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(I will only be discussing films I have seen AND that significantly relate to female/male sexism and sexuality, positions in culture etc… and also only films I fully remember from my youth - generally speaking, the “Princess” films) I am in no way gonna say that Disney is evil and their films are vile creations, my favorite movie from my youth, The Great Mouse Detective, is a Disney film. Not to mention Winnie the Pooh, Treasure Island, Bambi, Lilo & Stitch, Monsters, Inc, The Incredibles, Finding Nemo, Ratatouille, WALL-E, Up, etc. It should be interesting to see the progression of women in our children films through the years. (This post will also have lots of pictures!)
Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs was the first theatrical Disney film released in 1937. Cinderella was released in 1950. Alice in Wonderland, 1951. Peter Pan in ‘53. Lady and the Tramp, ‘55. Sleeping Beauty, ‘59. The Little Mermaid, ‘89. Beauty & The Beast, ‘91. Aladdin, ‘92. Pocahontas, ‘95. The Hunchback of Notre Dame, ‘96. Mulan, ‘98. Tarzan, ‘99. Atlantis: The Lost Empire, ‘01. The Princess Diaries, ‘01. The Princess & The Frog, ‘09. Tangled, ‘10.
Snow White, ‘37
Snow White was originally a Brothers Grimm story collected in 1812. (You can just wiki this, it’s not some new innovative scientific discovery). In sum, Snow White is a babe (at the age of 7 no less!) and her mother is really jealous and sends a guy out to kill her, when he goes to kill her he can’t because he’s fallen in love with her (ewww pedophile!) anyways, Snow White runs off into the woods and finds a cool shack. The men living in the shack tell her she can stay as long as she cooks, cleans, and etc’s around the house like a nice proper young 7 year old. The Queen, her mother, finds out and then tries to kill Snow White herself. After a couple of failed attempts, she gets a poisoned apple and has the child eat it. Assuming the child is dead, the dwarves make her a nice coffin and mourn over her. A prince happens by and falls in love with the dead body of a 7 year old. He demands that he take the coffin with him, and in doing so, bumps the coffin causing the apple in Snow Whites throat to dislodge and bring her back to life. Then it ends with blah blah blah they get married yadda dadda.
The Disney version isn’t too different, the biggest difference bringing that the prince kisses Snow White which causes her to come back to life, not to mention her age was doubled for the film (her mother get’s changed into her step mother, and some other details, etc) You can read the original story here, if you wish.
Here is a passage from the original story: “One day a young prince came to the dwarfs’ house and wanted shelter for the night. When he came into their parlor and saw Snow-White lying there in a glass coffin, illuminated so beautifully by seven little candles, he could not get enough of her beauty. He read the golden inscription and saw that she was the daughter of a king. He asked the dwarfs to sell him the coffin with the dead Snow-White, but they would not do this for any amount of gold. Then he asked them to give her to him, for he could not live without being able to see her, and he would keep her, and honor her as his most cherished thing on earth. Then the dwarfs took pity on him and gave him the coffin.”
Yeah that sounds like something I would immediately think to turn into a children’s film, some dude falls in love with the dead body of a seven year old.
Creepiness aside, let’s get down to business.
Snow White is the prototype for following generations of women in Disney ”Princess” films. She apparently really enjoys cleaning, for one, singing along as she goes about doing her womanly duties. In the scene above, she automatically assumes that because their home is unclean that they do not have a mother… a mother to clean. Because god-forbid a man cleans. ;-) (which is ironic for many reasons, but mainly because all the men I know are OCD and neat freaks and all the girls, including myself, are messy).
But it is automatically assumed, without blinking, that a woman does these things, and that is her place.
Snow White, again, typical Disney, goes around befriending animals, singing, being pretty, and doing proper feminine things (like freaking the F**K out over trees when she gets lost in the woods).
What does Snow White not do? Stick up for herself, save herself, show any intellectualism or depth of personality. She’s literally just very pretty and people just fall in love with her. The moral of the story? Be pretty and feminine, and some guy will fall in love with you and marry you. Hmm…
It’s also very very interesting to take note that the villain in this film is a woman, and it’s her mother. Not only are women good at being docile, but they’re also apparently really good at being evil vain bitches (and being willing to eat the organs of their children!) Her mother is so jealous of how pretty she is that she tries to kill her. Hmm…
I think the most interesting thing to examine here though, isn’t the original medieval historically and traditionally sexists story that the Grimm brothers compiled together, but rather, what Disney changed for whatever reasons…
First the mother into step mother, and the doubling of the age. Both easy answers, it lessens the strangeness and awfulness of the original story. Got it… now what else. Oh yeah, the kiss. Why, oh why, did Disney add that kiss? Maybe because they wanted to imply that a woman cannot live without a man? Maybe they thought it was cute. “Oh how romantic is it that she can only live if he finds her beautiful and decides to kiss her?” Very touching. Let’s face it, as the original story says, he only loved her for her looks, so say Snow White was just a tad bit less attractive? She’s just gonna have to suck it up and die? Because she wasn’t gifted with good looks? Really? To all the average and ugly looking girls out there (99% of all girls), watching this film must have been really heart breaking, at least subconsciously. How are you ever gonna look prettier? Well I don’t know, you could stand to lose a few pounds and maybe you should consider buying some makeup and revealing shirts to distract from your god-awful face, and hell, if you got the money you might as well get some nips and tucks. Because let’s face it. You’re ugly, or average, but you’re not gorgeous, no one would want to open up Maxim to see your face, kay? What guy is gonna wanna marry you and take care of you?
Bye-bye self esteem or self respect. Snow White is literally the worst contender. The entire plot, climax, and the resolution all revolves around the premises that a really beautiful woman who is completely pathetic and hopeless is both killed and saved because and only because of her appearance. And this is good material to show little girls? Hmm…
That’s my piece for now. More later <3