This article helps us to realize that Snow White was portrayed as the women she was due to the era in which Disney created his version. The author notes that during the Disney Studio era even strong women characters were turned into stereotyped characters that accepted their passive and submissive roles that were nested in the male-dominated, heteronormative part of the era. In this era film reflected the social changes and cultural attitudes of the patriarchy. Therefore fairy tales ended up reflecting the “patriarchal symbolical order”. This order was based on the rigid notions of sexuality and gender of the early 20th century.
The author points out that Disney’s primary goal, like all other production companies, was to sell products associated with the production. Therefore he needed to appeal to both children and their parents, so he chose to incorporate the societal rules of the time into his films. Another aspect contributing to the passive roles of females in Disney films was The Production Code Administration (PCA). This administration had a strict list of things not to do and things to be careful of when filming a movie and determining its content. In 1930 the code represented moral principles and the highest ideals and morals of the time.
It seems that in order for Disney to be compliant with the code, Disney thrust his female characters into the unchangeable patriarchal realm. This realm contained notions of meritocracy and fate (men and women). The author claims that Snow White was the most significant heroine of the studio era claiming that she is helpless and in need of protection, but when it comes to the action portions of the film she is nowhere to be seen. This causes me to ask, how exactly does that make her a heroin?
Throughout this article the author also refers to some other authors to validate her points. Some of these other authors claim that on screen women do not actually represent women, but they are figures of the patriarchal unconscious. They validate this by giving evidence that Disney films were created by only men. This explains why disney female characters barely had any distinctive characteristics. Especially for Snow White, she is said to have a good moral sense and is a helpful and sympathetic character, but she has no will or aims of her own.
Then the author goes into discussing the dwarfs and how they are portrayed by Disney, and what the represent according to the patriarchy views. The author goes to explain how the dwarfs, even though they are men, are in fact children who are looking for a nurturing mother to take care of them. Which is how Snow White came to live with them. The author explains how they adored Snow White, but as soon as the prince came into the picture, all seven of them sank back into their “infantile roles”.
The author then starts to talk about the prince and how he is the real center of the movie. The author mentions how Disney associated himself with the prince mainly because he is the only one who can save Snow White. The author mentions how it is the privileged central male character whom the audience sees the film through. The author also mentions how Snow White is only in the center because she is the spectacle, and that she waits passively until she can fulfill her role at the end of the prince’s journey.
The author describes the many roles of Snow White as a masquerade, which is covering her lack of a strong personality. One of the authors sources claims that one of the main focuses of this film is the “domestication of women”, a role that allows Snow White to show her most distinctive qualities. One of these qualities is her ability to take charge. This quality is only applied to giving orders to her forest friends and to the dwarfs when they are not being cooperative. Another way in which the audience can see a change in Snow White is the way in which she matures throughout the film. The author claims that Snow White matured only because she lived with the dwarfs, and it was because of their guidance that she was able to reach the stage of maturity and understanding.
Ultimately, we need to remember that it was because of the time period in which the film was created that guided the character development of Snow White. The 1930s was a time of male domination and patriarchy. It was men who controlled everything while women just stood by and said nothing. Men had the final say, so that is why Snow White is portrayed as such a passive character, and as to why the Disney version is not feminist at all.
By Shelbie Cornelius