22/05/2016

Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs - Purity, Innocence, Insanity

Thoughts On: Snow White

Ok, this is the start of a new series: THE DISNEY SERIES!! Exciting, huh? I'll be going through 38 of my favourite full-length animated Disney films (Pixar included). Note, 38 is the plan. This number won't go down, but it may go up. What I'll be doing is analysing them in order of oldest to newest. I know I've already covered Zootopia, but, give me a break. I won't be treating this series like the others I've done however because they were all quite short. In other series I posted until they were over. With the Disney series I may have short breaks, exploring other genres so the blog isn't polarised. So, keep an eye out on the playlist page because that's where I'll be storing everything and, as I said, I've already done Zootopia, so that'll be there, but so will Howl's Moving Castle. Either way, let's get started.


**NOTE**
THIS MAY BE A KIDS FILM, BUT MATURE CONTENT IS DISCUSSED BELOW

Running away from her evil stepmother that wants to kill her a young girl stumbles upon the home of seven dwarfs.


First of all, shouldn't it be dwarves? I think dwarfs is the common and preferred spelling, but I'm with Tolkien. Dwarves makes more sense. I mean: wolves not wolfs, scarves not scarfs, right? On the other hand you could argue barfs not barves. I don't know why you'd want to though. Nonetheless, dwarfs is what I'll use here I suppose. Sorry for the boring semantics, let's get on with it. Ok, so most people will be familiar with the concept that the seven dwarfs represent the seven stages of cocaine addiction, playing into the euphemism of 'snow white'. This is quite an interesting take away from the film, with solid enough evidence, but I don't like it much. This is because it doesn't tie into the film's narrative too well, apart from saying that the woman was a nutty addict who was paranoid, but more so delusional. I see no intentional message in this theory apart from: don't do drugs. But then, umm... Dumbo? Alice In Wonderland? They aren't great anti-drug campaigns are they? So, instead, Snow White is better interpreted as meaning purity. But before we start the analysis from this assumption, let's make clear that this is a somewhat conservative film, but it's not sexist. People love to throw this at all the old films. You see this in the massive objection to princesses and I guess this follows the way in which all art has changed over the last century or so. It has been put into the hands of the everyday person, taken out of the selfish grips of the rich. This means that art doesn't portray kings, queens and higher class as much today, instead: us average Joes. And when kings and queens are depicted, well, it's not in a flattering light. Game Of Thrones anyone? Anyway, I'm getting off point. What I'm trying to say is that princesses have been shunned a little in animation. This is most obvious with Pixar. They're tied to Disney and they've only ever made 1 film featuring a princess and that was Brave. Whilst I don't think this is a bad thing, I also don't see any harm in the older 'princess' films. In this I mean I don't think they portray harmful messages to little girls at all. They're almost always about personal strength and perseverance. Whilst some characters do want men, they don't need them. Which one of these princesses is a weak damsel in distress?


At most you could argue Snow White or Sleeping Beauty. I disagree though. We'll come to Sleeping Beauty another time, but hopefully we'll debunk the Snow White claim today. The biggest criticism you could give any of these characters is that they're a bit naive, or dumb (Ariel). Firstly, we're dealing with teenagers most of the time, so... what do you expect? But, we're also playing into childish fantasy. Characters can be naive because their worlds aren't very dangerous - they're places where true love exists, come on. If anything people should be concerned with the princes. But, you know what? No. Who cares? Not men. We're just not the kind to care about our portrayal in movies. Why? We're lazy I suppose - or just comfortable in ourselves. Uh-oh. Let's not go down that path. On we go!

