The NPR Monkey See blog recently released an interesting article about why Snow White has recently risen to the top of the zeitgeist. For a while, Cinderella held the crown, but she seems to have passed it along to a paler princess. In the article, Maria Tatar discusses cultural shifts that may have given rise to this new look at Snow White:
"It may be that there is something about the boomer anxiety about aging that is renewing our interest in Snow White," she says. "In the Disney film, there's that terrible moment, that terrifying moment when the Wicked Queen drinks the potion, turns into an old hag, and we see the aging process."Maria Wallack, the screenwriter of Mirror, Mirror agrees:
"The new Snow White movie, Mirror Mirror, is also meant for families with young kids, just like Disney's version was. But screenwriter Melissa Wallack wanted to make the story contemporary. Part of that meant acknowledging baby-boomer grandparents' concerns about aging. "What's interesting now," Wallack says, "is that almost the first time really in history, you can remain young. Everyone now is out there shooting themselves with Botox." In the movie, in fact, Julia Roberts gets an Evil Queen spa special with scorpion bites, bee stings, bird poop and grubs digging around in her ears.
Wallack says every time she opens a magazine or turns on the television, she sees actors like Angelina Jolie looking as young as they did decades ago. That was not the case for stars of an earlier generation, like Elizabeth Taylor, Lauren Bacall or Katherine Hepburn. She says ours is an age where chemical peels and other enhancements are pitched to almost everyone. "You can kind of stay in this state of youth forever," she observes."In light of Snow White and the Huntsman, Maria Tatar thinks the Mother/ Daughter Rivalry is a factor:
You can even see that, says Tatar, on a reality show fairy tale like Keeping Up with the Kardashians. It's filled with beautiful princesses, sham weddings — and, like Snow White, an older-versus-younger-woman dynamic. "The mother is constantly competing with her daughters for attention, and she's got these gorgeous daughters; she becomes more anxious than ever about aging." (Full Article)
While I see that we live in an age were manufactured beauty is easier, I think this dynamic has always been in place. Women have constantly been trying to enhance beauty stave off aging, throughout every era. Think of the Egyptian make up regime! Perhaps aging is a bit more terrifying now, because elders are less respected in the modern day that they were in ancient times. Now age often equals obsolescence, not wisdom. I think this is particularly telling for the Huntsman interpretation of the story, where beauty and youth equal the Evil Queen's power.
I do not think this article solves the mystery of why Cinderella relinquished her crown to Snow White, but hopefully this will pave the way for other fairy tale heroines to have their chance in the spotlight.