Grinding Noises

A Web Standards Fairy-Tale

A response to The Mindset Upgrade Campaign, among others.

Once upon a time a lowly servant girl lived in a dingy hovel next to a big palace full of handsome princes. 'Why, oh why,' she sighed, 'can't I find me a handsome prince? Why won't they look at me?'

At which a Fairy Godmother appeared in a puff of pixel dust and said, 'They won't look at you, little girl, because you are not well-Presented enough.'

'But my heart is pure!' cried the girl. 'Surely its Content is all that matters!'

'Pshaw,' said the Fairy G, 'Content is all well and good once you've bagged yourself a prince, but they won't even look at you without good Presentation. Here, let me show you.'

At which the Fairy G waved her magic wand, and swathed the servant girl in a cloak of the purest GIFs and JPEGs all bundled up in Tables. The effect was wonderful to behold.

'I'm beautiful!' cried the girl. 'I'm going to go snag me a hunk o' lovin' man right away!'

'Not so fast,' warned the Fairy G. 'This is a magic dress. They can only see it if they're using these magic glasses.' And with that, she handed the girl a box of spectacles all labelled '3.0'.

'Thank you, oh thank you!' cried the girl, and skipped merrily down the road to the palace. Soon she was inside, handing out magic glasses to the handsome princes, who donned them and saw the most wondrous voluptuous vision of splendour they had ever beheld. 'Prithee, fair maiden,' they would cry, 'where hast thou been all mine life?'

And so the girl enjoyed the attention of many suitors, and figured it was only a matter of time before she Got Lucky. But little did she know that she had made herself an enemy. A jealous princess, who also happened to be an Evil Witch on weekends, was devising a scheme to undermine her success. 'I'll get you, my pretty,' she cackled, as jealous part-time Evil Witches are wont to do.

Soon this Evil Witch had created hundreds of Evil™-brand magic spectacles, and was spreading them around the palace. When the princes foolishly donned these, the servant girl no longer looked a thing of beauty, but a hideous hag draped in sackcloth and warts.

'Aieee! She is hideous!' they would cry, before running away screaming.

'But... but... my Content! You can still see my Content!' cried the girl, but it was no use. In tears, she ran back to her hovel, where her Fairy Godmother was waiting.

'Help me, Fairy G! They think I'm hideous!'

'What is it, my child?' asked the Fairy G.

'They're using these spectacles, and they make me look awful,' sniffed the girl.

The Fairy Godmother studied them closely. 'Aha. Evil™-brand Uncompliant spectacles. I might have known.' She turned them around in her Fairy Hands. 'Ah yes—here—the fatal flaw. This I can fix.'

'You can fix all the evil spectacles, Fairy G?' asked the girl, her eyes brightening.

'No, but I can fix your dress.' And with that she removed the girl's beautiful dress, and clothed her in another very similar one made of GIFs and JPEGs and CSS, but with an extra panel stitched into the front. 'Now when they see your dress with Evil™ spectacles, they will know what to do. And here, you'll need these.' And she handed the girl another box of magic spectacles, this time labelled 'Compliant'.

The girl raced back to the palace and paraded around in front of the princes. Sure enough, before long one or two came cautiously up to her. 'Do you perchance have any spectacles that are... Compliant?' they asked.

'Why, yes I do,' said the girl, 'Why do you ask?'

'Because you're walking around completely naked apart from this big sign down your front that says "To remove this sign, ask for my Compliant spectacles."'

And so the girl handed out her Compliant spectacles, and the princes put them on and saw her once again in a beautiful dress, and although it wasn't quite what they expected it was at least better than sackcloth and warts. And the girl made many friends, and had many opportunities to show off her Content, and discovered that most princes are superficial bastards who never stick around anyway.

Except for one, who was Good and True. And wouldn't you know it, he turned out to be wearing Uncompliant spectacles! Thanks to the Fairy Godmother's intervention he no longer saw the girl as hideously ugly, as the Evil Witch intended, but instead saw only pure Content; and yet he felt no need to ask for a Complaint pair of specs. No, he figured that naked Content with a sign up the front was good enough for him. And besides, now he knew where to get a pair if he needed them.

And so they all lived happily ever after. The End.

First published at MetaFilter, 9 May 2001.

9 May 2001
©2001 Rory Ewins