Damsel in Distress : Snow White
Damsel in Distress : Snow White Snow White, the first Disney Princess, was created during the Great Depression in 1937 (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs). Being the first Princess, she portrays the traditional social structure of women during the 1930s. Snow White is soft spoken and submissive, sweet natured, temperate, and obedient to the men in her society. Not only is she the ideal women in her personality, but she represents the classical idea of beauty with lips as red as rubies and skin as fair as snow.
The movie begins when the Evil Queen who is seen in some parts as an old, ugly woman dressed in black clothes and is relatively shorter than Snow white is consulting the magic mirror in order to confirm that she is in deed the most beautiful woman in all of the land. Although she is the mother figure in this story, she does not portray nurturing characteristics. The story is giving women mixed messages saying not to obsess about looks but be beautiful. When the mirror reveals that Snow White is more beautiful than she, the Evil Queen is enraged. This portrayal of the Evil Queen confirms the importance of beauty and youthfulness.
As the Evil Queen ages and the normal effects of aging begin to take place the Evil Queen feels as though she is less valued and less powerful. This places an exaggerated emphasis on youthfulness and beauty and sends the message that without beauty you can no longer be powerful. The Evil Queen is consumed by beauty, which is a contradiction of what the expectation is of women. Women are expected to look perfect at all times and be refined and beautiful, but if they obsess about their appearance they are viewed as being vain or perhaps being ugly. This makes it very difficult for women to make sense of what is expected of them.
The idea of beauty is central to the story because the most beautiful is the one who prevails, and the Evil Queen who is not as beautiful is the one who loses in the end. Snow White is the main character in the film. She is a young, white, slim and tall. Snow White is shown in the beginning of the movie cleaning and singing the song “I’m Wishing” which refers to her dream to find a man to take care of her (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs). What I found to be interesting was that during the entire time she was cleaning an cooking no one was keeping track of her.
She could have left at any time, but instead she was waiting for a “Prince” to rescue her. This idea reinforces the image that women are helpless and need rescuing. This is the classic ideal of beauty. She lacks ambition and is a dreamer waiting for her prince to come and rescue her from her life troubles. While singing she is oblivious to the fact that Prince Charming has stumbled upon her and is watching her in awe. Because of her extreme beauty he has fallen in love with Snow White. The Prince is seen as strong and hyper-masculine. He has defined facial features, muscular arms and legs and thick black hair.
He also has a weapon that implies he is able to defend himself as well as the woman he loves. The Evil Queen instructs the huntsman, a middle aged, white man, to kill the young Snow White. With extreme despondency the huntsman agrees. However, he was unable to complete the task and took pity on the Princess. He instructed Snow White to run away and never come back. Snow White runs through the forest terrified of everything including her own shadow. The animals come to her rescue and deliver her to the little house in the woods. Again, this portrays Snow White as helpless and unable to do anything on her own.
She must always be “saved”. Upon entering the house Snow White begins doing her womanly duties of cooking and cleaning all the while singing. This is the stereotypical view of the traditional woman who cooks and cleans while wearing the perfect outfit and her makeup being flawlessly done. While this view is centered around the 1950’s the basic ideas of the woman’s role has been the same for hundreds of years. Women are socialized to believe that their position in life is to care for the home and the men who occupy it. The Seven Dwarfs work in a diamond mine, a very masculine role.
They work with dangerous equipment in a dangerous environment and work long hours. Even though they are dwarfs, they are very clearly heterosexual, white men all with very distinct personalities. When they return to their cottage they are distressed to find that someone has disturbed their home. They, however, are pleasantly surprised when they find that it is the princess Snow White. They, like the Prince, are captivated by her beauty. The dwarfs make an agreement with Snow White that they will keep her safe if she does the cooking and cleaning for them. By agreeing to this she is put in a position of servitude.
A woman is supposed to be responsible for everything in the kitchen while the man, the dwarfs serving as the man in the story, is the protector and is the one who will be right in the end. They warn her not to let anyone in, but Snow White disobeys them. In doing so she disobeyed men, which leads to the consequence of being poisoned and death. This creates the idea that women should take a man’s advice on all subjects. When the Queen learns that Snow White is still alive she becomes enraged. She decides to take the matter into her own hands and concocts a potion to poison Snow White. The Queen transforms herself into an old woman.
The irony of this scene is that the Queen knowingly transforms herself into what she is the most afraid of. The Dwarfs leave for work leaving Snow White home alone. When the Queen arrives at the cottage she entices Snow White with a beautiful red apple. Snow White naively accepts the apple and falls to the floor after taking a bite. The dwarfs arrive in time to see the Queen leave and begin to chase her up a mountain and corner her on a cliff. The Queen attempts to crush them with a huge rock, but lightning strikes the cliff, causing her to fall to her doom and crushed by the rock herself.
The dwarfs watch as the two vultures fly down to her body at the bottom of the cliff. The dwarfs could not bury Snow White because of her extreme beauty. They chose to encase her in a glass coffin in the woods so they could look at her whenever they chose. This is just another example of how women are objectified. In the final scene the Prince comes riding up on a horse, kisses Snow White, and she awakes from her sleep. The two of them ride off into the sunset, in love, and are assumed to live happily ever after. The story Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is a fairy tale intended to entertain children but serves another purpose.
It assumes the stereotypical roles of women dictated by society. It presents the point that women are expected to be obedient or there will be consequences and that beauty is the predominant feature in a woman. This film affirms the concept of the Role-Learning Theory which states “that sexist and racist images in the media (and the absence thereof) encourage role modeling” (Anderson, Witham 72). The movie Snow White undeniably displays men and women in stereotypical roles and in ideal and stereotypical body forms. All of the characters are white, fair skinned and heterosexual.
Even the dwarfs are attractive in a very fatherly and protective type of way. This could be seen as a very sexist influence on children only starting to form their views of the world. This movie fall in line with the sexual biases that exist in society today. BIBLIOGRAPHY Andersen, Margaret L. , and Dana Hysock. Witham. Thinking about Women: Sociological Perspectives on Sex and Gender. Boston: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon, 2009. Print. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Dir. William Cottrell. Perf. Adriana Caslotti and Harry Stockwell. 1937. Web