Yes, I submitted this to a pun appreciation blog.
Yes, I got far too much joy out of this.
“Tired image of a star
Acting naughtier than we really are
If history could set you free (from who you were supposed to be)
If sex in our society (didn’t tell a girl who she should be)
‘Cause all my life I’ve tried to fight what history has given me”
If I liked you before Marina… <3
A six-year-old guesses what books are about. Some of these are brilliant. I particularly like her surrealist interpretation of 50 Shades of Grey, probably would have improved the book.
The Moon with bright and ever-seeing eye,
May reign supremely over sea and surf,
Less grand and yet as key as Lord of Sky
Is your wise part as Watchman of the earth.
What truths of human nature must you see?
What secret wand’rings does your white glow light?
To which amorous trysts are you privy?
Which violent crimes that plague the gates of night?
But nocturnal witness that you now play
To human shame, yet you do not begrudge,
You our trustee, keep secrets, unlike Day,
True lunar loyalty, you do not judge.
For bad or good, these ways you will abide,
Confidences kept, constant as the tide.
How symbolism in Snow White and the Huntsman unpicks representations of women and their cultural impact
It is a long known fact that Disney, as possibly the most pervasive of fairy-tale tellers in popular culture, has transformed various heroines into less than ideal pictures of women. Case and point is Snow White, who dreams of the day her life will be bettered: the day her prince “will come”, and who convinces the dwarfs she is worth saving because she’s good at ‘cooking and stuff.’ If one was to compare this Snow White to the latest depiction in this summer’s Snow White and the Huntsman we can at least say that the director has made an effort to present that elusive ‘strong female character’, if said presentation is rather 2D (storming the castle with an army in tow and killing your father’s murderer is really the least any blockbuster character would do.) But the failure or success of such a depiction is not half as interesting as the inescapable symbolism taking place throughout the film. Symbolism that, I believe, says a lot more about representations of female character than whether Snow White is able to wield a sword ever does.
The first is the explicit idea of beauty as a tool used to both define and destroy women. Ravenna, the evil queen, is traditionally obsessed with beauty and will kill to possess it forever. But her desire to be forever young, obsessing over wrinkles in her (albeit unconventional) mirror and implementing a bizarre beauty regime (bathing in milk!) is not so unfamiliar. Without overusing that blanket phrase for guilty parties: ‘the media’, we certainly still see a lot adverts for anti-aging creams because there is an audience for them, created by the cultural perception that age is undesirable and has an associated ugliness. What is one of the film’s most interesting comments, however, is the reason why Ravenna values her beauty so much; and that is that she is told by her mother. “Your beauty will save you” she says, as her daughter is stolen away from the comforts of home for the unforgiving world, not your smarts, not your charming personality: your beauty. And with those words, just as they undoubtedly did for Ravenna’s mother and her mother’s mother, the sole importance and power of beauty is cemented into her psyche and it literally becomes a curse. The parallels with society’s demands of women and its damages need hardly be drawn for you here.
Equally the film relays the ultimate consequence of such an emphasis, in that Ravenna, told that only her beauty is important can now only see other women as a threat. The tendency to pit women against each other in an attempt to weaken or dismiss them is seen in all walks of life. Here, reduced to a reflection, the once impressionable girl becomes a queen who views all other faces in her mirror as competition. Snow White is the manifest reminder that other women are objects to be jealous of and therefore eliminated, if not as literally as in the film, than in the gossipy, back-stabbing behaviour certain sections of our culture encourages (see: any reality T.V show ever made!).
The way the film sets up these damaging circumstances and then follows them through to their logical and all too realistic conclusions is interesting enough, but it also brings into the discussion one of the most common tropes in female representation: the opposition of the virgin and the whore, the knowing evil and the innocent. The importance of Snow White’s innocence is repeated throughout the film, it is this, hand in hand with her beauty (see the mirror’s advice), that can defeat Ravenna. And yet this ‘innocence’ seems more symbolic than a mere guilt-free conscience. Snow White is the eponymous clean slate, the blank page, the white sheet, whilst Ravenna is the stained one, illustrated by her inky transformation halfway through the film. But the queen only turns to evil when she becomes dependent on her beauty, and then crucially, when this single alliance betrays her. In her own words she was ‘ruined’ by a king once, who we assume is the man who takes her from her home as a girl and, we are strongly led to believe, robs her of her ‘innocence’. Ultimately Snow White is safe in and saved by her innocence, the nervous attempt at a first kiss with Prince William is evidence of this, and it is almost explicitly said that her innocence is that which allows her to be the heroine, as it is this that lends Snow her power against Ravenna. The queen on the other hand, who initially was probably told she was beautiful no more than Snow White is throughout the film, is sullied beyond repair. Woman is not merely ruined by the cultural emphasis on beauty, the film tells us, but also on the perception of where and when women should experience sex. It is perceived that the wrong place at the wrong time can, quite simply and ridiculously, turn you evil.
But if Ravenna is the product of cultural myths, then her brother, Finn, is no doubt the manifest benefactor of it. If these perceptions are so damaging then who gains from Ravenna’s (and society’s) constant quest for beauty? He does. He is sustained by her infinite search for beauty because her appearance becomes synonymous with her power (she literally wrinkles as she weakens) and he tags along for the ride-or should that be reign? Equally as he is sustained by it, he covets beauty, in the obvious manner he watches Snow White. This coveting is clearly no more than an objectifying desire. Importantly, the contradiction in the way he relies on this emphasis on beauty in Ravenna’s world and yet his blatant disregard for the importance of those who actually possess it is ultimately destructive. This is just as parts of society initially benefit from the damaging importance placed on beauty and thus then reduce and objectify those both perceived to be with and without it. No doubt in large part due to this contradiction Finn is revealed by implication to be a rapist, ironically he ‘ruins’ women in the manner that befell his sister. But through his actions he does not merely fulfil his desires, he simultaneously destroys the very thing that perpetuates them and that, on a larger scale, sustains his existence as a whole.
I could go on and examine why all the men in the film seem to have an inherent urge either to destroy or protect Snow White’s ‘innocence’ (a disservice as much to these men as to Snow White). Or to examine why Snow White is shown to be stronger than her passive Disney counterpart merely through stereotypically male attributes of power: military might and physical violence, that ultimately dismiss the promising vein of sacrifice running through the story. At each step forward for a modern, 2012 depiction of Snow White the film seems to take two steps back for a truthful depiction of women. But perhaps this in itself is a comment on the difficulties of modern, 2012 society to shake off beliefs belonging to a medieval period not unlike the one in which Snow White’s story is set. However one might view how intentional these messages are, the complexity of the symbols we are offered and the chance at least to interpret them in a meaningful way is better than merely watching Snow White ‘wishing for the one (she) loves to find her,’ or the idea that being confined to keeping house is all well and good, just as long as you ‘whistle while you work’.
Perhaps the might of Emily Dickinson really is the only thing that can save the Transformers films now.