I’ll be honest: I didn’t have high hopes for Mirror Mirror, what could have been a fantastic feminist take (girl saves boy; a commentary on beauty) on the classic Snow White tale but ended up being an offensive Disney-esque been-there, done-that effort.
Actually, Mirror Mirror did incorporate some of the abovementioned themes, but not in the ways I would have liked.
Firstly, let’s start with beauty. As an older woman, Julia Roberts’ character, the Queen, believes the only way she’ll make an impression as an older woman on the newly discovered Prince Alcott (the delectable Armie Hammer) is to up the ante on her beauty regime, which includes bees stinging her lips and bird poo being massaged into her face. This is not unlike what many women do on a regular basis, but I didn’t put two and two together until later in the film, when Snow White is about to kiss the Prince to break the puppy love-for-the-Queen spell he’s under. One of her seven dwarf-bandit comrades, Napoleon, thinks she needs a bit of sprucing up before her first kiss. The message here is not only that, clearly, older women need to do more to their bodies and faces in order to compete with younger women and stay relevant, but that something along those lines also applies to younger women. If you’re engaging in intimate acts with a member of the opposite sex, you need to look and act a certain way. It seeks to cement the notion that beauty is the main virtue a woman can have. If she doesn’t have it, she’s deemed worthless. If she does, like Lily Collins’ Snow, she’s got to work even harder to maintain it and play it up.
This confining notion of beauty is also represented in the seven dwarves, who were banished from the village by the Queen for being “ugly” and “undesirable”. The film could have run with the whole non-able-bodied-people-being-excluded-from-everyday-able-bodied-society angle, but instead that was pretty much the last thing we heard about that.
There was a lot of emphasis on the Queen being “crazy” and “mad” because she clawed her way to the top and would do anything to stay there, including poisoning the Prince in order for him to fall in love with her. When Snow decides to run away from her castle prison and join the dwarves, and Prince Alcott discovers this he, too, calls her “crazy” and “mad”. So standing up for what you believe in, whether that is something that other people think is a noble pursuit or not, makes you crazy. Oh, clarification: this only applies if you’re female.
Because you won’t be taken seriously by your male nemesis if you deign to step outside the boundaries set for you by the patriarchy, don’t you know? When Prince Alcott is confronted with the militant Snow White, he refuses to “fight a girl”, much less one that also “throws like a girl” and whom he would kiss if she wasn’t trying to kill him. The Prince takes to spanking Snow with his sword as they engage in combat, which was a confusing amalgamation of offensiveness and sexiness. I mean, I wouldn’t say no to a spanking from Armie Hammer, but in a movie seemingly geared towards children with a superficial pro-heroine stance, I don’t think it was entirely appropriate nor crucial to the story.
Finally, let’s look at domestic violence and animal abuse. When the Prince is under the puppy love spell and captured by Snow and the dwarves for torture, he claims his “only pain is being absent from my wife[-to-be]”, who doesn’t treat him so well in the first place. That he’s essentially a dog in this scene makes a certain point about animal cruelty, I think: that no matter how badly you treat a dog, as man’s best friend, they’ll always come back to you. Much like battered-wife syndrome, wouldn’t you say?
On that, when one of the dwarves tries to claim that Prince Alcott is clearly in love with Snow, and another exclaims, “He tried to kill her today!” the defence is, “Of course! What do you think love is?” That kind of “love” is dubious at best.
And so was this movie.
*Blanket spoiler alert.
Image via YouTube, IMDb.