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Disney’s Snow White (2024): a feminist marvel or a woman-bashing flop?

The live-action remake of Snow White from Disney is projected to release in March of 2024. [LOGO COURTESY OF THE WALT DISNEY COMPANY/WALT DISNEY].

After centuries of belittlement and oppression, it seems like the world finally gives a damn about women. Whether through the rising popularity of matriarchal fantasy movies or girl-empowering Instagram accounts, feminism has firmly planted itself in our world and has no intention of backing down. But, while modern-day feminism seems to be doing an excellent job at maximizing liberation and freedom of expression for women, many of the paradigms that it now promotes unintentionally induce more harm than good. 

First revealed in 2016 by The Hollywood Reporter, Walt Disney Studios’ classic film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) is going live-action: Snow White is expected to hit theaters by March 2024. But, the new film’s deviation from its predecessor’s characters and plot line has sparked an unprecedented amount of backlash directed towards the film. Controversial racial casting and Disney’s supposed hatred for people with dwarfism aside, the creative decision that Snow White’s creators have received the most criticism for is the titular princess’ shift in life aspirations: the 1937 Snow White was a quiet and gentle girl who dreamed of finding true love, whereas the 2024 Snow White is an ambitious young woman who scoffs at romance and strives to become the leader of her kingdom.

From the surface, the purpose of this plot change seems fairly obvious: stray away from the original’s apparently outdated character, and provide young girls with an apparently more empowering role model. Even the film’s lead actress Rachel Zegler herself said in an interview with Vanity Fair, “[Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs] is an 8[6]-year-old cartoon, and [the new] version is a refreshing story about a young woman who has a function beyond ‘Someday My Prince Will Come’”. 

But such a drastic storyline shift forces us to ask ourselves, was there actually anything inherently sexist or outdated about Zegler’s 86-year-old forerunner? Sure, striving solely for true love and a life revolving around the domestic sphere may be a path that’s becoming decreasingly popular amongst young girls…but does that make it innately wrong? Is mainstream media now suggesting that housewives and stay-at-home moms are inferior to their career-driven counterparts? 

Snow White is a prime example of a liberal facade that’s becoming increasingly common in modern media: pseudo-feminism – actions or statements that appear to align with feminist values but are not genuinely grounded in a belief in gender equality and the empowerment of women. Snow White’s creators claim to have shifted the protagonists’ aspirations in the name of liberating women, yet deviating away from a story that was not necessarily sexist in the first place suggests that certain types of women are more deserving of recognition and respect than others, which contributes to the female hierarchy that pseudo feminism has established. 

Perhaps long ago, when women were confined to motherly responsibilities and were completely shut out of the workplace, striving solely for female financial independence and career success was the primary focus of feminism…but it’s no longer the 1950s. After decades of women proving their ability to thrive in professional settings, feminism is no longer about urging women to defy every societal expectation that has been set for them throughout history, but rather about supporting and uplifting them regardless of how they choose to live their lives. We must understand that feminism will never be a stationary, unyielding ideology: it evolves as we evolve. 

Now don’t get me wrong, I love a good story about a fiery, breadwinning teenage girl leading her people and not taking poisoned apples from anybody…but Snow White just doesn’t happen to be one of them. And that’s okay. 

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