(WARNING: Major spoilers abound!)
Even though certain movies might have been made decades ago, usually I can enjoy them in the age I’m in, in the here and now. But for me to fully appreciate Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, I think I’d have to have been part of one of its original audiences in 1937. I first saw the movie during its 50th-anniversary re-release, and I’m afraid that the — forgive me — sexual politics of 1987 sort of laid the movie bare for me.
Yes, I can easily appreciate its technical aspects. The fluid, hand-drawn animation — an element that seems to drift further away in modern movies — is truly something to behold. And the rich and funny characterizations of the Seven Dwarfs — something that was thought impossible for a feature-length cartoon (of which, of course, this was the first) — remain distinct and enjoyable.
But then there’s the little matter of…Snow White.
She is the movie’s heroine, the groundwork upon which Disney laid the foundation for the movie’s premise, its reason for being — and I’m afraid she comes off as too much of a simp for me. I can understand her being frightened in given situations. (Who couldn’t get chills from the scene where Snow White scampers nervously through the dark forest and is seemingly menaced by every tree?)
But at some point through all of these adventures which Snow White proves worthy to survive, couldn’t she have developed just a bit of a spine? At no point in the movie is she not entirely dependent on someone else for her well-being — the Wicked Queen, the woodsman who spares her life, and those damn dwarfs. And of course, the prince who awakens her with “love’s first kiss.”
And what about those dwarfs, and the shortchanging they get? After tending to her every need for Disney knows how long, she gets swept off her feet by that one-kiss prince, after which Snow White is perfectly content to abandon her wards, and they her. As the Wicked Queen would say, “Bah!”
We all have particular movies where we can appreciate the skill and talent that went into them, and yet we’re still left baffled as to their wide popularity. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, it appears, is my cross to bear.
No real argument from me. I do enjoy the film, but I fully understand, respect, and agree with these criticisms. Helplessness is a trait shared by most of the Disney princesses before the 1990s, at least. It’s something I think is brilliantly lampooned by the original Shrek.
“Disney knows how long” – great line.
And the dwarfs…short-changed? I see what you did there.
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There are so many things to say about Disney movies when you realise what is actually happening in them. As you mentioned above, observations and analyses about this particular Snow-White picture might be disregarded since it was made a long time ago. However, even some recent Disney films (or some movies inspired from the classics) still keep the basics of an extremely conventional mindset. I’d prefer the original bloody tales to the candied adaptations anytime.
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