Bioethics Blogs

Infertility, ethics, and fairy tales

This weekend my wife and I went to see the movie version of the musical Into the Woods. The music was done beautifully and the characters were casted and acted well, but I left disturbed by the ethics presented in the story.

For those who have not yet seen the musical I will attempt to comment on it without spoiling it for you. The plot weaves together the characters and stories of four classic fairy tales, Rapunzel, Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Little Red Riding Hood. Their stories are joined by the story of the witch from the Rapunzel tale and the son of the couple from whom the witch had taken Rapunzel who is now a baker and is married, but he and his wife are infertile. They discover that their infertility is due to a spell cast by the witch who offers them a way to undo the spell which leads to the rest of the story.

One of the interesting ethical elements to the musical is that in order to alleviate their infertility the couple does several morally questionable things. They cheat Jack out of his cow for a few beans that they say are magical even though they do not really believe they are, attempt to steal Red’s cape, and attempt to steal one of Cinderella’s slippers. Later they try to pass off a brown cow as being “white as milk” by powdering it with flower. All of these actions were justified by the importance of being able to have a child of their own.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.