Gender Roles – Women
Gender Roles - Men
Room for Improvement:
Self-Esteem and Body Image
Gender Roles - Women: 4 Stars (Spoilers)
Mirror, Mirror gives us a stronger, more confident version of the sleeping princess. Snow White makes a sworn enemy of her wicked stepmother early on, confronting her on her cruel treatment of the villagers and directly challenging her claim to the throne. She has a clear concept of right and wrong, and deftly calls out the dwarves for robbing the Queen’s coach and refusing to give the money back to the people. She shows conviction and leadership when she returns the money to the village, despite the dwarves’ protests, and successfully reunites the dwarves with the villagers who once shunned them. While all of this is fairly simplistic, and not always consistent throughout the film, Snow White’s character is generally that of a principled and motivated young woman.
Gender Roles - Men: 3 Stars
Mirror, Mirror questions our expectations of masculinity from the very beginning, when Prince Alcott loses a sword fight to the seven dwarves and is forced to present himself to the queen semi-clothed. He later loses another sword fight to Snow White herself, and once again returns to the queen in defeat. Despite his embarrassment at being bested by a pack of dwarves and then by a woman, Prince Alcott remains confident and poised, and is still the object of both women’s affection. While the message can be interpreted a multitude of ways, especially considering the comical bent of the film, it is generally refreshing to see that a male hero can experience this sort of defeat and still retain his masculinity and stature. In addition, the seven dwarves add a variety of body types and personalities to the traditional story, encouraging a broader conception of what it means to be a man.
Friendship: 4 Stars
The seven dwarves of Mirror, Mirror are quick to accept Snow White as one of their own, and never underestimate her potential. Rather than fearing for her safety, they take the time to teach her the skills she’ll need to protect herself. The dwarves have learned to be cunning and skilled thieves, despite their size and despite peoples’ expectations. They gladly share what they’ve learned with Snow White, encouraging her to take advantage of the fact that people will think her meek and defenseless. In return, Snow White helps to mend the rift between the villagers and the dwarves. As always in Snow White stories, it’s a shame that more time isn’t spent developing her relationships with this cunning and caring men.
Self-Esteem and Body Image: 2 Stars
Mirror, Mirror might have earned some points for hinting at the idea of a romance between Prince Alcott and the wicked queen, but unfortunately, the queen’s interest is portrayed as more comic than threatening. Obviously, a sizeable number of films build believable love stories between older men and younger women, but it’s rare to see the reverse. The queen is both beautiful and powerful despite her maturity, and should have been able to gain some favor from Prince Alcott if she were a more loving, caring sort. Unfortunately, the film never suggests that it is her personality, rather than her age, that puts him off.
The wicked queen undergoes a painful and repulsive beauty regimen in order to keep her youthful appearance, which sends conflicting messages about the trials and the value of staying beautiful. This scene might have been used to drive home a point about true beauty, but again, it was merely included as a rough joke with little purpose.
It was impressive, however, to see Snow White ditch her billowing dresses for a pair of fashionable culottes that allow her a bit more freedom of movement when engaging in swordfights. Very few fairy tale remakes have the courage to put a princess in anything but lace and satin.
Plot: 3 Stars (Spoilers)
Snow White never eats a poisoned apple in Mirror, Mirror. In fact, it is Snow White who must rescue Prince Alcott with true love’s kiss when he falls under the Queen’s magic spell. The film attempts to make Snow White the hero of this story, but the attempt falls flat most of the time.
When Snow White sees the misery that her stepmother has created in her kingdom, she appears determined (for a short while), to depose her. She enlists the help of Prince Alcott and even stands up to the Queen shortly before she is cast into the woods. But beyond this, she never truly takes any steps towards unseating her stepmother. She never inspires the people to rise up and follow her or beseeches the Baron to provide horses or soldiers. In fact, she almost walks away from the fight completely - before the dwarves convince her to stay and fight. She finds the courage to infiltrate the Queen’s wedding, but only for the sake of kidnapping the prince whom she's fallen in love with. Up until the end, Snow White never directly challenges the Queen, but stays hidden in the forest until she is forced to defend herself. When the time comes, she makes an unconvincing claim that she intends to take on the Queen alone, but her heroic battle is fairly short-lived. In the end, she does little more than cut the cord off of a magic necklace, transforming the Queen’s frightening beast into the father she lost so long ago. All in all, Snow White’s words are those of a brave and promising heroine, but her actions aren’t much more impressive than the princesses who came before her.
Character Development: 1 Star
Thankfully, Snow White doesn’t spend her days in the castle dreaming and singing of princes. But on the other hand, she doesn’t seem to dream or think about much of anything. When the film opens, she’s been confined to the castle for 10 years, seemingly without complaint or curiosity. When she finally decides to leave the palace, she simply walks out the front door without interruption, making it clear that the only thing that has kept her inside was her own complacency.
She seems dedicated to her cause when she does find something to believe in, but we still know very little about her character. She never shares any heartwarming memories of her father, or any insecurities about her ability to take back the throne. She doesn’t even take the time to visit and celebrate with the villagers when she returns their money to them. She simply moves from scene to scene with little variation in emotion, and hardly any personality.
Love: 1 Star
The love story between Snow White and the prince is fairly meaningless. The two never share a private moment or anything more substantial than flirtatious smiles. Snow White asks for his help when he first arrives at the palace, warning him that the Queen is tyrannical and cruel. The prince seems to dismiss her warnings, continuing his strange visit with the Queen. He never sends for his soldiers or displays any sort of skepticism of the Queen, even after he learns of Snow White’s unexpected death. When he speaks to the Queen of his love for Snow White, he speaks only of her ravishing beauty - because he knows nothing else about her.
Similarly, there is no real explanation as to how or why Snow White has fallen in love with the prince. He’s ignored her request for help and in fact, seems to be working for the wicked Queen. But despite this, she loves him enough to cry when she learns he’s engaged to her stepmother, and even goes so far as to kidnap him from his own wedding - without any knowledge that he’s been placed under a spell.
Family: 2 Stars
The film begins with a quick prologue indicating that the late king had groomed Snow White to take the throne - rather than arranging for her to find a suitable prince to marry. In particular, the king leaves Snow White with his dagger when he sets off into the woods, arming her with the very tool that will eventually save her from the wicked Queen. While this prologue sets up a promising future for Snow White, it is too short and whimsical to add much value to the film. But at the very least, we are left with a positive, if unrealized example of a father who believes in the potential of his daughter.