Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Another Ballet Shoes Post: Killing Mrs. Simpson

For those of us following my avid excitement regarding the upcoming BBC Ballet Shoes movie, I made an unfortunate discovery this afternoon.

It was something I had suspected, after seeing the cast list and the trailer.

They took the character of Mr. Simpson and made him a love interest for Sylvia.

(Brief backtrack for the uninitiated: Sylvia Brown is the mother-by-adoption to the three Fossil orphans. Mr. Simpson is Petrova Fossil's mentor, the man who teaches the young girl all about engineering and helps her prepare for a career as a pilot. There is also a Mrs. Simpson, who is equally kind to Petrova and makes her a suit of overalls so that she can work alongside Mr. Simpson when he fixes cars. Later in the story, when the sisters are once again desperate for clothing and have no more jewelry to sell, Mrs. Simpson makes them organdy dresses.)

But it's confirmed here: just like in the 1975 film, they've eliminated the character of Mrs. Simpson so that Mr. Simpson can fall in love with Sylvia.

Only this time, they've killed her. In a horrible accident in Kuala Lumpur. And they've also given her a son, and killed him off as well.

Oh, dear. The literary theorists could have a field day with this one. What are the problems with this scenario?

1. The implication that Sylvia, a single woman raising three children, needs a love interest/husband to make her story complete. (Or that the audience needs Sylvia to have a love interest/husband. Or that the audience needs the three Fossil girls to have a "real father.")

2. The fact that they had to invent some kind of terrible accident to remove an inconvenient character, and add another character and then kill him off as well. In the 1975 movie, Mr. Simpson was an ordinary bachelor. If the 2007 version has to fabricate a love story, why not leave it at that?

3. The creepiness of Petrova now becoming a "second son" for Mr. Simpson (there's bound to be a scene in which he tells someone that she reminds him of the late Simpson Jr.), which takes away the joy of a young girl being able, on her own merits, to walk down to her neighbor's garage and ask him to teach her how to fix cars, and his doing it only because she's clever enough, on her own.

4. The colonialism angle. Mr. S ran a rubber factory in Kuala Lumpur, before getting a transfer back to London. We're in the 1930s, pre-Malaysian independence. I'm suddenly very interested to know how the two other Simpsons died. Strange native disease? Attack by a strange native animal? Murder at the hands of strange natives? Something involving the words "strange" and "native?"

Anyway. You get the idea. Somewhere there's an academic article in this, with a title along the lines of Single Mothers and Substitute Sons: Use of the Male Paradigm to Alter Character Identities in the BBC Adaptation of "Ballet Shoes."

Maybe after I see the movie, I'll write it. ^__^