Snow White: Stranger Danger The Movie

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By Katie Golway

This series was primarily inspired by my mounting frustration. I often feel surrounded by people who demean fictional women, primarily the Disney princesses. Demeaning other women with different priorities or views is not feminism. It is not progression. It perpetuates the farce of the “ideal woman,” when she exists in every one.

I understand that there are issues with Disney as a company, but my intentions are to separate those from the storylines. There are many factors that play into how a character is interpreted, such as the passage of time and the perspective of the viewer. In that vein, I will be dissecting the film Snow White and the Seven Dwarves with a modern feminist perspective.

Snow White was the first film to incorporate hand-painted sketches painstakingly placed frame by frame to create motion. The film premiered in 1937, an era far different from the one that we know today. According to Gender Roles of the 1930s, women were expected to care for the home, offering a positive first impression for the sake of her husband. However, because of the Great Depression, the family often relied on the matriarch to maintain the morale of the home. These beliefs shaped Snow White as a character. She took charge of the home with the thick skin of a woman in the midst of the Depression. Mr. Disney even wanted a specific pitch for Snow’s voice to reflect Hollywood actresses of the time. Snow is portrayed as a beautiful, dainty woman banished to the woods by her step-mother for the sake of vanity.

Keep in mind, she is fourteen in the film. She is a child who is forced to mature quickly and escape death. To reference Interesting Literature, Snow’s criticism begins with her prince, who only appears in a fraction of the film. The media often dulls Snow’s story to a girl who needs rescuing by a man - a man she ran away from when he scared the shit out of her at her wishing well. People forget that Snow stumbled upon a small cabin in the woods and made it a home. She put its residents to work, cleaning and washing before meals. Snow was more than capable of putting her foot down to discipline the dwarves - men - in order to maintain her household. Her power is in her determination to see the good in the world despite her circumstances. Her kindness brought light to the lives of the animals in the woods, as well as her friends. She proves, even in her youth, that women of the household are not to be overlooked.

Some of the common debates stemming from this film revolve around consent. In order to break Snow White’s sleeping spell, she had to receive a kiss of “true love.” There is one side of the conversation where it is clear that no one will find themselves in a situation where they need a kiss to emerge from a spell. However, if I was knocked out and my partner tried to kiss me, I would be upset. The plot of this film does romanticize the idea of “true love’s kiss” defying consent. Snow’s situation is unique in the fact that she has been bespelled, she knows this prince, and she chooses not to run. In their initial meeting, Snow was able to set a boundary by fleeing. Once she sees the prince’s familiar face, she is content to ride off into the sunset.  She is young and innocent, a victim of circumstance.

Take a moment to reflect on the person you were at the tender age of fourteen. I, for one, was fantasizing about aspects of life I knew nothing about. I struggled to look at the positives despite life’s challenges. I would be naively trusting of an attractive face or a seemingly kind old woman offering me an apple.

While I do think that the Snow White film would be problematic if it premiered in this day and age, I do not think that Snow White herself is problematic. Part of fiction is analyzing the characters and their situations. It is possible to enjoy a character without agreeing with the circumstances of their plot. In approaching Snow White from a modern perspective, I would urge the audience to ask questions of the people Snow is surrounded by rather than demonizing a fourteen year old for having a crush.