As a child of the ’90s, I grew up loving and admiring the work of Walt Disney Animation Studios (I still do and forever will!). The films have taught me lessons on bravery, love, happiness and feminity. I have learned that money does not guarantee a content life, and sometimes the worst circumstances spawn the strongest people. I was told by several characters that the most difficult challenges yielded the most fulfilling results. But I also learned that sometimes, as a woman, your voice isn’t going to be respected the way it should even if you are assuming the role of a stereotypical princess. I chose to rewatch a Disney classic, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, with fresh eyes and was a bit dishearted at how cartoons in the 1930s portrayed certain ideas of feminity.
Snow White is the sweetest and the most gentle of all the Disney Princesses. She is naïve, sentimental, helpful and kind. In the beginning of the film, the audience sympathizes with Snow White for having to endure the strict and heartless authority of her evil stepmother. She yearns for a happier life outside the castle walls, but it is interesting how she perceives it. In her debut song, “I’m Wishing,” Snow White sings “I’m wishing / For the one I love To find me / Today/ I’m hoping,” which immediately fulfills the role of a damsel in distress who is in need of a hero to achieve her rescue. Snow White wants nothing more than a prince to come sweep her off her feet because she cannot bear solitude any longer and believes the only escape from her servile way of life is finding a prince who reciprocates her love.
In Mary Celeste Kearney’s article, Pink Technology: Mediamaking Gear for Girls, readers are invited to witness a breakdown of the production of a pink Barbie video camera. This toy is specifically designed for young girls but it functions as another medium to reinforce the traditional beliefs and practices of the female role. Kearney explains that this technology reassures “parents [who] have long socialized girls to see their homes as their primary site of leisure, because domestication keeps them safely away from the dangers of the outside world and prepares them for their future roles as mothers and homemakers,” (Kearney, 2010). At an early age, society tells young girls that the home is a place where a woman can work and feel safe which is reflected in the making of the camera.
Disney also attempts to romanticize Snow White’s passive domesticity with a merry and catchy tune but in actuality is exclaiming to the audience that if women simply fantasize that housework items are “someone that you love,” then it makes the job easier and more enjoyable. It is also interesting to note how Snow White continues to play a subservient role even when she encounters the titular seven dwarfs. Initially, the dwarfs are on the fence about letting her stay with them. It is only after Snow White offers to do their housework that the dwarfs agree to let her stay: “Oh, she’ll never find me here. And if you let me stay, I’ll keep house for you. I’ll wash and sew and sweep and cook,” and the dwarfs joyfully cheer in unison, “Gooseberry pie? Hurray! She stays!” Snow White earns her place by cooking and cleaning around the house, reprising her previous role as a maid. It has been instilled in her mind that the only way to appeal to others is by serving them dutifully. Even when she first entered the house before meeting the dwarfs, Snow White could not resist tidying up with her animal companions.
The presentation of females gaining satisfaction whilst willingly performing housework for the sole purpose of appealing to their man is highly troubling because this film is for younger audiences, specifically young girls.
Kearney, Mary Celeste. (2010). Pink Technology: Mediamaking Gear for Girls. Camera Obscura 74.