Pass me those Ferrero Rocher, Monsieur Attache. It's time for me to take up my role as an Ambassador again...
However, this time I'm not wearing my Oscars style floor-length gown with the perilously high heels. Nor indeed am I all decked out in the latest sharp business suit with my 'I mean business' Laboutins. No, today this Ambassador is wearing fatigues, soldier, because she's mad and has decided that this is no time for Mrs Nice Guy. Mrs Nice Guy has, in fact, temporarily left the building, and been replaced by Mrs 'WTF! Drop down and give me 20! And whilst you're at it, clean the heads with a toothbrush and DON'T LET ME SEE YOU USING THAT WUSSY ELECTRIC ONE!!!'
Hmm. What's brought this on? I mean, I've sat through a number of films in my role as a Disney Blu-Ray Ambassador, including Beverly Hills Chihauha and High School Musical 3, so you would have thought that any scruples I had would have long since bitten the dust. But no. It turns out that all it takes to press my buttons is what may well be one of the best-loved movies of all time.
Now, before it was sent to me to review, I had never watched Snow White all the way through. Sure, I had seen excerpts from it on countless tv show 'best-of's, the dwarves merrily whistling as they worked in the mine, the dastardly queen talking to her mirror and such-like, but I had never sat down and watched the movie from beginning to end. So when it arrived last week in all it's Blu-Ray glory, I happily sat down with my sons and did so.
Let me start by saying that the High Definition delivery on this version is just about as faultless as it could be with the source material they were working with. Short of starting from scratch and making the whole movie again, I don't think they could have done a better job (or at least, not until the next new technology, whatever that may be, is out of the labs and in common usage).
But actually, I think that that is exactly what Disney should do; make the whole movie again, preferably with a completely different plot. Because, for a modern mother trying to teach equality between the sexes to her two young sons, the storyline stinks. I know that a lot of older animated moves can't be held up as being models of virtue, Sleeping Beauty definitely being one of them, but I can't remember the last time I found myself feeling as uncomfortable about a property created for children as I was when watching Snow White with my boys.
Where to start? Maybe with the sound-track. Not only does it jar with the crisp and colourful animation, reminding you at every turn that whilst the pictures have been updated, there is only so much that can be done with pre-digitally recorded sound, but Snow White's voice has got to be one of the most annoying I have ever heard. She's supposed to be at least 16 years old, for pete's sake (or at least, one would hope so bearing in mind that the mirror deems her old enough to be more beautiful than the icily gorgeous queen and suitable to be of interest to the Handsome Prince), and yet she has a 7 year old's voice, and that's with my being generous to a 7 year old's vocal skills. A child's voice in a young woman's body. What's right with that?
Or perhaps it's the way that the so-called heroine of this movie is so passive, and frankly, a bit of a wimp. Oh, she sighs at the tasks she's set by her cruel stepmother, but she doesn't do anything about changing her lot. No, she meekly finishes washing the steps and sings a charming little song about a wishing well. And when given a reprieve from certain death by the Huntsman and told to run for her life, she finds everything in the forest so terrifying that she swoons... I mean, swoons? Please. Give me a break.
I think though that what I found most irritating about this movie is the blind assumption that Snow White had no control over her own fate. It was down to the Queen to persecute her, try to murder her, and cast the spell of Sleeping Death over her, and down to the prince to kiss her, wake her, and sweep her away to Happy Ever After Land; she just had to stand (or sit, or sleep) and look beautiful. All the good - and bad - stuff would come to her simply because of that.
Now, I'm not for a moment saying that we've moved so far from 1937 - when this movie was made, which goes a long way to explaining it's sexism - that there aren't plenty of women around today who fit this stereotype. And I'm not even saying that this approach - of waiting for life to come to you instead of going out there and making it happen - isn't lauded in certain magazines and in other forms of mass-media. Or indeed that it isn't aspired to by a whole tranche of young girls and women who should know better.
I'm just saying that in this current day and age Snow White's example of womanhood is - to me at least - outdated and dangerous, and that it's not one that I feel comfortable showing to my children. Never mind that all this subtext went right over the Boy's heads, it's the start of a slippery slope and there are enough opportunities for them to see sexism in action in real life without having it sugar-coated and fed to them as a fairy tale. So I'll be sending our copy back to the agency who forwarded it to me.
Thanks, Disney, but you can keep this one.
And for those of you who haven't watched it in a while, who think I'm making a fuss over nothing, I suggest you sit down and watch it again - and then read my post...