Monday, March 12, 2012

Movies: Mid-Life Crisis vs. The Face that Launched a Thousand Ships in the Dueling Snow White Movies

Leigh Bardugo makes some excellent observations about the perception of older women, specifically the Evil Queen in "Snow White" in her comparison of the trailers for Mirror, Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman.

"Fairy tales frequently locate all evil and danger in older women (witches, fairies, wicked stepmothers). Driven by greed, vanity, and malice, they murder their rivals, steal infants, and if they’re feeling particularly peckish, they eat children. (I’m not going to go deep here, but I think it’s worth keeping in mind that of the thousands of people put to death for practicing witchcraft in Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries, the majority were women of a certain age–widows, spinsters, wives who had failed to give their husbands children.)
When we think about fairy tales, we should consider what these patterns might imply. And, from a storytelling perspective, if you’re going to make a two-hour movie based on such a tale, then you will be forced to ask, why would a woman resort to murder just to remain the fairest of them all?
According to Mirror, Mirror, it’s because the Evil Queen is vain, and vicious, and up to her ears in debt. In short, she’s the embodiment of every nasty fairy tale trope about women. But it’s much worse, because this Queen is also pathetic. Isn’t it ridiculous how women obsess over their looks? Isn’t it hilarious to see an older woman cram herself into a corset and try to bed a younger man? And what do you want to bet the Queen racked up those debts acquiring new gowns and redecorating the palace? How droll! At least the witches of the Brothers Grimm (and for that matter Disney) got to be genuinely scary and powerful. (This poor Queen is also hopelessly dated. Her one-liners sound like cast-offs from a particularly tired episode of Sex & the City.)
When it comes to the question of the Queen’s motives, SWATH is trying something entirely new. Based on the trailer, it looks like the writers have created a magical conceit that ties beauty directly to military might. This is just such a cool narrative trick. It takes what is essentially a passive power (the power of being beheld, coveted, envied, desired, the power that draws the eyes and protection of a prince) and makes it an active power (the power to wage war and command armies)." (Full article.)

It seems that both interpretations require pointy shoulders or collars, though.

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