Snow White Modifications in Gender Roles
Snow White variations and the fairy tales of today are a far cry from the versions of long ago. This is thanks in no small part to the changing and development over time of the roles genders play in the tales. As societies change, the readers of the stories change, therefore, fairy tales and their gender roles change also.
Through the years... • Our Society is pushing to alter gender roles in fairy tales like Snow White. Patterson-Neubert says , “Its important to understand the message our children receive about traditional gender roles, especially during a time when women are encouraged to be independent and rely on their brains rather than beauty”.
Through the years... • Snow White has been revised by many different people. “The 1812 Grimms’ version of “Little Snow White" is a darker, chillier story than the musical Disney cartoon, yet it too had been cleaned up for publication, edited to emphasize the good Protestant values held by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm” (Windling). • Gender roles are part of the way the Grimms and even Disney cleaned up Snow White. The way the gender roles are portrayed changes through the different versions of Snow White.
Mother to Step-mother • In the Grimm’s 1812 version of Snow White, “Snow-White's jealous antagonist is her own mother, not a stepmother,” (Grimm) like the Grimm’s 1819 version and Disney’s 1937 animated film, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”.
Mother to Step-Mother • The Grimm’s 1819 version of Snow White added the statement that “Snow White’s mother died during child birth and her father remarried”. • In the 1937 Disney version, Snow White’s antagonist continues to be her “vain and wicked stepmother” (movie). This is surprising since after the Grimms’ 1819 version, “there were complaints about the figure of the guilty stepmother, people thought this presentation of the stepmother in the folk tale an injustice to the many good stepmothers” (Tucker).
Mother to Step-mother • Ward says this “also reflects a significant tradition in terms of gender roles”. The hateful step-mother could be introduced into the picture to convey the missing “caretaker role”, because “the woman’s role was to be a breeder and a caretaker” (Ward). • The evil step mother did not fill this role, she did the opposite. This shows a negative view of females. • One cause of this switch is that society rejected the idea of a mother killing her own daughter. • Windling says that for the Grimms’, “the bad mother had to disappear in order for the ideal to survive and allow Mother to flourish as symbol of the eternal feminine, the motherland, and the family itself as the highest social desideratum”.
Mother to Step-Mother • In the more recent spin off, Sydney White, instead of the blood related mother or surrogate step mother, her antagonist is the president of a sorority. • Looking at these variations of Snow White, its evident that the evil mother role diminished.
Snow White Should Have Been Blonde... • In the 1812 Grimms’ version, Snow White is actually shown as dumber and more naïve than she is in the Disney version. She lets the jealous Queen trick her 3 times. • In the Disney version, she is only tricked once with the poisoned apple, which doesn’t show the audience such an ignorant female role. This shows a better representation of the female gender.
Clean Dwarfs-Dirty Dwarfs • In the Grimms’ version, the dwarfs were very clean, the story even said, “Inside the house everything was small, but so neat and clean” (Grimm). • In the Disney version of Snow White, the dwarfs were extremely messy, she even had to make them wash. This is showing a negative male gender role.
Men vs Women • In America in 1937, men were expected to be the bread winners, while the women were the caretakers and housekeepers. • So America’s society in 1937 viewed men as being not as clean and well kept as women, because like the dwarfs, most men went to work everyday, while the women took care of the house.
Men vs Women • Snow white learns about the work ethic and is socialized into woman's domestic role” (Heiner). • A quote from my six year old cousin fits the concept of women being the housekeepers well, “boys make messes and girls clean them up” (Davis). • The dwarfs demanded Snow White to clean and cook, so she could stay with them. This was normal for the time period that the film was released and obviously, from my cousin’s opinion, it seems like some children still pick up the old-fashioned concept.
Courteous Dwarfs - Respect • In the Disney movie, the dwarfs all slept down stairs and let Snow White have the upstairs all to herself. This shows a positive male gender role, courtesy. • This also reflects a time period, when parents didn’t want their kids to see the men and women sleeping in the same room. • “The dwarfs are sexually unthreatening to Snow White” (Heiner).
Happily Ever After... • In the Grimms’ version, Snow White didn’t know the Prince before the day she was saved. • In the 1937 Disney version, they sang to each other before Snow White had to run away. • This shows that society was more comfortable with letting Snow White meet the Prince and have a crush on him before she married him.
Less Violence • In the Grimms’ versions, the Queen said, “Kill her, and as proof that she is dead bring her lungs and her liver back to me... and the wicked woman ate them, (which were really a boar’s) supposing that she had eaten Snow-White's lungs and liver” (Grimm). • In the Disney version, there was no attempt at cannibalism. This shows a change in the female antagonist role. This change could be due to the society not wanting their children to see women act that gruesome.
Less Violence • In the Grimms’ 1812 version, Snow White is saved when a servant angrily hits Snow White, which makes the apple dislodge. • In the Grimms’ 1819 version, the apple is dislodged when a servant carrying the coffin stumbles over a stump.
Less Violence • In the Disney version, the Prince kisses her and she wakes up. There is no aggression shown at all. • The ending changes from a man actually hitting her, to the Prince kissing her. • The first version represented male aggression, became cleaner, and then the third ending became romantic.
Work Cited Davis, Ethan. Personal interview. 22 Mar. 2008. Grimm, Jacob and Wilheim. “Little Snow White” 2002. 18 March 2008. <http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/type0709.html#snowwhite> Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm. “Little Snow White” 5 Nov. 2005. 18 March 2008. <http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/grimm053.html> Heiner, Heidi. “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”. 4 July 2007. 10 April 2008. <http://www.surlalunefairytales.com/sevendwarfs/notes.html> Patterson-Neubert, Amy. “Experts say fairy tales not so happy ever after.” 11 Nov. 2003. 18 March 2008. <http://news.uns.purdue.edu/UNS/html4ever/031111.Grauerholz.tales.html> Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. William Cottrell. Walt Disney. Videocassette. Buena Vista Home Video. Sydney White. Joe Nussbaum. Chad Gomez Creasey. DVD. Morgan Creek Productions. Tucker, Nicolas. “Snow White Issues.” Kay E Vandergrift. 6 Jan. 1997. 18 March 2008 . <http://www.scils.rutgers.edu/~kvander/swissues.html> Ward, Sara. “Grimm Fairy Tales: the Role of Rhetoric in Gender Roles and Sexuality.” 18 March 2008. <http://www.cbu.edu/Academics/honors/hj2k3_grim.htm> Windling, Terri. “Snow, Glass, Apples: The Story of Snow White.” 18 March 2008. <http://www.endicott-studio.com/rdrm/forsga.html>