Ok, as touched on already, Snow White is about an idea of purity, of celibacy in a certain sense. Boring, I know, but the mechanics of how this is told is quite interesting. Before we can get into metaphors and symbols though, we have to look at the set-up. First, there's the evil stepmother. This is a very interesting image, but more so, a cultural phenomena. Stepmothers just are evil. Why? Well, you could argue in this day and age it has something to do with parents divorcing and finding 'better' partners, which evokes a lot of spite from many perspectives in the family - especially from a kid stuck in the middle. But, the evil stepmother is an image dating way back to the 1600s with the Brothers Grimm, who of course wrote both Snow White and Cinderella. By the way, divorce was first legalised (in England) in 1857 and was quite rare until nearly 100 years later. So, that idea of torn kids kind of goes out the window here. However, stepmothers were somewhat common back in the 1600s as they'd replace a mother who had passed away. So, these women are trying to fill a huge void in a child's life - which must be a colossal challenge, possibly insurmountable. This means that the attribution of 'evil stepmother' could possibly be linked into some form of parental complex. I'm no psychologist, so let's not make a blanket statement, but infer that maybe Snow White may have some mummy and daddy issues. First of all, where are they? We get no back story at all. The only allusion to what could have been Snow White's dad is the skeleton left in the cage in the evil stepmother's dungeon. Maybe killing him is what makes her evil, I mean, she was willing to kill a 14 year old girl for no reason other than jealousy, why wouldn't she kill a king for complete control over a kingdom? Oh, and 14 years old!? Yeah, that changes your perspective of everything. But hold on, don't let your imagination run. We've established that Snow White may have some psychological issues at least concerning the missing father and mother. This means her image of men and women alike are distorted. This girl probably has no clear image of love. Moreover, she's nothing more than a slave, made to work as a scullery maid, knowing she is a princess. That has to mess you up. This turns the film into a psychological drama in my opinion and we can see just why with the introduction of prince charming.

Snow White dreams and wishes of being found by her true love, and when a prince just turns up at her door, she falls in love. Now, pause. This is a moment easily mocked, but we're paused, so just give me a moment to explain it. In fact, here's a lesson. Any time you see a ridiculous moment like this in a film, book, play, whatever, and it's near the beginning, never assume bad writing. This is my lesson to you and it might just change the way you look at a lot of things. The set up to films are always key moments that speak to every other part. Anyone who's ever written anything knows this. The introduction is called an introduction for a reason. You are introducing the tone and ideas of your story. You are setting down the rules. When a girl sings, 'I'm looking for my true love', and then he turns up, you know the writer is making a statement. This has got to be obvious. So, what does this mean? Well, my favourite take on this is to assume what we are seeing is a projection of a character's imagination. For Snow White this means we are getting to see what her idea of true love is: a good looking prince with a horse and a good ear. But, she pulls away in fear, hiding in her tower, all coy and such. But, what else happens? The evil step mother sees it all. Now, assuming Snow White is also projecting her own perspective onto her, we can infer that she has a strange idea of competition with this woman. Maybe the queen's jealousy does exist, but I don't think the magic mirror is being looked into by her alone. Snow White embellished the hatred - and all because of her distorted view of family and love. This all culminates in the attempted murder, but Snow White's beauty saves her. You could argue that this is sexist, however, if my looks could save me from being stabbed to death, my heart literally torn out, then shit, call me a superhero. Seriously though, ideas of beauty will become more clear near the end. What the wood scene reveals though is Snow White's capacity to view the world as she feels. When she's horrified, logs turn into crocodiles, branches want to grab her, animals and trees want to devour her. This secures the idea of her projected imagination and is our segue into the depths of Snow White's mind.

Here, we're jumping to the seven dwarfs. But, to recap, what the film has set up is, daddy issues, first (possibly true) love and now is giving us more men. Why? In short, the seven dwarfs are Snow White's process of coming to terms with men in her own mind, so she may mature--a bit young for a 14 year old kid, I know, but what can you say? Kids nowadays, huh? Anyways, Snow White imagines 7 child-like men to make them less formidable. There are so many so she can literally break down her perspective on them. This is pretty simple actually:

Doc: He's Snow Whites projection of the man that cares or looks after a woman. She makes him the leader, but bumble and stumble, to dilute this idea of power - make him kinder.

Happy: Simple projection of a happy man.

Sleepy: Again, simple projection of a tired man. This also plays into the idea that he works. will come home from the diamond mine (kind of high maintenance, huh?) and be tired.

Dopey: Another simple projection of a man that primarily serves the idea of making him harmless and loveable.

