Of All the Snow Whites

When I was a child, I memorized the libraries layout.  Not all of it, but I knew were to find the books I liked without looking on the computers (thankfully card catalogues where gone by then).  Whenever I arrived at the library, I ran to the shelves that contained the books on folklore.  I loved fairy tales, but I had soon exhausted the children’s section.  I would revisit my favorite characters: Janet, who rescued Tam Lin, Vasilissa the Brave, Allerleirauh, the young rogue in “The Tinder Box,” and iron-booted girl in “East of the Sun, and West of the Moon.”  However, the children’s section was mostly populated by princesses waiting to be rescued, which bored me.  When I was shown the Disney classics, Cinderella, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty, I rooted for the evil stepmother and witches.  They were interesting, powerful, and awake.  Since most fairy tale picture books tried to teach children a lesson, I gravitated to the adult books on folklore.

There, I read about Cinderella’s sisters cutting off portions of their feet and birds pecking out their eyes.  I read about murder, cannibalism, and revenge from beyond the grave.  It is through fairy tales and folklore that I first began to love werewolves and vampires.  I loved stories filled with dreadful and grotesque events, and heroes and heroines who weren’t necessarily good but were clever.

Fairy tales have the potential to both reinforce and subvert the status quo.  I loved subversive ones.

Several months ago, I heard about two Snow White films.  I crossed my fingers and hoped that I one of them would show the evil queen dance to death in red hot iron shoes.  Their previews have finally been released, and it doesn’t look like there will be any fatal dancing.

Mirror Mirror appears, on the surface, to be the one that would least interest me, no dark scary parts.  The trailer suggests that they switch the gender roles: Snow White gets to rescue the prince.  Yet I suspect, and hope I proven wrong, that they are only playing at subverting her traditional role; she is still defined by her looks and her wish to marry the prince.  Also, the humor is reminiscent of a film I loathed, Shriek.

Snow White and the Huntsman appears to be what I want. It’s stylish, it deals with brutal battles, and Queen is enjoyable evil—if a bit melodramatic.  And than there is Snow White.  Snow White is running from something; Snow White is staring at something in the distance; Snow White is unconscious; Snow White looks at a battle while in armor.  While she is the titular character, she doesn’t say a word in the trailer.  Yes, she’s suppose to be more active here, but the preview makes it seems like the evil Queen is the main character (which would be awesome).  Given the two leading actresses, I will be seeing this film for Charlize Theron.

To judge a movie by a its preview is a bit unfair.  These two films may turn out to be the subversive ones I wished for, or they may only give lip service to subversion by putting a sword into the somnolent heroine’s hand.  I will not be able to judge until I see them.  Yet if these two films disappoint, I will find solace in Snow White: A Tale of Terror.

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One thought on “Of All the Snow Whites

  1. I just found your blog through the tags on my own–I love Snow White: a Tale of Terror too! And I agree that fairy tales are a strange beast that can both reinforce and mess with traditional gender roles and constructs. Our blogs should be friends.
    http://somethingtoreadforthetrain.wordpress.com/2011/11/21/the-peoples-obsession-with-snow-white-and-why-the-queen-really-is-the-coolest-of-them-all/
    I agree that SWATH looks much darker and made in the spirit of the original tales (even if no iron shoes get worn), but there’s something charming underneath the really bad jokes in Mirror, Mirror–something vaguely “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya, prepare to die” about it. At least, I’m reserving judgment until I see it. Please read my full post, I’d love your response! We’ll have to chat once the movies are finally out…

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