Gender Roles – Men
Room for Improvement:
Gender Roles – Women
Self-Esteem and Body Image
Gender Roles - Men: 3 Stars
The seven dwarfs are a colorful collection of men with distinct personalities and attitudes. They are kind enough to offer Snow White their protection and their home, and ultimately defeat the Wicked Queen when she comes calling. The dwarfs aren’t your stereotypical male heroes. They’re short and wrinkled with odd habits. But they are brave and loyal to the very end. Unfortunately, the dwarfs are more of a collective than fully-developed individuals. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs might have scored a few extra points if any of these caring men had played a more pivotal role or stood a chance at becoming a serious male role model. But as a whole, they’re more comic relief than relatable characters.
Gender Roles - Women: 3 Stars
Snow White is certainly sweet and kind, but she also comes across as childish and even a bit foolish. She’s blissfully ignorant of her stepmother’s bloody designs on her and goes about the castle in the ragged dress that she’s forced to wear, singing wishes into wells as she scrubs the floors. Her dreams and songs are full of romance, rather than escaping from her stepmother’s unpredictable fury, and she easily swoons over the first prince that stops by. She has a brief scare when the huntsman pulls a knife on her, but she quickly shakes it off and begins singing and chirping again as if she's unaware of the threat hanging over her head. She finds her way to the dwarfs’ cottage and is able to negotiate a place to stay, but seems very naïve about the possibility of the Queen coming for her. One after another, the dwarfs warn her to stay away from strangers while they’re away, and we’re left with the impression that she’s little more than a child who needs to be looked after.
Self-Esteem and Body Image: 2 Stars
Snow White is a charming and dainty young woman who is perfectly happy and confident whatever her circumstances. She comes across as more of a caricature than a real woman - a smiling china doll that’s pretty to look at but fragile and without much substance.
Snow White has also mastered the art of waving and blowing kisses - and persists in a strange sort of flirtation with the seven dwarfs despite the fact that they don’t stand a chance of winning her affection. She makes it a point to kiss each of them on the head as they’re heading off to work, creating an unnecessary stir and engaging in exactly the sort of feminine wiles that Grumpy is so concerned about. As frustrating as this coquettish behavior is, we can’t completely blame her. She’s got nothing else going for her. And in the end, her beauty is still her most trusted survival tactic. Just like the Wicked Queen.
Plot: 2 Stars
When told in a more modern voice, this ancient story could serve as a salacious warning of the dangers of jealousy and vanity and the ways in which a fanatical quest for beauty can drive women to immense cruelty. If the Wicked Queen’s fixation on her appearance wasn’t overshadowed by the thin love story between Snow White and her prince, audiences might be able to pull something profound and memorable from the familiar tale. We can easily envision a more prescient version of this story, in which Snow White repeatedly cuts her hair and smears dirt on her face to try and hide her beauty, living in fear that she'll one day end up in the Wicked Queen’s mirror. There might have been a scene or two where she walks about in rags and filth, searching the castle in an attempt to find and destroy the mirror before it exposes her. But unfortunately, nothing resembling strength, or even wit, appears in this film’s version of Snow White.
Character Development: 2 Stars
While Snow White is sweet enough that we’d like her to find her happy ending by the end of the film, she doesn't do much to make her dreams a reality. To the contrary, she seems perfectly content to cook and clean for the dwarfs, waiting for her happy ending to materialize out of thin air. She never ventures beyond the forest to find her Prince or to enlist his help in destroying her mad stepmother. She hasn’t even enough sense to realize she’s in danger, much less try to save herself. She remains a passive and naive character up until the very end, when the Wicked Queen tempts her by offering her a magic wishing apple. And because Snow White doesn’t have the mettle to take fate into her own hands, wishes are all she has. She jumps at the opportunity for a small miracle, and it turns out to be the very thing that kills her. Even after she’s succumbed to the witch’s spell however, all she has to do is sleep peacefully until her handsome prince arrives to kiss away the sleeping death and restore her to life.
Love: 1 Star
Snow White’s love story isn’t much of a story, and her prince is a prop more than he is a character. He makes a brief appearance at the beginning to serenade the young princess, and then again to awaken her from the Wicked Queen’s spell. We don’t know enough about him to be convinced that he and Snow White will live happily ever after, but she apparently knows enough to leave her friends behind and follow him to his castle. Overall, it’s pretty hard to take the love story seriously - especially since we never even learn the prince’s name.
Friendship: 1 Star
Snow White found a remarkable kindness and affection with the dwarfs who saved and protected her. In fact, she spends more of the film dancing and laughing with the dwarfs than blowing kisses to her prince. And yet her happy ending comes not when she awakens to the dwarfs who cared for her, but when she rides away to the prince’s castle in the clouds. The message that comes across, whether intended or not, is that beauty, rather than love or kindness, is the more motivating force. It's no wonder the jealous queen went mad over it.
It’s intriguing that we’ve yet to see a version of this story in which the Queen’s magic mirror takes into account that thing called internal beauty that we so often teach our children to seek and respect. Were that the case, it might even be the seven dwarfs, rather than Snow White, who end up giving the Wicked Queen a run for her money.