Blogging scares me a little bit. (That is my real reason for making Teresa do most of the introductory post… and material… and designing. I am a chicken. Who is named Rachel. In case you couldn’t tell.) That said, I have about a million too may opinions to be shared in polite conversations without seeming like a total narcissist. Which I am not. I think.
With that stunning introduction, let’s turn to what I actual want to talk about 90% of the time: MOVIES.
Today’s movie is Snow White and the Huntsman. I am warning you: (1) This will contain spoilers. (2) This will not be a review. I can do that in about a sentence: This is a B movie that should have been an A movie based on Charlize Theron, Chris Hemsworth, the design decisions, and the screenplay which, I swear, had a clear and good thesis. If only they had cast a lead actress who was made of something other than cardboard. Cardboard that sighs and bites her lower lip a lot.
On to the thesis: the FUN PART! At first I was going to claim that the thesis in this movie was probably an accident because, seriously when was the last time you heard of a big budget Hollywood movie, starring Kristen Stewart having not only a moral but also a reasonable thesis driving it? That’s right – NEVER. (Do not argue this point with me. My pop culture knowledge rivals the most rabid of twelve-year-old girls. And I will use it to punch you in the face.) However, I went on a mad imdb spree, and after seeing that the screenwriters are also responsible for Slumdog Millionaire and The Blind Side, I feel no need to apologize for my rampant over-analysis. These guys are good.
The basic question that Snow White engages is the nature of Beauty. (Beauty is a transcendental so I can capitalize it, right?) Rather, it provides a comparison of two rival concepts of Beauty. Unsurprisingly, one is Snow White and the other is the Evil Queen. (Guess which one is the bad concept?)
Because I like Charlize Theron better, let’s start with the Evil Queen’s Beauty. In no uncertain terms, she defines Beauty as power. It is power taken at the expense of others (she drinks the blood of virgin’s for a pick me up), and it is power to be used against all those who threaten her.
That much, though somewhat rare in Hollywood, would not be unsurprising. But I love that they take it further. They show, through flash backs, that her obsession with Beauty is not mere crazy-lady. When her village is invaded as a child her mother casts a spell on her saying Beauty is her power, and that it is bound by her blood – the fairest blood. “By fairest blood is this done. By fairest blood can it be undone.” (Gosh I love the Fairytale genius for making abstract things extra concrete! Beauty is like power? NO! THE BLOOD OF THE BEAUTIFUL IS THE SOURCE OF POWER!) So, when the Evil Queen runs around obsessed with the fact that Snow White is prettier than she is, it is because her power (magical and political) is bound to her status as the “Fairest of Them All.”
And she is not wrong in her belief that Beauty can protect her and conquer those around her. She survives, and goes on to conquer kingdoms. Beauty absolutely can be viewed and used in this way. Beauty can be a dominating power.
However, in the other corner stands Snow White. (Ignore the lip-biting, if you can. She really is better as a quiet allegorical figure anyway.) Her “Beauty equals [insert brief descriptor here]” is a littler harder. Basically, Snow White’s Beauty is Purity, and Morality, and Spirit, and Life, and Inspiration. (Sorry for all the capitalizations.)
Enter the first thing that surprised me about this movie: when they say Snow White’s Beauty is rooted in her purity, morality, and spirit, I was mostly expecting her to wear a lot of white, and then go all “CHICK POWER! YEAH!” at the end of the movie.
BUT THEY DON”T DO THAT! Instead, we first encounter the adult and long-imprisoned Snow White in her fairytale tower, and she is praying. And not some vague prayer to a random higher power or nature or something like that. She is praying the Lord’s Prayer.
How did the screenwriter’s slip that in?! Then her first kick-ass action is not an arbitrary thing, but the defense of her virginity as the uber-creepy brother of the Evil Queen attempts to molest her. Then she escapes the castle and heads off into the visually awesome dark forest. However, In the first 10 minutes of meeting this character, we have seen that her spirit is directed by her faith and her purity. That is a concept of Beauty I can get behind!
Once she is in the wild, she must be retrieved by the titular Huntsman.
His backstory is lovely. Evil Queen gets him out into the forest searching for Snow White by channeling his drunken grief at the death and loss of his wife into the desperate hope that she can be brought back to life if he kills Snow White.
Their first encounter int he forest is the first time we see the power of Snow White’s Beauty. Upon seeing her in all her innocent Beauty, the huntsman is finally able to break free of his self-destructive grief. He rises from it to help her. Snow White demonstrates Beauty’s true power and genius – to call to the better nature of Man. (In this case a specific man, but the paradigm also holds true for Man in the sense of Mankind.)
This becomes more explicit later, but I don’t want to spoil the entire movie… just most of it. Oh well, I did warn you. Suffice it to say, the climactic True Love’s Kiss is not actually between Snow White and the prince (who is quite lovely, but COME ON!… LOOK AT THE TITLE OF THE MOVIE!). When Snow White is woken with True Love’s Kiss, it is the farthest thing from the romantic love triangle fiascos we have come to associate with Kristen Stewart. Rather than the BIG JEALOUS MOMENT of “Who gets to kiss her?!” between the two men, there is the shared grief at her loss. Neither man loves her in order to acquire her. Rather both seek to protect and honor her. The actual kiss preceded by a beautiful and quiet speech to the effect of: “You deserved better. I wanted to be better for you.”
The two men have a shared understanding and love for who and what she is. She is Pure. She is Courageous. She is Good. She is Beautiful. Therefore, she is to be protected.
None of which is to say that she is passive. This same understanding of her Beauty, Purity, Goodness and Courage, that inspires such protective instincts also also inspires the small army of men to reclaim her kingdom and fight for good. She rouses the army. She rides in front of them calling them to greatness. She vanquishes the Queen. She is powerful. But this is not a Chick Power movie.
When I say that I do not mean to undercut her strength. Rather, I mean to praise this movie, which so elevates the power and genius of feminine Beauty, not doing so at the expense of the men. The Prince is good, loyal and brave. The Huntsman is no less so. They each have their role to play, neither of which involves a tug-of-war over her. They are too busy with actual manly offices: protecting Snow White, teaching her how to protect herself when absolutely necessary, fighting for the restoration of a good state, battling (literally) against EVIL. The gifts and actions of these men have no less dignity than those of Snow White.
Basically, by correctly illustrating the actual rivalry between “Beauty as Power” and “Beauty as Powerful Inspiration”, the screen writers addressed the actual problem that seems to motivate all of the “Chick Power, Yeah!” movies – a mis-identified rivalry between men and women (and between women and women) that need not exist.
If you view life as the Evil Queen does – a battle in which you are constantly being attacked by a male-dominated system, and threatened by the beauty of the women around you – men become enemies and tools, women become rivals. We see this in Theron’s Evil Queen. She is powerful, terrifying, and profoundly lonely in her constant rivalry with all men and all beautiful women.
However, if you view life as Snow White does – a world full of Beauty, created by a loving God, full of creatures and people who are capable of great things – men and women, through very different aptitudes and actions, can jointly work toward the betterment of their own souls and the world around them.
Also, by giving us a sympathetic portrayal of the terror and isolation of both the Queen’s and Snow White’s childhoods, the screen writers illustrate that these views are not merely the result of environment. Both women are beautiful. Both women have a childhood full of terror and isolation. Both women choose how to view the world around them, and so must we all.
Jeepers that was a long post. Basically, you should see the movie. But if you don’t want to, you should at least listen to this Florence + the Machine song from the credits. BECAUSE IT IS AWESOME!!!