Grumpy: Here anxiety comes into play a little. Snow White bundles all her negative perceptions of a man into a guy she feels she can ultimately change (which she does).

Bashful: Here's where things get interesting. Snow White wants a man that isn't so outgoing, easily put under thumb in a certain sense. Cute in other words.

Sneezy: This one makes little sense until you take into account he has hay fever and Snow White loves flowers. Flowers could be a euphemism, and for Sneezy not to be able to come near, let alone sniff them starts to bring in themes of celibacy. He is able to carry flowers later on in the film though which I'll leave to your own personal interpretation.

So, this is Snow White's idea of a man split into seven harmless, doll-sized bodies. It's perfect if you think about it. It's not only her way of looking at men as harmless, friendly people, but the little girls who are watching and then having their parents buy the literal doll-sized men. So, Snow White, over the course of the film, spends a day with these ideas of men, allowing her to walk into the arms of Prince Charming instead of running away. That's more or less everything you need to know about the film to see it in a different way, but let's dig a little deeper and look at the conflict with the stepmother.

I think I can convey everything I want to say here with three images:





Get it? If you didn't, let me assist with a quote:

"Apple pies...make the mensfolk's mouth water"


The apple is a symbol for one's virginity. Of course a cherry is a more obvious image, but we're dealing with a kids film that can't show people dying on screen. They can't be that explicit--it's pretty obvious nonetheless. This all means that Snow White recognises the attention she may attract from men and, as a 14 year old girl (yeah, I think a bit of conservatism is acceptable here) probably shouldn't indulge herself. Sexuality is made taboo here for the sake of purity, for the sake of maintaining the idea of Snow White in a child. In this sense the evil queen isn't literally killing her, but figuratively doing so, ruining her image. But, the woman isn't leading her into prostitution here. This all comes back to Snow White. She sees the stepmother as demonic figure of sexuality who took her father from her. I mean, this is the real reason step-parents are made out to be evil. It hurts to imagine our own biological parents doing the grown up time. But, thinking of a stranger and a biological parent? Yeah... not cool. But, what would be is stealing that naughty step-mommy away and teaching her a lesson. Hence, the plethora of porn videos. I'm sorry we got to that, but there you go. The stepmother teases Snow White with the apple to dare her to become like her - an apparent sexual demon. A little extreme, so you could just say that she dares her to develop sooner than she should. There's one more detail to explore before we can jump to the end of the film: the animals. I like to think of the deer, rabbits and birds as Snow Whites friends, possibly representative of the other maids in the castle (if there were any). They are simply her friends looking out for her best interest, but they are also constructs of her own imagination. They are her sense. That means the apple scene isn't a dumb girl doing a stupid thing, but a conflicted girl trusting a pretty good disguise despite the alarms going off in her head. She then has the dwarfs come to the rescue, or at least chase away the evil step mother because they are Snow White's confirmed projection of non-sexual men. It's simply her saying, 'no, I'm not that kind of girl'. And that is why she's not a damsel in distress.

Ok, to conclude, let's look at the end. Snow White falls victim to the step mother, but manages to fight her off with her newly developed principals. The coma, or sleep she endures is a transitory period possibly of depression and internal conflict. However, in this she grows past the idea of failure, of immaturity, of the dwarfs and allows the idea of love come back into her life as she feels she's responsible enough to deal with it. In this sense her old self literally died. This is a metaphor for maturity. This is upheld by the time she remained asleep. We can infer from the seasons changing that she was asleep for a year, which means she was 15 when she awakened - which is an acceptable age of consent in some places nowadays, but more widely accepted further back in time. Moreover, Snow White waits for spring, a metaphor again. This one's obvious. It's until she's ready to blossom that she waits - the spring metaphor is even used in her songs sowing this was her intent from the beginning. So, with her maturity, Snow White can come out of her deathly state to travel to the kingdom in the sky, an implied heaven. This means, it's either going to be a great wedding night, or Snow White's still a little damaged and delusional inside, but a nice ending nonetheless. But, really she's not walking away with an actual prince. He's a representation of a man and maturity. And that's the story unraveled. In the end it's about waiting until you're ready to love. Simple.

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