On March 30th, Mirror Mirror, an updated version of the classic fairy tale “Snow White” was released in theaters. “Mirror” is one of two Snow White movies coming out within just a few months of each other. The other movie, Snow White and the Huntsman comes out June 1st and looks to be the darker, more dramatic of the two. What should we make of this? Certainly, Hollywood has released similar movies within small periods of time before, but maybe there’s more to this particular tale…
Princess culture has become enormously influential in the way young girls are targeted by advertisers and socialized. (See Hayley Collins’ post about Disney Princesses and their impact as role models) So, while both of the films appear to offer a more contemporary “Girl Power-ed” Snow White, sometimes the poisoned apple doesn’t fall far from the patriarchal tree.  The problem is that all too often, films and other media products pit female characters against each other, constructing the message that girls and women do not or should not get along with each other. (Did you know that if the Disney Princesses  are pictured together, on say, the same sleeping bag or lunch box, they aren’t even allowed to be illustrated looking at one another? (For more on this, see Peggy Orenstein’s Cinderella Ate My Daughter) This “divide and conquer” narrative functions to impair a sense of female community. At SWSG, we know how important this sense of community can be to the development of strong girls.
In the case of the dueling cinematic Snow Whites, the female vs. female conflict is inter-generational. Again, this type of evil mother/noble daughter paradigm is all too prevalent in popular culture and can sometimes symbolize the rejection of past feminist movements and their achievements. For example, the young women of the 21st century are considered to exist in a “postfeminist” culture whereby the progressive gains for women’s rights made by the feminist movements of the 20th century are taken for granted and considered outmoded. (ie: “Now that women can do whatever we want, who needs feminism?!”) Consequently, girls and women today often hesitate to align themselves with feminism and take their “equality” for granted. In other words, yesterday’s feminists are today’s wicked Stepmothers (metaphorically, at least).
Wait, what? Maybe you’re thinking that something as simple as a movie based on a fairy tale shouldn’t be taken so seriously! Or, that these new “empowered” Snow Whites will offer young girls good examples of independent women who can take care of themselves? While both of these ideas may be true, it might be a mistake to dismiss the appearance of two different Snow White films in the same year as coincidental. The media that a culture produces always communicates something about that culture. So what does it say that of all the fairy tales to reinvent for the 21st Century, 2012 marks the year in which two different sets of Snow Whites battle their stepmoms to be well, the prettiest?
To me, it says a few things:

  1. We still like to tell stories about young women using  19th century models.
  2. Hollywood likes to reinforce the idea of older women as “wicked” and “jealous” of their prettier, more “pure” daughters, driving a wedge between different generations of women.
  3. Although these films may portray their respective female protagonists as capable, or even aggressive, this does not necessarily translate to: “strong.”

What do you think about the appearance of these two films? Are you excited to see either or both of these movies?