Snow White (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs) was, as many of you know, the first full-length animated feature film ever. Not just from Disney, but ever. I am going to be really honest with you, I am not sure that this post is going to convince all you non-believers that Snow White has qualities that we as human-beings should possess, but try I will.
Snow White is a very passive young lady with a very abusive stepmother. The viewers are not shown any direct violence, but it does not require very much observation power to notice that the young princess scrubbing the castle in rags is probably not living the life she or her father had planned. It is probably not her choice to be cleaning, indicating that the evil queen has exerted a certain amount of control over her. She seems docile and congenial, but not really in a good way. It is this part of the movie where the viewer wonders why anyone would put up with that abuse and questions her character and her strength.
I think, though, that where we see the real strength of Snow White is a little later on in the film when she has escaped the huntsman and is sitting in the forest with all her forest animal friends. She sings a song called “With a Smile and a Song” found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hQZ6zzLpoNQ. This is a woman who has lost both her parents, has an evil, abuse stepmother, but no real friends, and she still has so much joy inside her. What we see in Snow White is that we are responsible for our own happiness, no one else has the power to take joy away from us, we are the ones who “fill the world with sunshine.” She is happy being in the forest alone, she is happy cleaning a filthy cottage, and she is happy even knowing that her stepmother is still after her. This is a woman we could all learn from, how many times a day do we complain about something happening in our lives that is keeping us from joy? Maybe Snow White is a little unrealistic, but the fact remains that she has learned to find her happiness and joy inside herself, excluding every single external factor.
Snow White is also very adaptable. Not only does she go from an assumed high social position as the princess of her kingdom to a servant for her evil stepmother, she also is run out of her home after her stepmother attempts to murder her. She survives each transition and even thrives while she is living with the dwarves; she becomes genuinely happy.
She also exemplifies altruism, a fine virtue that anyone would be lucky to possess. After her encounter with the huntsman and the very scary forest, the little animals lead her to the Dwarf Cottage and Snow White immediately begins to think of the “children” even after all that she had just been through! She cleans the cottage, cooks dinner and, once she learns that the inhabitants of the cottage are dwarves and not children, she even offers to cook and clean for them everyday so that she can stay hidden from the evil queen. Now I know what you are thinking, “Sure it’s great that she is still happy throughout all these trials and that she is able to keep going, but why on earth does it have to be ‘domestic, womanly’ things that make her happy?” And I am here to tell you that I wish she had been able to be happy slugging it out in the woods, killing bears and toppling trees instead of cleaning and cooking for seven men, but that is not the narrative Walt Disney gave us. (This is not to say that there is anything wrong with finding joy in cooking and cleaning, because it is perfectly fine to be happy doing those things. I am trying to say that I enjoy when women (princesses) are portrayed as active outside the private sphere as well.) We have to learn how to tease the good things out and keep wrestling with the parts that are difficult. Whether we like it or not, this is how we have to deal with just about every aspect of life. I am in Theology School right now and I was quick to learn that there are many parts of the Bible and Christian history that I love, but there are just as many that I do not love and I must keep wrestling with them (just like Jacob wrestled with a stranger at Peniel in Genesis 32: crazy connections between Snow White and Jacob for the win?)
Well, that was a little bit of a tangent, but I do think it was fairly important to say those things so that you know that even as I write about defending Snow White, I still have some struggles with her and her narrative. To some extent, we have to accept that Snow White was created by white men in the 1930s and was based on a fairy tale that is hundreds of years old. That does not make it okay that she only portrays “womanly, domestic” interests along with several other feminine stereotypes, but she is a product of the culture(s) that created her and we have to figure out what that means for us. I personally choose to view her as a strong young woman who must overcome several obstacles throughout the movie and remains strong and true to herself for its entirety. She is able to hold on to her innocence and her compassion, something many of us lose without going through half of what she does. I love her and you should too, but if you do not, I still love you!
**Pocket Princesses by Amy Mebberson. Her tumblr is here.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarves is a surprisingly christian movie. The big struggle in the story is The Evil Queens jealousy of Snows beauty. Snow and The Evil Queen are both beautiful. The story shows how beauty on a woman can go both ways. You can be a envious crazed witch who spends hours a day staring at yourself in the mirror, or you can be Snow, the pretty girl who doesnt even spend any of her time focused on her own beauty. The Evil Queen is so obsessed with this quest for being the fairest of them all that it drives her to abuse her stepdaughter and eventually try to have her murdered. Snow White isn't just fair on the outside, but also on the inside. The fairest of them all. About her being very good and nice after all that abuse she put up with.. most people who are abused like that usually become passive. What makes Snow White such a positive figure is how she has the strength to overcome all of that and stay true to herself. She isn't going to let The Evil Queens madness and hate take over her. Strength isn't just about how physically strong you are, but by how strong your heart is. Its obvious that The Evil Queen knows this, thus asking for Snow Whites HEART to literally be torn out of her and put away in a box. The Evil Queen takes it to another level by presenting the box contained with the heart (pigs heart) to her magic mirror. As if desperately trying to win the title of ''fairest of them all'', not just by simply getting rid of Snow...
After Snow White is almost killed off the earth, while she lays there on the forest floor weeping her heart out, the forest animals warm up to her in a instant. Simply because shes so sweet and selfless. Her heart is the ticket to her getting out of the forest at all. When she arrives at the Dwarves Cottage, she thinks that there must be children living there. Maybe its because Snow White herself doesnt have any living parents, that she feels the need to clean the whole house and even cook for these mysterious orphans. When the Dwarves arrive to this clean cottage smelling of a hot meal and Snow in their beds, She offers her hard work as a way to earn her keep for her crashing there. She PRAYS to god. The only princess to actually be seen praying to god. She prays asking for god to make Grumpy warm up to her.
When The Evil Queen shows up to the cottage disguised as the old and ugly begger lady. What does Snow do? She takes her in regardless of her appearance. Of course this leads to Snow dying from the poison apple. But take a close look at The Evil Queens death. Nobody actually kills her. Not a prince. Not the Dwarves. A bolt of lightning from the sky strikes right were she stands, sending her falling down and being squashed by the large boulder she tried to push down on the dwarves. Probably one of the most deepest death scenes in Disney history.
The Prince. This masculine strong chivalrous man acting like a vessel to carry out a miracle. Through his kiss he brings Snow White back to life. And takes her off to his palace, shown glowing off into the clouds...