A Tale of Power and Beauty, Part II: Snow White by Amanda Kieffer

This is a moment we all face—the moment when we slay the enemy, only to realize we have slain ourselves and the enemy is still at large.   

In Part I of this blog, I analyzed the themes of power and beauty in the film Snow White and the Huntsman in relation to the character of the Queen.  In Part II, I would like to continue exploring these themes in light of Snow White’s character and her relationship with the Queen. That Snow White’s power is her beauty is clear.  True, it is stated right up front that Snow White is admired throughout her father’s kingdom “as much for defiant spirit as for her beauty.” However, it is her beauty that grants her agency and power, not her free and defiant spirit. The battle scene in the climax of the film illustrates this connection between power and beauty well—as Snow White drives her dagger into Ravenna’s heart she repeats the mantra: “By fairest blood it is done; by fairest blood it is undone.”  After Ravenna breathes her last, we see Snow White looking into the mirror on the wall, the victor, the fairest. Her beauty has allowed her to ascend to power. Her beauty has allowed her to defeat Ravenna. We are left wondering—who has won exactly?
Continue reading “A Tale of Power and Beauty, Part II: Snow White by Amanda Kieffer”

A Tale of Power and Beauty, Part I: The Queen by Amanda Kieffer

A closer look at Snow White and the queen reveals that these women have a common enemy that neither is either willing or able to perceive—the patriarchal lie that a woman’s power is synonymous with youth and beauty. 

A couple of weeks ago, to bide some time, I went to see Snow White and the Huntsman, the latest expression of the classic Grimm Brothers tale, “Little Snow White.” Expecting a mediocre experience, I was unprepared for the complex emotions that followed me out of the theater. Don’t misunderstand me: the film was mediocre.  But it also provided some poignant opportunities for me to reflect on my own feminist journey and to ponder some essential feminist themes.  While, Snow White and the Huntsman does offer some acute depictions of the reality of women’s lives, the film as a whole misunderstands these interpersonal dynamics, fails to acknowledge the true source of oppression and, in the end, offers up two lead female characters neither of which is liberating.  One is real but vanquished, the other unreal but victorious.

There are a number of elements in this film, which, in the barest terms, might hint at a genuinely appealing picture of female empowerment.  There is a powerful queen, who even above the male characters is the most complex and sympathetic.  She enjoys vast amounts of power and independence.  In this film we also encounter a Snow White who traipses around in pants and a torn up dress, which is delightfully ambiguous.  Continue reading “A Tale of Power and Beauty, Part I: The Queen by Amanda Kieffer”

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