So, here’s the thing. It bothers me that people scream “whitewashing” with Disney when it comes to skin colour. People always point out “Disney makes the good guys pale and the bad guys dark.” This statement has always bothered me because when I think back through them, I don’t see bad guys as dark. If nothing else, I think of them as lighter-skinned/coloured. So, I decided to create a series of posts using screencaps and giving a summary of the originals.
Are there other things in the stories that are “whitewashed” in order to appeal to upper and middle class American girls of European descent? Sure. Do the princesses tend to have Caucasian features in general? Yes. Disney wanted their primary audience to relate to their movies and, like it or not, up until recently (if you consider the history of the company), that was what they considered their primary demographic. Unfortunately, with the strength of imperialism in our world’s past, often the more “ethnic” a woman looks historically, the more self-conscious they were/are about their features because status came from looking like the ruling class. Now, thankfully, we live in a time that is becoming more enlightened and most people find beauty in all of the races, cultures, and ethnicities. As a result, Disney is now considering a much wider demographic, thankfully, and we are getting more variety in our princesses.
Also, yes, I know that we can debate the positives and negatives of Disney movies all day long. We could look at relationship issues, damsels in distress, flat romantic male leads, women as protagonists, gender issues, etc. I’m not addressing every topic under the sun. Books could be written on the politics of Disney (and probably have been). This is one series of posts. If you have a topic you want my thoughts on in regards to these movies, or any movie, I’m happy to rewatch and post thoughts on said topic. Just let me know.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
- Original Author/Work: “Snow White” by the Brothers Grimm
- Original Summary:
In the middle of winter, the queen is sitting at her window working on some embroidery. The frame she was working within was made of ebony, the snow she was looking at was white, and when she pricks her finger, three drops of blood fall. She then proceeds to wish for a daughter made of these three colours, gives birth, and promptly dies. A year later, the king remarries, thus giving us our first Evil Stepmother of the bunch.
Stepmommy had a magic looking-glass that she would stand in front of and say, “Looking- glass upon the wall/Who is fairest of us all?” The looking-glass always responded with, “You are fairest of them all.” This made her happy and she did it every day for years. Of course, when Snow turns seven she’s gloriously beautiful as only little children can be and the mirror replies with “Queen, you are full fair, ‘tis true, But Snow-white fairer is than you.” Ouch. Time to ramp up that jealousy and hatred.
One day, when she can’t take the mirror’s response any longer, she calls the Huntsman and says, “Take the child out into the woods, so that I may set eyes on her no more. You must put her to death, and bring me her heart for a token.” The Huntsman, being a human being says he’ll do it and then feels bad for killing a little girl. So, instead, he lets Snow run away and brings back the heart of a boar, which the queen promptly has cooked up and eats for dinner. Ahhh, cannibalism…
- Place: Germany
- Did the Story Change: Yes.
- Good Guys (Main): Snow White & Prince Charming
- Villains (Main): Evil Queen (both forms)
- Skin Colour Comparison: Pretty much everyone in this movie is pale, but that makes sense considering it’s location. Prince Charming is a bit darker than the other characters. Also, the witch is a little more red than any of the others. In hag form she’s downright ugly/creepy.