experiences engaging in domestic violence and sexual assault advocacy as well as my academic background in gender studies. Certainly Marshall’s discussions on “Little Red Riding Hood” sat in the back of my mind as I watched this piece. Considering all of the exposure to prior experiences and perspectives, perhaps I was primed (Sparks, pg. 91) for this moment, and reacted according to previous associations with the “Little Red Riding Hood” tale.
Benjamin, W. (1968). Illuminations. New York: Schocken Books.
Bushman, B.J., Husemann, L.R., & Whitaker, J.L. (2009). Violent media effects. In Nabi, R.L. & Oliver, M.B. (Eds.), Media processes and effects. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Harris, R. (2009). Violence: Watching all that mayhem really matters. In A cognitive psychology of mass media. (5th ed). pp. 257-290.
Marshall, E. (2004). Stripping for the wold: Rethinking representations of gender in children’s literature. Reading Research Quarterly. 39(3). pp. 256-270.
Sparks, G.G. (2010). Effects of media violence. In Media effects research: A basic overview. pp. 80-104. Boston, MA: Wadsworth.