Gender roles. Aaron H. Devor a professor of sociology and Dean of Graduate Studies at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, states that both women and men have to follow specific roles to fit into society. Children learn how to be a man or a woman when they are growing up with the help of fairy tales. In Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs these gender roles are being demonstrated through the whole story. The new version of Snow White, the movie Mirror Mirror directed by Singh Tarsem challenges the traditional gender roles of both women and men through comedy. In the new version the princess Snow White is brave and independent but it’s being undermined by that fact that she still cooks, cleans, and she cannot do anything without the help of the prince and the seven dwarfs. Whereas Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs focuses on traditional gender roles of how to be a woman or a man, the movie Mirror Mirror challenges these gender roles by switching the roles of the characters, but at the end the movie reaffirms patriarchy gender roles.
Snow white implies a lot of gender roles so that children know how to be more masculine and feminine. Snow White is the main character in the tale and it is the one that teaches these roles. In the tale she is always cleaning, cooking and taking care of the castle, being a good girl as Tyson the author of Feminist Criticism would argue. Since she was small, she has been the queen's maid and she had to follow rules and orders. When children read this tale, especially girls, they are learning how to do domestic work and how to be able to maintain a house clean and pretty for her and her family. Also the princesses the main characters in fairy tales have to be--beautiful, innocent and kind. Devor also states that femininity is characterized passivity and submission. A lot of the protagonists of fairy tales are stupid enough to be fooled by the antagonists which are the evil and hateful characters.
Since all the fairy tales describe the princesses as beautiful and obedient, young girls have the desire of becoming as beautiful as them .Ulmer Constance the author of “Beauty Matters: Hair Matters; Beauty, Power, & Black Women Consciousness by Ingrid Banks the Face of Our Past; Images of Black Women from Colonia Times to Presentclaims, "Women’s struggle for identity, unfortunately often continues to be associated with conditions of beauty. Young girls continue to learn through reading traditional children's literature such as Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White that prettiness often leads to success. These stories tout the theme of beauty is the key to happiness making the prince, and not so self-worth, the prize of every girl quest"(Constance 1). Girls see that the protagonists are beautiful and they grow up believing that they as well have to be beautiful to be successful and to be able to obtain a husband. Naomi Wolf stated in her article The Beauty Myth, “The beauty myth tells a story: The quality called ‘beauty’ objectively and universally exists. Women must want to embody it and men must want to possess women who embody it” (518). Women have to be beautiful so that men can be attracted to them. However, in fairy tales not all the women are beautiful; the evil characters are always cruel and most of the time hideous.
In Snow White the queen is the evil character; she is beautiful as well, but she is selfish because she wants to be the most beautiful woman in the kingdom. She was the most beautiful for many years until Snow White grew up. When she grew up she defeated the queen in beauty, making her jealous. After the queen tried to kill her, Snow White got lost in the forest and found the house of the seven dwarfs. She saw that the house was a mess so she decided to clean and organize it. When the dwarfs decided to let her stay she cleaned and cooked for them.
Snow White was the perfect woman a man could have, she was beautiful and she knew how to keep a house organized. When little girls read this fairy tale they learn that they have to be able to do domestic work so their husbands or the men that live with them are prosperous. The tale also demonstrates how Snow White is innocent and stupid. She was fooled by the evil queen when she bit the poisonous apple. So, this tales is suggesting that women are also very foolish because they trust every person believing that everyone else is kind like them.
When Snow White is under the spell, the prince that she had met before comes to rescue her. He kisses her because that is the only way to break the spell, after he kisses her, takes her away to his kingdom and marries her, and they live happily ever after. This part of the tale is also teaching little girls that every time they are in trouble or trapped, a prince is going to rescue them and they are going to marry him and live happily ever after similar to the princesses in the fairy tales.
When boys read fairy tales they are learning how to be brave, strong and courageous. In Snow White they see these roles as well as the girls do. They see how the prince saves Snow White and how he takes her away and marries her. When they grow up they want to be gorgeous so they can find a beautiful woman to marry. Also, when boys read Snow White they see that women are supposed to follow traditional gender roles and be submissive. Boys learn that they have to work and take the patriarchal role and be head of the house. “Traditional gender roles cast men as rational, strong, protective, and decisive” (Tyson, 83)
In the old version of Snow White the gender roles are being affirmed but in the new version the movie Mirror Mirror, the roles are being challenged switching the roles of the characters throughout the whole movie. These two versions are similar in their plot but they are v different by the way that gender roles are being demonstrated.
