I’m thinking about the parallels between the Trayvon Martin shooting and the Little Red Riding Hood folk tale — only without the bowdlerized ending of the story that we are all familiar with.
A youth in a hood walks through the dangerous places in the world (for Red, the woods, for Trayvon, everywhere) carrying something desirable to eat (Red has a picnic basket with goodies for her grandmother, Trayvon has a bag of skittles) and is accosted by the predator, the big bad wolf. The wolf in our present day story wants the same thing as the wolf in the folktale — he wants to destroy the youth.
In the folktale, Red’s very act of walking through the woods becomes transgressive when she leaves the path to pick some flowers. She also talks to a stranger (the wolf) and tells him where she is going.
In the real world, Trayvon’s very act of walking through a neighborhood’s backyards — off the path — was viewed as transgressive. But really was there anywhere he could walk at night without it being viewed as transgressive? Didn’t he walk daily through his very own twisted and menacing woods — those of
a society that preyed on him whether he strayed from the path or not?
There has been a lot of talk about how Trayvon might have feared that he was being stalked for sexual purposes. Much has been made of the sexual undertones of the Red Riding Hood tale. One more correlation between Red Riding Hood and Grey Hoodie.
The thing that starkly sets the real life events apart from the gruesome events in the folktale and turns it into a horror story is first and foremost because it is real — this really happened. But if this were a story with an ending that wanted to instill hopelessness and horror into the reader — then just let the wolf win. Let the wolf kill the hooded youth and go up against the woodsman with his axe (justice) and the villagers (society and what acts it will sanction) and let the wolf win.
This wolf, Trayvon’s killer, this wolf, if his belly should be cut open, what would we find
inside? The dead grandmother, the personification of all the wolf hates and fears the most? Where is justice, where is the woodsman’s axe, in
this story? In our story the wolf is triumphant and the hooded youth is
dead. The wolf has faced the neighbors and the rescuers and he has been set free to go back out into the forest to prowl again.
I have always been drawn to the stories beneath the stories in folktales and fairy tales, lured by the siren song of deeper meaning and the microcosms of metaphor in the detritus beneath the leaves that litter any given tangled wood in fable and in lore. But here, in this true story in the real world, the leaf litter blows in a wind of politics which is generated by a giant fan — a machine which is media manipulation — the leaf litter is blown away and the meaning is lost in what is revealed beneath. There is nothing more than bare concrete splattered with brown stains which you know intuitively are pigmented of blood and you think, you think about the scripture in which it is said that the very ground calls out for your brother’s blood. Is Trayvon not my brother? Do I hear the low chant from deep within the ground?
But the LORD said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground! — Genesis 4:10, New Living Translation (2007)