|Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Photographs and Prints|
When I first came up with the idea for these posts, I thought it would be interesting to see how the role of women in society was reflected (or not) in these classic stories and movies. Did the female MC role development from damsel in distress to savior of the prince/kingdom follow the changing role of women in society? Well, if you go by the dates the stories were written, the answer would be no. But I’ll talk more about that when we get to Mulan. For now, let’s take a look at Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
|"Offterdinger Schneewitchen (2)" by Offterdinger|
In the Disney animation film of 1937, Snow White is portrayed as a domestic worker. She cooks and cleans for the dwarfs in exchange for her room and board. How does that relate to women in the 1930’s? According to the US Census, out of the eleven million working women (24.3% of women 14 and older) almost ⅓ worked in domestic or personal service. Therefore, I find that Snow White is a good reflection of society’s perception of the working woman.
But, then Prince Charming comes into the picture, and things change. It isn’t a leap to assume that Snow White marries Charming and leaves her working days behind her. And, in the 1930’s, it appears to have been similar for the working woman.
It was frowned upon for married women to hold jobs. Single, working women were seen as “helping out their families”, yet a married, working woman was perceived as “taking a job from a man”. During the Depression, laws were even created to prevent more than one family member from working for the government.
|"Franz Jüttner Schneewittchen 2" by Franz Jüttner|
In conclusion, it appears that Snow White is a good representation of women in the 1930’s. I also believe that if Snow White was adapted to the screen today, there would be some stark differences in the way the famous Disney Princess would be portrayed. Our movies have moved away from the helpless damsel-in-distress to women who can and do fight for what they want/need. Not that they don't ask for or receive help, but they aren't waiting on the sidelines for the guy to save the day. I think a modern interpretation of Snow White would have a smarter heroine, one who didn't fall so easily for the evil queen's tricks. What do you think?