We went to see “Snow White and the Huntsman” last night. Besides the Huntsman factor (swoon!) I was a little preoccupied with the fact that this is ultimately a story about youth, beauty, ageing, and women in competition with each other.
To be fair, it is more complex and that, and it turned out to be a really entertaining fantasy romp. It’s just that in a former life I was a feminist sociologist who specialized in the study of beauty practices and feminist identity. So I have this nasty habit of obsessing over the issue of beauty, since I’ve literally stewed in its dark underbelly.
I would have to say that beauty and ageing are two of the most ubiquitous and painfully relevant issues for women in our stupid, looks-obsessed culture. Women have got a lot more going on than just pantihose and lipstick, but somehow our appearance manages to stay at the forefront of our experience, in some pretty pervasive ways.
Although the film deals with the issue quite well, it’s still kind of disturbing that the main conflict consists of the queen getting old and hating Snow White for being young. I mean, if the poor woman considered everything else she had going for her, like rule of an entire kingdom and some freaky magical powers, she might not have been so obsessed with killing Snow White with spikes. But then again, I could be wrong.
One of my favourite video games, Final Fantasy 8, has a similarly disturbing theme, in that the all-powerful sorceress is mainly evil because she doesn’t have a “knight” to keep her in check. Now that’s just poppycock. What are we to take from stories like this; that in order to be happy, women need to be young and have a boyfriend? Good grief!
But let’s be real here for a minute. I know how easy it is to look at other women and feel jealousy, particularly when you feel inadequate yourself. Cultural beauty standards are so fucking high, that there are just too many damned things to feel inadequate about. It ain’t fair to expect women to disinvest in this cultural landmine; it just kinda sucks when we invest too much, despite our best efforts to the contrary.
Maybe that’s something that can be taken away from this story, is that it really does frame the queen as a tragic character; a bit of a warning about how unrealistic (and in fact impossible) standards of beauty can negatively affect women of all ages. Cause we don’t have to agree with the beauty standards to be deeply hurt by them, y’all.
Anyway, I think it’s a pretty cool movie, and you should probably check it out if you love a good fantasy film like I do. And in case you’re interested in learning more about the age/beauty subject in this film, you can find out what Charlize Theron had to say about it here (between 1:10 and 2:00).
I’m sorry to say I couldn’t find an interview with Julia Roberts talking about this same issue in her film, Mirror Mirror. But in a line from the film, she states quite eloquently, “it’s not a wrinkle; it’s a crinkle.” Them’s words to live by, ladies.