Myrna Waldron at Bitch Flicks comes to the defense of Disney princesses, and finds some feminist cool in them. Here’s what she says about Snow White:
I knew it would be a difficult and thankless task to write a feminist defense of the pre-1960s Disney Princesses. But part of my personal definition of feminism is to celebrate and empathize with all kinds of women, especially if they are portrayed in a positive light. In that sense, Snow White is perhaps the sweetest and kindest of the Disney Princesses. Like many of the other Princesses, she is a victim of circumstance. Physically and emotionally, she can’t be more than 12 to 14. To be orphaned and subsequently demeaned at such a young age would be hard for anyone to deal with, but as we see in the beginning of the film, Snow White makes the best out of a bad situation. To remain cheerful and hopeful in a situation like hers is a strength of character I think many of us wish we could have.
Her song, “I’m Wishing”, reflects her emotional depth of character. It is not specifically a handsome boyfriend she longs for, she is longing for someone to love. That’s quite understandable considering she has lost everyone who loved her. “I’m Wishing” is a prayer for affection; “I’m hoping and I’m dreaming of the nice things he’ll say.” Her subsequent infatuation with the prince who meets her is another aspect of her personality. Since she is barely out of childhood, she still has a childlike trust and strong affection for anyone who treats her with kindness; we see this again later in her relationship with the Dwarfs, and her unfortunate trust in the disguised Queen.
What, then, of her famous domestic talents? Note that once she’s left the castle, she doesn’t do chores because she is expected to or forced to do them. When she stumbles upon the dwarfs’ cottage, she wonders if the messiness is because the inhabitants are orphaned children like herself. She sees herself in this situation; a motherless child forced to fend for herself. Her inherent sweetness and kindness shines through here. She volunteers to clean up the cottage because she does not want to deny anyone else that which she has been denied. This, I think, is a good feminist message. Women have been, and are, often denied rights and marginalized, but it is our conviction that someday this will end, and that if we can prevent it, or do anything else to help someone in a similar situation, we will gladly do so. And, like Snow White, when confronted with a difficult job, we will “Whistle While You Work” to give us strength to get through it.
Dammit, Waldron is right. She goes on to offer fresh perspectives on Cinderella, Aurora, Ariel, Belle, and Jasmine, too. Give it a read — it’s worth your time.
(If you stumble across a must-read link, feel free to email me.)