We just watched the 2012 movie “Mirror, Mirror” starring Julia Roberts and Lily Collins. It’s a lot better than its IMDb ranking indicates. It is, pretty much, a comic fantasy version of Snow White. No, wait, it’s a feminist comic fantasy version of Snow White. The Queen and Snow White are the protagonists here. The Prince, while of course important, is a secondary character. He also gets Snow’s traditional role as victim. And both Snow and the queen get to express lust for the prince, without being ridiculed or made to suffer for it, which is definitely unusual. It’s Snow White’s strong moral backbone that turns the dwarves (and to some extent also the prince) into heroes. In the end, it’s Snow White’s quick thinking that defeats the queen. This is not a movie where everyone rushes to rescue the princess when she’s threatened. This is a movie where they go “Eh, she can handle herself”, then sit down and enjoy the show while she does exactly that.
Which made me think about something else. Snow White has changed.
Remember the Brothers Grimm version of Snow White? Or the original Disney version? In them, Snow White is basically a McGuffin. In these traditional versions, she’s the object that by its mere existence sets the plot in motion. She does nothing, except get herself in trouble a bit.
But some time in the past 10-15 years she changed. In the “Fables” comic, in this movie, in “Snow White and the Huntsman”, in the TV series “Once Upon A Time”, Snow White is not passive. Far from it. She kicks ass. She’s not a McGuffin any more. More often that not, she’s not just a notional princess any more, but has become an active, competent and well-liked leader. If a young girl today says that she wants to be like Snow White, it’s more likely she means she wants to be like Kristen Stewart in plate armor or rapier-wielding Lily Collins leading her armed dwarves or Ginnifer Goodwin protecting villagers with her bow and arrow than that she wants to be the Disney version singing for the birds.
The mythical image of Snow White has changed, radically. And that, in my opinion, is a very good thing.