Don’t ask how they did it, but somehow Hollywood managed to triumph in taking the bland, one-dimensional story of Snow White and turn it into something meaningful, deep… and even feminist. So, let’s have a quick comparison of how “Snow White and the Huntsman” spruced up the old tale into something of societal relevance. (Note: My compare and contrast is based on the Disney cartoon version, because digging up the original tales would’ve opened a whole new bag of worms. Apparently in the original story, the prince not only kisses Snow White’s dead/passed-out body, but falls so “in love” with her that he makes a deal with the dwarfs and has his men carry the body back to his castle before she wakes up. Yeah… not even going there).
The definition of Snow White’s beauty:
Disney, circa 1937: The focus of the story lies primarily in Snow White’s appearance (dark hair, red lips, and deathly pale skin… I guess we can give it some credit for not having her tanned and blond). Snow White is said to also be beautiful for her kindness, which is somewhat demonstrated by how she treats animals and the dwarfs. However, she doesn’t seem to do anything extraordinarily kind. She merely cooks, cleans, and talks to animals in a high pitched voice. It appears that the story’s main point with her non-physical beauty is that she is naive, “innocent” (aka childlike), and passive.
The Huntsman, circa 2012: It seems like the new movie did all that it could to not completely base Snow White’s character on her physical beauty, and she is definitely not passive. While they picked an actress who is seen as traditionally attractive, she is not over-the-top so. When the characters initially meet Snow White, they do notice that she is beautiful. However, the movie continuously points out that there is something almost supernatural about her, that people feel better and happier when she is around because of her aura, and that her beauty is based on the fact that she cares about people and has a special connection to earth and all it’s lifeforms.
The queen’s beauty obsession:
Disney, circa 1937: The queen is automatically and innately depicted as evil, vain, and jealous. Her own craziness and evil heart are the only explanations given to why the queen is threatened by Snow White’s beauty and why she is so focused on killing her (those older women are terrible!)
The Huntsman, circa 2012: Snow White’s step-mother is, indeed, wicked, but she is made human, almost to the point that you might be able to identify some women in your life to the powerful, yet insecure, queen. The movie twists the tale to make the queen’s beauty obsession stem only from her innate evilness, but of her environment. She speaks of the heartaches and powerlessness women feel as they age and are replaced with younger, more attractive ladies, and how women are ingrained with the idea that if they are not beautiful, they are nothing (in this case, it’s blatantly done with Ravena’s mother placing the spell on her and telling her that without youth and beauty, she will have nothing).
Disney, circa 1937: Snow White doesn’t really develop or have any sort of relationship with the prince throughout the film. Though he is not a complete stranger, since he saw her at a well singing one time and fell in love with her and her voice, the two don’t really talk, and it seems more like the prince has picked her out instead of it being an equal-sided decision, especially due to the fact that he kisses her while she’s passed out. Snow White only really has the choice of the one necrophiliac/date-rapist/creeper-who-starts-hitting-on-you-at-a-well-while-you’re-trying-to-do-your-work who’s pretty much decided she will be his, given the whole, you know, messing with the dead/passed-out body thing.
The Huntsman, circa 2012: Not only does Snow White have two suitors (William and the huntsman), she actually works with and has friendships with them. Instead of romance being the centerpiece of the story, the love interest between the characters is more of an afterthought while saving the kingdom and its people takes the main stage. Unfortunately, she’s stilled kissed while she’s dead, but it is much more heartwarming to see the man she’s been working side-by-side with kiss her in his grief, rather than someone who’s barely an acquaintance getting hot and bothered by a dead chick.
Snow White’s fate:
Disney, circa 1937: Did anyone else even remember while watching the Disney movie that Snow White was a princess, and therefore, if her mother and father were dead, she would have a kingdom to rule? I didn’t, and I don’t think that’s surprising as the Disney version only barely mentions the fact she is royalty in the beginning (because Disney loves its princesses). In the end, she is swept away by a prince from another land (I would assume) and lives “happily ever after”, left at that. No going home, no ruling.
The Huntsman, circa 2012: Steering away from the typical narrative of the Snow White story being based on beauty and “true love’s kiss”, “The Huntsman” actually had the ability to make the focus of the story based on her kindness to other people, aka, leading them to get their kingdom back. Therefore, Snow White actually gets her autonomy and the crown, while also (spoiler alert!) not needing to get together with either of the love interests at the end.
While many critics have said that this movie was too involved and deep for such a simple fairytale, a critical look at some of the most beloved tales we had as children is a perfect way to analyze some of our hopes, beliefs, and dreams. With all the subliminal messages we get from children onward (a female’s beauty is her most admirable trait, to be nice you should be passive, a man will come and save you, etc.), taking Snow White and flipping it on it’s head gives us all some ammo to recognize that our Disney stories and their messages are indeed, just fairytales.