Is This the Real Life?

Fairy-Tale Files, published once weekly, feature three variations of a fairy tale chosen by one of Fairy Tale Review’s editors, readers, editorial assistants, or contributors.


Blood from a severed head turns to jewels in the Indo-Pakistani fairy tale “Jackal or Tiger?” and bringing these sacrificial jewels to the king saves Ameer Ali from certain execution. The twist is that Ameer Ali is the king’s estranged son, banished in utero years before when the royal couple argues over which creature they hear howling a fearsome howl. The guards called in to adjudicate, valuing their own self-preservation, side with the king. It’s a clear case of alternative facts over objective reality, and the pregnant queen is put on the next palanquin to the forest.


The late 20th century Canadian art collective General Idea highlighted pop culture’s “feedback loop” by occupying the ironies and inanities by which art and life imitate each other. Christian Viveros-Fauné labels these conceptual artists “pioneers of fake news” in his review of their retrospective “Fear Management,” currently showing at Museo Jumex in Mexico City. “Their lesson couldn’t be more timely,” asserts Viveros-Fauné: “if you can picture it, name it, or, better yet, draw it funny on a placard, the act turns even the greatest injustices into a rallying cry.” Assuming, of course, that we can still appreciate satire.


Within our culture’s feedback loop—in this case, a comedy sketch—Maya Rudolph plays a vacuous Melania Trump shilling for her fictional brand of edible diamonds. Though a photo of Mrs. Trump herself twirling a forkful of these jewels appeared in GQ shortly before Rudolph’s sketch, it reappeared recently as the much-maligned February 2017 cover of Vanity Fair Mexico. It’s not the first time diamonds have been used to portray socialites, even if Mrs. Trump’s voluntary pose raises questions about the image’s satiric potential. Can a gesture, like the song says, “mean everything and nothing”?