Mirror Mirror: Reflecting on the Controversy Surrounding Snow White Remake.
Mirror, mirror, on the wall, which Disney production found itself amidst the most controversy of them all? Disney’s upcoming ‘Snow White’ film is one of the many movies that have been under heat for narrative adjustments. The classic 1938 fairy tale has been transformed causing the film to undergo public scrutiny in many aspects. This live action adaptation transcends the traditional plot of a damsel in distress and instead focuses on empowering themes while attempting an inclusive approach.
The string of controversy started with the casting decision of a Latina actress for a white
character - especially if the character is supposed to be as ‘white as snow’. On one hand,
viewers are thrilled at the prospect of their children growing up amidst diverse actors,
combatting the outdated notion that beauty is synonymous with Eurocentric features. As a
result, children are more likely to foster a future where all ethnicities are seen through an
equal lens. Another argument in defence of Rachel Zegler’s role is the idea that the casting
decision should not be a problem if the race is not substantial to the plot. This perspective has
given rise to discussions surrounding perceived hypocrisy because the public reaction is
observed not nearly as negative when white actors are chosen to portray characters of colour.
One popular example is Liam Neeson’s role of Ra’s Al Ghul in the ‘Dark Knight trilogy’. Ra
Al Ghul’s background and ethnicity is undeniably central to the storyline which was
overlooked by a white casting. Interestingly enough, actresses like Rachel Zegler and Halle
Bailey (‘The Little Mermaid’) were almost immediately slammed with controversy.
Another intense discussion is the absence of dwarves who are now represented as ‘magical
creatures’. Some believed that the live action could focus on the dwarves as characters of their own rather than assistants for a typical human, a stereotype perpetuated by the 1937 version. In the original Snow White, the dwarfs are depicted as comical relief and childlike characters that depend on Snow White. Peter Dinklage, an established actor with dwarfism, finds it offensive that the dwarfs will still be perceived as reliant cave-dwellers with no significant purpose to the storyline.
The most debated facet of the film lies in the absence of Prince Charming. This was decided in an effort to empower Snow White rather than relegating her to the role of a typical damsel in distress that spends the entire story awaiting rescue from a man. Some argue that this narrative is performative pseudo-feminism, while others perceive it as a disrespectful departure from the original storyline and Disney itself. It also left fans wondering why Snow White could not have been deemed independent even in the presence of Prince Charming. David Hand, the 91-year-old son of the original director of ‘Snow White’ finds the remake blatantly disrespectful to his late father and the legacy of Walt Disney.
While the film’s intent was to introduce a more inclusive and empowering version of a
well-known fairy tale, it has instead become a centrepiece of debate and controversy. This situation serves as a poignant reminder that even when efforts are made to be more inclusive and diverse, the ripples of impact can be far-reaching to different communities. Criticism and cancel-culture is definitely not foreign to the ever-changing world of cinema; ‘Snow White’ has held a mirror to our society challenging us to question what truly constitutes as the ‘fairest’ narrative.
Written by Amrit Singh