Trailers for ‘Snow White & the Huntsman’ and ‘Mirror, Mirror’ Perpetuate Stereotypes of Women, Beauty & Aging and Pit Women Against Each Other

Charlize Theron as Queen Ravenna and Kristen Stewart as Snow White in ‘Snow White and the Huntsman’
Woman obsessed with aging fights her fading beauty. Older woman jealous of  younger woman. Younger woman rescued by a prince. Yep, it’s a tale as old as time that Hollywood keeps churning out. With fairy tales ingrained in our collective psyche, it’s no surprise we now have two Snow White films looming on the horizon.

In the hyped Snow White and the Huntsman, the infamous fairy tale transforms into a macabre Lord of the Rings-esqe action-adventure epic. Charlize Theron (love her!), a phenomenal actor who imbues her nuanced characters with depth, based her performance of the obsessive queen on Jack Nicholson in The Shining. Sounds interesting so far, right?

The intriguing trailer focuses heavily on Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron), who narrates or speaks almost exclusively. Okay, I kinda like that. But why doesn’t Snow White (Kristen Stewart) say anything? Why does it seem in every trailer for one of her films (ahem, Twilight series) Stewart’s character mute?? And why the fuck did they have to add “The Huntsman” in the title?! Why couldn’t it have just been “Snow White?” Or “Snow White and the Queen?” Heaven forbid a film focuses on multiple women…without a dude.

In the Snow White fairy tale, the Queen rules the kingdom she stole from heiress Snow White. But as Rebecca Cohen points out, in film versions like Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, we never see the Queen actually do anything regarding political machinations other than obsess over maintaining her fading beauty and plot to kill her stepdaughter. She possesses no ambitions beyond eternal beauty. Sadly, this film seems no different.

Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron); ‘Snow White and the Huntsman’
We see the powerful sorceress engage in beauty treatments, like bathing in milk and sucking out the souls of young maidens to rejuvenate her striking appearance. Wait, she’s got all this power and she’s wasting it on looking young?? Oh you know us women; all we care about is our looks! In the trailer, Queen Ravenna says:
“Do you hear that? It’s the sound of battles fought and lives lost. It once pained me to know I am the cause of such despair. But now, their cries give me strength. Beauty is my power.”

Sigh. The defense for every person who thinks feminism is unnecessary. Women aren’t oppressed; they derive power from their beauty and sexuality! Too many films try to prop up this tired myth. Yes, when you feel good about your outer appearance, it can bolster your inner self-confidence. But I’m here to tell you ladies, there is NO power in beauty. It’s a ruse, a sham. No power exists in the objectification of women’s bodies.
 
Not to be outdone, the family-friendly comedy Mirror, Mirror is also tackling Snow White. While Snow White at least speaks in this trailer, Mirror, Mirror again puts the spotlight on the Queen, this time played by Julia Roberts. In this version, the Queen isn’t envisioned as evil, just insecure. All throughout the trailer, Queen Clementianna (Julia Roberts) makes snide comments about Snow White (Lily Collins)’s beauty and how she herself isn’t getting wrinkles but “crinkles.” We see her girdle getting cinched. She uses a love potion on the rich prince, whom she wants to marry to cure her “financial troubles.” So Roberts’ Queen doesn’t even seem faux empowered like Theron. Instead she’s reduced to a shallow, insecure, bitter woman. How funny!

Now, the original Snow White isn’t an enlightened, gender equitable, female empowerment tale. Young woman plays housekeeper, cooking and cleaning for a bunch of dudes after her stepmother banishes her to the woods, who then falls into a coma after eating a poisoned apple by said stepmother, awakened with a kiss by a prince with whom she rides off into the sunset – not exactly screaming feminism. If Hollywood wanted to retell this story, why not put a twist on it?

And that’s what Snow White and the Huntsman attempts to do. In this version, Snow White (Kristen Stewart) is an armor-wearing, sword-wielding badass. Screenwriter Evan Daugherty wanted to update the fairy tale:

“What if, instead of saving Snow White, the Huntsman teaches Snow White to save herself?”

Oooh a warrior Snow White! Potentially promising. And I like the idea of her saving herself. Except that Snow White (Kristen Stewart) is trained by…you guessed it, a dude. The Huntsman, initially ordered by Queen Ravenna to  kill Snow White and cut out her heart so the Queen can consume it and live forever, decides to protect Snow White and train her for combat.

Even Lily Collins plays a perky, fencing Snow White in Mirror, Mirror. In the trailer, she says:
“I’ve read so many stories where the prince saves the princess. It’s time we changed that.”

I wholeheartedly agree with that sentiment. And I love a badass female warrior as much as the next cinephile. But in both Snow White and the Huntsman and Mirror, Mirror, Snow White has no female friends, no maternal figure for guidance, nurturance and support. Women are pitted against each other. It’s all men, men, men.

Snow White may be more of a badass in these retellings. But that doesn’t mean she’s feminist. The trailers for upcoming Snow White and the Huntsman and Mirror, Mirror spread a message of women, beauty and aging. They pit women against each other, particularly older women against younger women. They tell us that older women obsess over their looks, forever jealous of innocent younger women’s youth and vitality. They reinforce cattiness and competition, tossing aside the importance of female friendship and camaraderie. Oh silly ladies, you don’t need to rely on other women or even yourself. You just need a strong man to rescue you.

Really, Hollywood, haven’t we seen enough of these tired tropes? How about a truly empowered woman. Or better yet, a film with several strong female characters, who are friends, not foes. Now that, not a woman swinging a sword, would be truly radical.

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Trailers for Snow White and the Huntsman and Mirror, Mirror:

 
 

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12049248847464662752 MangaPhan

    That’s a whole lot of judgment based on 2-min trailers. How do you know if there will be no female friends? The movies aren’t even out yet.

    And frankly, I kinda like that at least in Snow White and the Huntsman, the women are duking it out for the throne. Not a man, but the throne. I also like that the men are the ones that stand behind the women who are in power and not the other way around.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09711048514113365740 Sora Ryu

    I completely agree. It’s like Hanna. Women can’t be good fighters it seems unless a man teaches them. Also women can’t be friends they’re always fighting over men, like on Glee and many other show; it’s ingrained in our culture. Finally older women who should be wiser, more capable and more respected (like older men) are too busy scrambling to fight with and debase younger women, like the world is one big college with bitter, older sorority women jealous over purportedly prettier and sluttier freshmen. Come on it’s such a tired idea. And it only gets worse when supposedly “progressive,” narratives billed as feminist with “warrior” female protagonists are touted as a solution to the problem – when they’re not, in fact they’re worse and they confuse the public because they’re not progressive enough.