Discipline and educate. Gender roles in East German fairy
The fairy tale films of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany, or Gdr) belonged to one of the most important cultural and educational productions for children’s entertainment and edification. Made with live actors, romantic sets and familiar plots, these colourful films enchanted children and their parents for almost a half-century, providing young and old audiences with role models of good behaviour and warnings about the perils of straying from the path of (socialist) virtue. These films also offer us insight into how cinema functioned as a discursive socio-political space in the GDR. In this article, I focus on the portrayal of acceptable gender roles in the fairy tale films of the GDR’s stateowned film production company Defa (Deutsche Filmaktiengesellschaft), looking in particular at three films produced in three key historical periods (pre-Wall, post-Wall, and the last stages of socialism), Das singende klingende Bäumchen (The Singing, Ringing Tree, 1957, dir. Francesco Stefani), König Drosselbart (King Thrushbeard, 1965, dir. Walter Beck) and Die vertauschte Königin (The Bartered Queen, 1984, dir. Dieter Scharfenberg). This selection of films demonstrates the possibility of using children’s films to understand broader societal changes and the relevance of a gender perspective to the analysis of the Gdr.