Snow White Suits Up, but There’s Still a Chink in the Armor
In the darkly lit press release photos for “Snow White and The Huntsman,” the traditionally demure Snow White, played by Kristen Stewart, is dressed in a suit of armor, sword and shield in hand, strands of hair dangling from her brow, as if caught during a brief respite from battle. Snow White is getting a 21st century makeover.
This is just one of three film adaptations of the classic Grimm Brothers’s fairy tale “Snow White,” to be released within the next two years from Disney, Universal, and Relativity Media. The tentatively titled “The Brothers Grimm: Snow White,” directed by Tarsem Singh, is scheduled to open in theaters March 12, 2012, three months before the release of Universal Studios’ “Snow White and the Huntsman.” Disney’s live action movie, tentatively titled “Snow and the Order of Seven,” in which Snow White seeks the aid of seven Shaolin monks, will be be released in 2013.
The past 10 years have produced a spate of female movie action heroes, from the hyper-sexualized Lara Croft in “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” to the spurned mother Beatrix Kiddo in “Kill Bill” to the macho Gracie Hart in “Miss Congeniality,” each rendering a slightly different version of the female hero than the next. What the female action hero’s growing prevalence may actually suggest is both a perpetual dissatisfaction with current treatments of women in film and a yearning for a heroine who encompasses the forceful aspects of a warrior, without sacrificing any of her femininity.
The press releases supplied by each of the studios producing Snow White films this year suggest that all three of these films re-envision their heroines, no longer as the fragile damsel-in-distress described by the Grimm Brothers, but rather as coming-of-age post-Buffy and Xena warrior princesses, intent on saving themselves.
However, the central theme of this fairytale is that its protagonist is a helpless young girl who must depend upon the Huntsman and the seven dwarves for her salvation — turn her into self-reliant fighter, and one loses the essence of the story.
Singh’s adaptation, starring Lily Collins, claims to be by far the most faithful rendition of the Grimm Brothers’ classic fairytale. Collins stated in an interview with Entertainment Weekly that, “[Snow White] is very much that fairy tale princess we’ve all read about in books,” but it’s quick to add that that her portrayal has “been modernized in a way that she becomes a fighter in the end.”
The press stills, which feature an idyllic Collins posing demurely in a pastel satin gown replete with puffy sleeves and appliqué butterflies, contrast the darker images in those released by “Snow White and the Huntsman.” Still, the fact that Collin’s character becomes a fighter may point to a desire to make our female protagonists more assertive and powerful. While this has already become a popular direction in Hollywood films (think Emma Watson’s rise to fame as the brilliant Hermione Granger) these Snow White-based films pose a greater challenge because they rely so heavily on a story that is the epitome of the “damsel-in-distress” trope.
It seems as though the entertainment industry is attempting to replicate the heroine of Joss Whedon’s vampire slayer vixen, Buffy. From the little the studios have released about the films to date, these new tough protagonists might just disrupt stereotypes about warriors and femininity by allowing their protagonists to be both fighters and princesses. Unlike Buffy and Xena, however, in the traditional story, Snow White relies on outside male guardians to assist her on her quests. When the movies come out next year, we will see whether or not their ambitious directors buck that stereotype, too. But until then, we’ll just have to wait to find out if this princess is the heroine we’ve been waiting for.