In both the new version and the new version Snow White's father dies at the beginning and the king remarries to a beautiful queen and then he dies as well later on. The queen also tries to get rid of her by asking the huntsman to kill her. In the movie Snow White is not the queen's maid, but she is kept inside the castle for eighteen years without going out. In the movie review of Mirror, Mirror Don’t be bashful: ‘Mirror” is happy, Claudia Puig states“Tarsem Singh the director of the movie brings cheeky humor, an eccentric sensibility and an enchanting look to his re-imagined tale”. His whole movie is a comedy and it keeps his spectators entertained and it never gets dull. When people are watching this movie they do not really pay attention to the gender roles and how each character is challenging them because they are well entertained since this movie is comedy of the Disney version of Snow White.
In the movie the queen is also beautiful and jealous of Snow White. Claudia Puig defines Snow White stepmother as—vain, amoral and petty, but wickedly charming. In this new versionshe disappeared Snow White's father mysteriously and took over the kingdom. Puig describes Snow White as kind and she is not the pushover depicted girl as in the Disney film. She is different in the movie because she reveals to the queen and escapes from the castle the day she turns eighteen. She meets the prince almost naked in the forest because the seven dwarfs had stolen all his belongings and his clothes. This scene shows a form of sexuality because the prince is very handsome and well built. In the movie the seven dwarfs are bandits and they are different characters. They wear huge accordion-style stilts that make them giants and scary looking.
The gender roles are being challenged in the movie because snow white is brave and independent but she is being undermined as well because when she escapes from the castle she persuades the dwarfs to let her stay with them. She cleans, cooks and takes her of their house suchlike in the old version of Snow White. The seven dwarfs give her permission to stay with them because they see that she is going to feed them, and keep the house clean and organized. This goes back to Tyson’s idea of traditional gender roles and it demonstrates that the gender roles are being reaffirmed in the movie as well. However, they are also challenged because in the movie the seven dwarfs teach Snow White how to fight and become a bandit like them so she could fight and defeat the queen. She trains with them every day so she can defeat the queen and keep her castle. Snow White fights the prince one time when she tries to steal the queen’s carriage because the prince was traveling in the queen’s carriage taking the people’s taxes to the queen.
The queen is very unfair with the people in the kingdom because every time that she wants to do a ball she collects taxes from the poor people. She also wants to marry the prince, but he does not love her because he is in love with Snow White. The queen wants the prince to love her so she gives him a love formula to make him fall in love but she fails and the formula makes the prince behave like a dog. When Snow White hears about the queen’s marriage, she goes and rescues the prince because she is in love with him. She takes the prince with her back to the dwarf's house and breaks the spell by kissing him. The characters in the movie are challenging the norms because they are doing the opposite of the old version. Claudia Puig points out that this is a fairy tale for youth audiences that have grown up with empower heroines from Shrek and Mulan. At the end of the movie Snow White defeats the beast that lives in the woods with the help of the prince and the seven dwarfs and defeats the queen, but once again Snow White is being undermined because she defeats the queen with the help of the guys. This scene is portraying women as weak and in need of the help of others to accomplish what they want and desire. At the end of the movie, Snow White and the prince get marry and live happily ever after like in all the other fairytales.
In conclusion, both of these versions of Snow White focus on traditional gender roles and beauty. In the movie the gender roles are being challenged, but at the end it reaffirms them. They both teach children how to be a man or a woman by the ideas of patriarchy. Children today are still going to be learning those roles because the fairy tales are not going to change; they might make the female characters more brave and independent, but at the end everything is going to be back to normal.
Devor, Aaron H.. "Becoming Members of Society: Learning the Social Meaning of Gender".
Lois, Tyson. Critical Theory Today: A User-Friendly Guide New York: Garland Publishing Inc.
Review by Claudia, Puig. “Don’t be bashful: ‘Mirror’ is happy.” USA Today n.d.: Academic Search Complete. Web. 4 Nov. 2012