As the culture becomes increasingly virtual so does the fairy tale. Where once it was gently dressed in the pillowy pastels of Disney animation, it is now a statement on steroids. At the movies, using digital technology to create nightmare visions that morph and mutate with stunning photographic realism, film directors have brought gothic horror and Tolkien-esque apocalypse into the bedtime fictions of yore. The intimate story structures in which the queen’s curse or the witch’s prophecy once dwelled—cozy, written “rooms” where sexual awakening and the family romance safely played out—have blown up into broad-canvas political or Promethean quests. There’s not much fairy in the tale.

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