The all new live action Snow White currently in the works from Disney replaces dwarfs, features no true love, and boasts a lead actress who seems to despise the story. In an interview with Variety last fall, Rachel Zegler, who plays Snow White, extolled the virtues of bringing a "modern edge" to the classic, northern European fairy tale.
But what she means by "modern edge" is eliminating the feminine hero journey and replacing it with a masculine one. On so many "modern retellings" of classic stories, the female character takes on the role that would have been for the male hero, and the male hero is eliminated entirely. In so doing, partnership is also eliminated. It's as though the ethos of feminist Hollywood is to allow for only one kind of heroes' journey: the one that strives for power above all else, that seeks individual affirmation, and sees love as a weakness.
This perspective on success, and what people should look for in life, is not a feminist one but a capitulation to the same patriarchal values it seeks to eschew. Instead of telling women and girls that their impulses toward love and relationship are valued, are not only acceptable but praise-worthy, the new "modern edge" tells women that to be successful they must be more like men. This is anti-feminine, it's anti-woman, and far from being "modern," it is steeped in the backwards concept that what is feminine is bad and wrong and what is masculine is glorious and great.
When asked about it in a resurfaced clip, Zegler said "I just mean that it's no longer 1937. And we absolutely wrote a Snow White that's not going to be shaped by the prince, and she's not going to be dreaming about true love, she's going to be dreaming about becoming the leader she knows she can be, and the leader that her late father told her that she could be if she were fearless, fair, brave, and true."
"And so it's just a really incredible story," Zegler goes on, "for, I think, young people everywhere to see themselves in." Most likely this is a story of self-actualization, one in which the only thing that matters is personal achievement. But Snow White was not meant to be a story about bucking gender norms and turning the feminine journey into a masculine one. It is, at its core, a story about survival in the most basic way.
For Zegler, Snow White is some kind of uplifting feminist tale about representation, girl power, and assuming the stereotypical male ambition to become a leader. But that concept has absolutely nothing to do with the original Grimm's Fairy Tale, nor the 1937 Disney version. While Zegler is right that it's not 1937, she's wrong to believe that stories from that time need to be updated to contemporary ways of thinking.
It's surprising that, given how much disdain there appears to be for Snow White among the creators, they continued with the remake instead of coming up with an entirely new story that they could use to propagate their progressive political perspective.
Fairy tales are not meant to be political messages, but moral stories, comprehensive narratives, that contain archetypal characters. One of those key characters in Snow White is the prince, the archetype of the lover, the rescuer, another is the stepmother, the villain who preys on Snow White's innocence.
It's unclear to me where Zegler found a father for Snow White who encouraged her to be a leader. In the two most prominent versions of the story, her father is too busy dying or being entirely negligent of his little daughter to give her any lasting life lessons.
Snow White was written by the Brothers Grimm in about 1812, and the story was featured as number 53 in their Grimm's Fairy Tales. But the story existed as a fable long before the brothers wrote it down. Snow White's father was barely mentioned. His only role in the story was to be widowed and to remarry a horrible woman who became Snow White's stepmother. In Disney's 1937 version, in the studio's first ever animated feature, Snow White has no father, but is an orphan who has lost her mother and father and lives with her evil step-mother.
That woman hates Snow White, and seeks to have her murdered to assuage her own envy and vanity. In a real way, Snow White is entering sexual maturity while the Evil Queen is leaving it. The Evil Queen can't take that kind of competition. Snow White is cast off, threatened, sentenced to death, but she's too naive to have any real sense of why or how to take care of herself.
Snow White flees into the woods, into what is essentially chaos, falls in with some hard working miners who let her tend house in exchange for room and board but are not suited to be her husband, and is so innocent and naive that she is still susceptible to the maleficent machinations of the Evil Queen.
When the Evil Queen is unable to get a man to kill Snow White for her, as that man is instead taken with Snow White and unable to do the task, she sets about trickery to kill her herself, finally succeeding in poisoning her with a "poison, poison" apple, Grimm writes. The apple, of course, is a key component of many stories that ground humanity, such as the Genesis narrative of Adam and Eve.
For Snow White, the knowledge that comes with the apple, with the third attempt by the Evil Queen on her life, is enough to knock her unconscious, appearing dead.
Snow White is grieved by her new companions and set in a glass coffin as they cannot bear to inter her to the ground. The story then goes that her corpse is found by a prince, who wants to carry her off, and as he does so, the poison apple dislodges from her throat.
In the 1937 Disney version, that prince is in love with her and kisses her, which breaks the curse and wakes her up. Everyone rejoices and celebrates. In the Grimm's version, the prince and Snow White are married, and the evil queen is in attendance. Her punishment for her trickery and attempted murder is that she is forced to wear shoes made of red hot iron and dance until she's dead.
Zegler and her compatriots seem to believe that the point of stories is to tell a narrative that is entirely anathema to human nature as we know it thus far, and in essence, their goal is to not only remake humanity but redefine what makes people happy. And their reason is not because the old happy is a total failure, but because it is expedient to their political goals.
The new narrative being pushed is one in which a lead character who is a victim and wrongfully oppressed, summons their inner strength to overcome their oppression with the encouragement though not the partnership of a sidekick, or best friend character, surpass the villain, who is usually prejudiced in some way against the lead character for their immutable characteristics, and then takes charge of everything, fixing the circumstances through sheer force of will, and gains fulfillment through some kind of professional achievement.
This is a new materialism that is far more damaging than the old, sit-on-top-of-a-pile-of-money concept, because it has the appearance of being a self-directed attempt at finding personal fulfillment and meaning. It tells men to not rescue the maiden, even if she needs rescuing; it tells women not to seek love, even if they want to be mothers and raise families.
In the original Snow White, the girl goes through a series of transformations, she grows up. She learns how to tend a home, and when she is finally awakened by the prince, she is not the same person as she was when she ran into the woods.
In the new version, if Zegler can be believed, Snow White already knows from the outset that her goal is to be a leader. Her father, apparently, has told her this and so from the outset she is likely attempting to meet his expectations, which she has taken on herself. If by the end of the film she has attained what she knew she wanted in the first place, has she even grown up at all?
The remaking of fairy stories is serious business, and in this case, it is perpetuating an eternal childhood. These stories lie at the foundation of our civilization, and now we try to change them based on a perverse political perspective that has only to do with current trends and not lasting human nature. The remaking of classic stories like Snow White is not about updating the stories for a new audience, but about ripping the foundations out of civilization and replacing them with the shifting sand.