Pop Culture in “Snow White and the Huntsman”

Warning: contains spoilers.

Image courtesy of Www.CourtneyCarmody.com/ (flickr.com)

Maria Tatar, in her wonderful post in the New Yorker on “Snow White and the Huntsman,” writes that, “Like all fairy-tale adaptations, it . . . operates like a magnet, picking up relevant bits and pieces of the culture that is recycling the tale.” Indeed, fairy tale retellings often reflect the culture in which they are written.

So, what does Rupert Sanders’s new version of Snow White reflect about our current trends and cultural interests? I have a couple of ideas:

1) Zombies!

What? Yeah. Maybe it’s because I’m starting to hear “zombie apocalypse” every day now from the people around me, but my mind went immediately to zombies when, near the beginning of the film, the dark army attacks the kingdom. And the reason was: the army’s flags were ripped and filthy, like zombie rags. This correlation is hard to support, because, as the viewer finds out–not too much surprise here–the soldiers are not zombies . . . They are, though, a special sort of non-living creature. So then, even though they are clad in armor, faceless, and do not want to eat your brains, they still hit on the main fear that zombies call on (as opposed to other magical killers), the fear of an unthinking, nonliving mass bent on your destruction.

Okay, there are no zombies–at least in the traditional sense. I’m trying to figure out how to view delaying death in terms of “being alive.” In the movie, the evil queen and her brother’s unnatural youth delays death but also makes them numb, as the brother says at one point when the magic is taken out of him: “I feel!” Interesting. Would being technically alive but literally unable to feel mean that you are less alive than your average Joe or Jane?

So, perhaps the “living undead” is a more apt subtitle, which also has resonances with the vampire trend and all that jazz.

2) Bows are in.

Bows with arrows (not hair bows or bowties . . .). They’re pretty chill now. Everyone who’s anyone in a fantasy flick has a bow. The LA Times and USA Today even picked up on this trend. Should we thank Legolas for pioneering?

Along these lines: also in are curly, dark-haired men. Best with cape.

3) Dangerous male protector

The only other titles I know that mention anyone besides Snow White are “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” and “Snow White and Rose Red.” So, it feels significant that this newest version is called “Snow White and the Huntsman.” It’s the first time, as far as I know, that Snow White is paired with a love interest in the title. Sure, it could be argued that this tie is just another way to objectify her as “the girl” in the story, highlighting her role as the one who needs to be rescued. However, heightening the love interest aspect of the story also makes this Snow White more grown up than the previous versions that highlight her childishness.  A more grown-up Snow White is more able to make proactive choices. In this film, she has the freedom to decide whether or not to trust her two love interests–the Huntsman and William.

A la: Twilight. Sookie Stackhouse series. Really, all vampire stories.
Don’t forget: werewolves are on par.
Also: Katniss Everdeen’s love interests are also dangerous killers. Peeta’s original mission in the Games is to kill everyone, including her!

Okay, I’m stopping at three . . .

. . . Though, I do want to end on the musing that, although lately, storytellers have been careful to use strong heroines rather than heroes, perhaps we still need to press on with providing more examples of female leadership, if only so that heroine imagery does not default to Joan of Arc (as it does in this film), as if that was our only example.

Have you noticed any other trends that the film reinforced?

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