Disney Princess: Snow White

It’s National Princess Week! To celebrate, my kids and I watched Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Snow White was the original Disney Princess after all, and seventy-five years later, she is having a banner year!

Ginnifer Goodwin as Snow White in Once Upon a Time
Lily Collins as Snow White in Mirror, Mirror
Kristen Stewart as Snow White in Snow White and the Huntsman

I haven’t seen Mirror, Mirror. I don’t love comedy or Julia Roberts and to be blunt it looked absolutely horrible. So as pretty as Ms. Collins’s costumes are, that’s all I have to say about that. Conversely, I am extremely excited for Snow White and Thor the Huntsman as I am a big fan of the cast and sweeping fantasy drama. And then there is ABC’s Once Upon a Time which I want to love so much more than I do. But I’m still watching because there is something there.

Why is Snow White the current It Princess?

One theory relates to the Queen’s terror at being considered the second-fairest-in-the-land, and specifically, replaced by the next generation. This is something that a lot of articles have posited the baby boomers can relate to – but also it’s something that all women are confronted with. Actress and activist Ashley Judd recently wrote an engaging essay about body image in our culture. The following jumps out to me as particularly relevant to Snow White and her Queen:

This abnormal obsession with women’s faces and bodies has become so normal that we … have internalized patriarchy almost seamlessly. We are unable at times to identify ourselves as our own denigrating abusers, or as abusing other girls and women.

It’s said Walt Disney refused to allow any villain in his films to be more evil than Snow White’s Evil Queen. She ranks #10 on the American Film Institute’s list of 50 Best Movie Villains of All Time. As the main villain in Once Upon a Time she is responsible for all the broken fairy tales. And her classic motivation stems from an abnormal obsession with women’s faces and bodies.

And then there is Snow White herself. She’s gone from this:

To this:

Snow White is hardly the first princess to get the warrior treatment (see: Xena) but it’s interesting that Disney is doing it.

In the 1937 film, Snow cleans, cooks, scolds, and whistles while she works the whole time. She is a perfect little homemaker and caregiver and charms everyone (except the Queen). However, Snow White is not without agency and should not require a reinvention simply because she is traditional. And that is one of the things Once Upon a Time does well. It allows variation.

As kick-butt as Snow White is, Mary Margaret is compassionate and gentle, even when nearly the entire town turns against her. But she is not weak, nor even quiet. Women, and princesses, cover a spectrum of shapes, sizes, colors, ethnicity, ambition, and principles. And they all have value.

Why is Snow White everywhere all of a sudden? Because she still has a lot to say.

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