Many of the tails we have looked at so far have had historical undertones such as the early Grimm stories when France had taken over Germany, however, the historical content of Pan’s Labyrinth makes up a major theme of the movie. The movie is set in 1944 Franco Era Spain after the fall of the Republic which forced the members of the Socialist party into the forests and mountains. Because of this the situations, such as that with the rationed bread, seem that much more possible, adding to the realistic switches between the real world and the fantasy world.
The movie also has social commentary that can apply to multiple situations outside of the restrictive fascist Spain of the late 30’s into 40’s. It applauds three kinds of thinking: independent, critical, and moral, all of which can be seen through the different rebel characters.
Ofelia steps outside the traditional female role of passivity to go against what her mother, step-father, and faun servant tell her, all to eventually end up in her rightful place as princess of the underworld because of it. She rebels against her mother by not falling for the charms of the Captain, a position that symbolically relates to the conflict in Spain as she shakes with her left hand (representing the leftist socialists who were driven into the woods) instead of her right (which represents the rightist fascist rule). She also goes against her mother by dirtying her Alice-in-Wonderland dress to defeat the evil toad poisoning the tree, also symbolic of the poisonous fascist party destroying the mother country.
|http://www.adarkervision.com/images/movies/pans_labyrinth/dirty_girl.gif, although she did try to keep it clean...|
She disobeys the Captain by taking back her baby brother and sedating him which comes into play during his defeat.
|http://vigilantcitizen.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/pans-labyrinth-3.jpg, can't you feel the familial love?|
The most important rebellious attitude she takes is toward the faun.
|http://www.jesus-is-savior.com/Evils%20in%20America/Hellivision/pans_labyrinth4.jpg, why would you ever disobey this? Also this shot is eerily similar to the one with Captain Vidal, exposing the villainesque qualities of the faun.|
First she picks the small door other than the one that his fairies insist on in order to find the dagger. Not so coincidentally it is also the leftmost door. She also disobeys the command “no comáis ni bebáis nada” (don’t eat or drink anything) which ends in the death of two fairies and the disappointment and departure of the faun. The fact that she disobeys this order by eating grapes is connected to the relative food deprivation in Franco’s Spain as everything was rationed. Poor Ofelia was tempted by a feast and fell in order to eat at all.
|http://24.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lmbh3nJd201qgi26jo1_500.jpg I know you're hungry but, oh no don't do it, it's right behind you! Also you'd have to be pretty desperate to eat anything prepared for or by this guy...|
Ofelia’s final act of disobedience toward the faun is during the final trial in which she refuses to let him prick her baby brother. This works to her favor as she chose correctly because “no princess would allow innocent blood to be spilled over herself” and she gets to go back to her kingdom complete with new Dorothy shoes as there is no place like home.
|http://www.overthinkingit.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/09/pans-labyrinth.jpg, so this is the Underworld, huh...|
By disobeying those around her that are in power, Ofelia establishes her place as a strong thinker who aids in the vanquishing of the villain in the real world and is welcomed home in her fairy tale world.
Mercedes and the Doctor also show these three different kinds of thinking to disobey the world around them. Mercedes also breaks out of the traditional passive female role found in fairy tales to actively aid the guerrillas in defeating the Captain. She steals supplies, gets information, and wounds the Captain.
|http://media.screened.com/uploads/0/2667/261025-2006_pans_labyrinth_003.jpg, trust me, she's not as sweet as she looks.|
She also actively goes against his desires for her to tell his son about his death. She is a strong heroine who does what she thinks is right. With her is Dr. Ferreiro who is also aiding the guerrillas. He is there to heal the rebels so that they may continue fighting, although in the end his aid gets him killed.
|http://www.filmsnobs.com/UserImages/PansLabyrinth.jpg, hey wait a minute...|
He further delays the villainous Captain by euthanizing a guerrilla who was being tortured for information. When asked about his betrayal he responds that it takes a certain kind of man to blindly follow orders, something that he would not do. These independent, critical, and moral thinkers do what they feel is right instead of listening to a higher power, something that ends up in some slight misfortune on their part but ultimately ends in the greater good winning.
Del Toro uses his understanding of what a fairy tale is to make this commentary which can also be applied to situations such as September 11th when everyone was convinced there was no gray area in the aftermath, only evil Muslims and god Americans according to Dr. Deveny. This is because his tale is what Jack Zipes would describe as subversive as it has its blatant themes and the more inconspicuous ones that drive the movie from behind. Any of the scenes and happenings can be applied to many of Vladmir Propp’s 31 functions (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, and 31) whether they are happening in Ofelia’s fantasy world or in the war-divided Spain that she actually inhabits.