I know, I know. The movie’s shit. I knew it was shit going in. Popular media make masochists of us all.
Isn’t it remarkable by the way that every dress in this movie bares and emphasizes a woman’s cleavage? Little wonder that the only kiss initiated by Bella Swan in this film–her one moment of sexual desire–is directed at another woman. All the other kisses are initiated by men who decide it’s awesome to molest her while she’s either comatose or dead, and therefore can’t consent.
The evil queen’s greatest crime, you see, is that she wants to execute #killallmen. She’s essentially Cersei Lannister given magic. A day after she first appears the king decides to take her to wife, and in the middle of consummating their wedding she hisses that men use and discard women after their beauty has faded: a view that the film never actually shows to be false. And yet, when she stabs the king in the heart it’s her who is in the wrong, and he in the right–King Magnus’ subjects insist he was a good and noble monarch, but we never saw any of that because the only thing dude does onscreen is to fight a battle in a fantastically dumb way (racing all the way from his castle to collide with a waiting army? Why aren’t your horses fucking dead?), fall in lust with a hot lady, and then proceed to paw her all over.
RAVENNA. I was once ruined by a king like you. I replaced his queen when she had grown old. And then he would have replaced me with someone younger. You men use us up and then throw us away like garbage.
I mean, ex-fucking-cuse me here, but we’re supposed to think she’s the bitch-whore from hell? She’s speaking from experience. If you’re a woman who lives in a misogynistic society, where you’re taught your only hope of survival is your beauty… then what is wrong with how she thinks? It’s sensible.
That he immediately gets murdered at Ravenna’s hand seems only a fitting fate for someone so broadly useless and incompetent.
There was a moment of hope there when, while the maids dress Ravenna for her wedding, she and Snow White nearly bond. Ravenna says almost word-for-word what Snow’s mother said: something about her heart, and then that she can never replace Snow’s mother. There could’ve been something there, with Ravenna teaching Snow White how to survive in a world ruled by and made for men, but since this is mindless Hollywood fare that’s discarded in favor of “Ravenna is an evil bitch whore!”
There’s some bizarre, stupid, awful thing about how Bella Swan is inherently pure: as seen here, a white stag at the center of a fairy forest bows to her and allows her to pet it, which the prophetic dwarf insists is evidence that she is magic–an embodiment of the power of life, such that she is able to heal all ills and dispel all unhappiness. Literally: one of the dwarf’s gout disappears. Bella Swan doesn’t need to do anything special to be exceptional and valuable; her blood or genes or some inborn magicalness is all she needs. Come to think of it, from the side the stag looks like a really huge dog-goat hybrid with antlers pastede on.
Everyone calls Snow White her father’s daughter, but not her mother’s daughter. Their automatic loyalty to her can be traced to their loyalty to her father. When she gives her motivational speech, what does she say?
SNOW WHITE. I can kill her. And I’d rather die today than live another day of this death! Who will ride with me? Who will be my brother?
Aside from the jaw-dropping stupidity of the speech itself–“I’d rather die today than live another day of this death” is utterly bafflingly campy–for some reason Bella Swan decides to demand that people be her brother (singular!), despite there being women in the crowd she addresses at the time. Not to worry of course, because the army she subsequently raises is all-men with her as its sole female figure Jeanne d’Arc style. Not that she actually leads, really, because their primary strategy seems identical to that used by her father way back when: to ride all the way from the duke’s castle and charge at a gate. This results in most of said army being decimated by ballistae, arrows, and boiling oil.
Remarkably, at the final confrontation Bella Swan remains in her shiny-armor get-up while Ravenna wears a black cleavage-baring gown. The message is obvious: to be worth anything a woman must be the Exceptional Woman and One of the Boys–girliness, especially sexual womanliness, is to be abhorred: Snow displays no sexual or romantic agency throughout, and has only the vaguest, faintest interest in her childhood sweetheart William (and whom she only kisses when he is actually Ravenna in disguise). In her death Snow’s dressed in white, and when she rises from it thanks to the huntsman’s kiss (only male power may save you, ladies! A man kissing you while you’re comatose? So magical it’ll resurrect you) it is in this virginal white that she motivates the duke’s people to fight for her with that stunningly stupid speech. She also cites her father, of course, because what is a princess if not daddy’s girl? Not that we ever saw any suggestion that he was much of a father–her upbringing it seems was taken care of entirely by her mother, while Daddy barely paid her any attention, but of course it’s the daddy who gets sainted while her mother is entirely forgotten.
