Grimm Tales

Andrew Sullivan —  Jun 12 2012 @ 8:44am

Fairy tales weren't for children at first:

In [the original] "Cinderella," birds peck the stepsisters’ eyes out after the girls cut off their heels and toes to try to fit their feet into the glass slipper. In the 1812 and 1815 editions of "Children’s and Household Tales," there is a story in which children pretend to be butchers and slaughter the child who plays the part of the pig. … When the Grimms began gathering the first versions of "Snow White" before it was published, it was a tale about a mother who is jealous of her daughter and wants to have her killed. The Brothers Grimm went through eight revisions and by the second edition in 1819, Wilhelm Grimm began embroidering the story, making it more sexist. He has Snow White saying ‘I’ll be your good housekeeper’ to the dwarves; he changed the mother to a stepmother. It changes a lot.

The latest iteration of the classic tale, Snow White And The Huntsman, tries to sever its sexist roots:

[The film] is a triumph of feminist storytelling not because the female leads look invincible but because they are fully dimensional.

Other critics have suggested that all this feminist reimagining is eventually hijacked by an attempt to masculinize the story, literally dressing Snow White in a suit of armor. It’s true that things come to a predictable end, with a saber-rattling battle. But director Rupert Sanders didn’t turn the two female leads into men. "That happens sometimes when films turn women into action heroes," he told USA Today. "But I made a decision not to have Kristen [Stewart] do anything that she wouldn’t realistically be able to do. The men follow her into battle because of the spirit within her." The men follow but do not lead in Snow White.

Melissa McEwan counters with an unconvincing case that the film remains sexist, and then claims that its casting decisions were prejudiced against real-life dwarves. Chris Orr, on the contrary, considers the dwarf characters "among the best elements of the film."