Mirror Mirror: The Worst of Them All

Warning: This post contains spoilers.

Double warning: This post contains no cooking.

“You read so many stories where the prince saves the princess. I think it’s time we changed that ending.” This is the promising thesis of the newly released Snow White movie, Mirror Mirror. It opened this weekend, and in my post Hunger Games Go Katniss haze I went to see it in the hopes of experiencing another strong female protagonist.

I was very, very disappointed.

For a movie trying to present a courageous and independent Snow White, Mirror Mirror fell back on every sexist cliche in the book. Rather than developing two strong women in a battle over good and evil, it became about two women in a manipulative cat fight over a boy.

Mirror Mirror rests on the formula that equates feminine strength with beauty, aimed at the eventual goal of marriage. Snow White wins the hearts of the people she meets with beauty and charm (not intelligence or bravery), and is assisted in all of her heroic action by men. She frees the beast from the queen in the climactic scene, with a dagger passed to her by a chain of all the men in her life.

Snow White, the beautiful, young, low maintenance girl is rewarded with marriage. The queen is punished for being evil with old age.

Seriously? Are we still not free of this? The message here is that old ugly women have no value, because they have no appeal to men. Let’s not worry about locking her in a dungeon or keeping her under supervision. If she is no longer beautiful she is no longer a threat, because she has lost any of her control over men. Snow White, in a truly classy move, drives the point home by handing back the queen her poisoned apple with the line, “age before beauty.”

Here is the trouble. As children of the 90’s we were content growing up with two dimensional characters and love at first sight.  We eagerly absorbed every Disney fairytale, unencumbered by an educated mind. The passive women didn’t bother us, because they were always rewarded in the end. The good characters were beautiful, the bad characters were ugly, and the comedic ones were short. The formula was like nicotine, and it was a hard habit to break.

Unfortunately for Disney, we are entering the age of the empowered female heroine. The success of Hunger Games alone (while not a perfect example of feminism) is enough to point out the viability of strong female characters. Their dramatic action no longer needs to be confined to the circle of beauty and love, and the rest of the world is waking up.

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April 2, 2012. Tags: , , , , , . Uncategorized.

6 Comments

  1. katybrandes replied:

    Thanks for the warning. Although I suspected this film would be another Disneyesque dose of princess putrescence, I had hoped for more in light of Julia Roberts’ involvement.

    • kcrownover replied:

      My pleasure. I had high hopes too, since she’s so wonderful. I’d made this out in my mind to be the “good” snow white coming out this year, but the screenplay really dragged it down.

  2. Jen replied:

    First of all, I love you and I love your mind. Second, you should absolutely read Where the Girls Are by Susan Douglas. It touches on this point exactly in chapter one, titled “fractured fairy tales.”

  3. liftingasweclimb replied:

    Ms. Roberts reportedly had some ambivalence about the role. She is no doubt facing diminished opportunities like many older female actors. Tricky, challenging, troubling.

    • kcrownover replied:

      I certainly don’t hold her responsible for the screenplay. I just find it frustrating that it’s the best role available for such a talented woman.

      • liftingasweclimb replied:

        Agreed. I think she’s trying to make the best of an extremely challenging situation.

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