I can’t even begin to unpack the women’s village, except only to say: why didn’t any of them show up at the final battle? I mean, they should have a pretty vested interest in this whole thing. But, of course, in this film the only woman who can be shown with sword and armor is the Exceptional Woman. It’s neat by the way that Ravenna has superhuman strength without needing sword or armor, but that’s not much given that Snow White defeats her anyway by sheer luck–with her final line to Ravenna (and her final line in the movie period, because at her coronation Snow seems only able to breathe loudly) being the peculiarly ambiguous, “You can’t have my heart.” That’s literal, yes, since Ravenna was after her heart to seize immortality, but it seems amazingly redundant, someone’s witless idea of a witty one-liner… but which coincides, uncomfortably, with that one (unwitting) lesbian kiss. She can’t have your heart, oh? Was it that kissing Ravenna was the most sexually excited you’ve ever been, Bella? Will your defense in court be “gay panic”?
Bella’s speech, by the way, is where you realize that Charlize Theron isn’t the only actor in this disaster to think “acting skill” equals “hamming it way the fuck up”: Bella’s speech isn’t just horribly written but ridiculously emoted, mostly by yelling at the top of her lungs. It’s not only that this is a deeply sexist movie; it’s also that it is incoherent, plotless, mindless, unrelenting in its general all-around inability to compel at any point except perhaps to root for Ravenna. There’s a dark forest, if you inhale the mushrooms you will hallucinate horrible shit, but this is pointless except as a random backdrop. There’s a fairy forest and it’s full of pixies and shit, but this also is pointless except as a random backdrop–both forests seem to be tributes to the Disney version of Snow White more than anything, as is Bella Swan’s dress. The dwarfs are just an odd addition to an already crowded film. I’m not sure why William is even around. The huntsman’s accent is hilarious, and most of the time I had difficulty telling him apart from William because they look identical: white men with brown hair and facial things. Whoever in charge of Bella’s makeup forgot she’s not supposed to be a vampire in this movie, so she constantly looks as though she’s just gotten out of her coffin, she’s that pallid. Finn is an incoherent character; we see him grimacing and cringing at Ravenna’s murderous ways, and seems to entertain some kind of conscience, except he’s also a rapist. Perhaps we are to understand that Ravenna’s utterly justified hatred of men is a worse sin than Finn going around raping women.
Both, of course, are endlessly stupid so it can only be deduced that the duke and assorted types are even less intelligent than the blonde siblings to have put up with her reign all those ten years. I’m still not sure why Bella eats the apple, by the way; she mumbles something about the trick she and William played as children. The trick being… to bite a big chunk out of an apple? And incidentally, Ravenna-as-William is the most depth you’ll see out of the character; the real William is so bland he’ll disappear if turned sideways.
For those interested, this is a movie where every named character (and most of the unnamed ones) is Aryan as all get-out, by the way. I’m not sure if any of the women other than Ravenna, Bella and that one girl Greta are named. Even Snow’s mother goes without. Despite the setting being some generic Western European fantasyland, Bella is seen praying fervently twice like a good Christian girl, in a troubling and clumsy attempt at contrasting her with… what? The evil witchery of Ravenna? Never mind that Bella’s encounter with the fairy forest isn’t exactly Christian, unless perhaps the white stag is meant to be a stand-in for Aslan and therefore for Christ.
Don’t watch this movie. Instead, read this short story by Jessica E. Kaiser, “Reflection.” It shouldn’t take more than a few minutes, and it does a much better job of everything than this sexist, incompetently-written failure.
This is how it begins.
You open the carved cherry-wood shutters and gaze into the mirror. The skirt with its heavy midnight brocade, the high-heeled slippers pinching your feet, the viciously tight corset stealing the air from your throat like the hand of a jealous lover—they make you beautiful.
Yes. Beautiful, with your blonde hair and blue eyes. He said it, and the mirror agrees.
The corset squeezes your lungs as it compresses your waist, and the weight of the gown he gave you is exhausting. But they make you beautiful.
Yes. Beautiful, with your black hair and your red lips. I agree.
This is how we begin.