Mirror mirror on the wall, which movie breaks the most gender stereotypes of them all?

Sanne van Oosten

Is it the movie Hunger Games featuring female action hero Katnis Everdeen? Is it The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo featuring the relentless hacker Lisbeth Salander? Wrong and wrong! It might just be the modern day rendition of the notoriously sexist fairy tale of Snow White. Mirror Mirror with Lily Collins as Snow White and Julia Roberts as the evil stepmother. Let’s run through the ways in which Mirror Mirror breaks and reinforces gender stereotypes, in a match between breaking and reinforcing.

Admittedly, this movie is still full of gender stereotypes, in case you were worried. For instance, much attention is directed at the beauty of the two female main characters. Snow White is young and naturally beautiful and the attractiveness of the evil stepmother is slowly fading, which is emphasized by the one-liner in every trailer I’ve seen “I don’t have wrinkles, they’re just crinkles!”. But on the other hand, the evil step mother can hardly pull herself together when she sees the half-dressed prince in front of her. She is baffled at his beauty even before he has said a word. Next, she tries to prevent him from getting dressed, just so she can stare at him in delight a little bit longer. A situation that would usually take place featuring a half-dressed woman and a male spectator who likes what he sees. The score is 1-1.

When Snow White is expelled to the scary forest, she meets up with the seven dwarves. Each is a character in its own, but what they miss is a female touch. This is where Snow White comes in and where yet another gender stereotype is emphasized. When the dwarves come home from a long day at work, Snow White has an elaborate home cooked meal ready for them. I’m guessing I needn’t explain how that emphasizes a certain gender stereotype. But on the other hand, the dwarves do teach her to become quite the sword fighter. While she starts of as their student, she ends up being their leader in their tough robbery expeditions. Not only that, she also takes on the prince in a fight and turns out to be quite his match. The score is 2-2.

When the common enemy comes closer, the prince and Snow White look at each other in fear. After which Snow White proclaims: “I’ve read so many stories where the prince saves the princess. I think it’s time we change that ending. This is my fight.” Right after, she locks the prince up and goes out to fight her enemy. In the end Snow White doesn’t only fight her own fight, she saves the prince as well, after he was silly enough to try to save her from the monster in the forest. This feature of the movie is so striking that it leaves us with a final score of 10-2 in favor of breaking stereotypes.

In the traditional story of Snow White, she is brought into a deep sleep by the wickedness of the evil stepmother. The only one that can wake her from that sleep is the prince, who will kiss her back to life. This shows how Snow White (i.e. the woman) is perceived to be passive. She is the one who isn’t in control of her own life whatsoever. And not only is the prince (i.e. the man) in control of his own life, he is also in control of her life. In Mirror Mirror, Snow White does not sink into sleep through the wickedness of her evil stepmother, she refuses the apple and is in control of herself without needing to be saved by a man. Of course there were some gender stereotypes in Mirror Mirror, but within the structure of the traditional story of Snow White, they did a great job in breaking the most important stereotype of all: showing how women can be in control of their own lives.

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3 responses to “Mirror mirror on the wall, which movie breaks the most gender stereotypes of them all?”

  1. neonaoki says :

    Come on, Snow White hits her head on a branch and passes out. She says she doesn’t want the prince saving her, then the prince saves her. She wants to quit (“I’m not strong enough”) and the dwarves have to make her stay. I thought Mirror Mirror was pretty mediocre (except for very young children), and I’m saying this as a Tarsem fan. The Hunger Games was much better… Hutcherson, blonde guy, was the damsel in distress and gets his ass saved multiple times by lady hunterpants. She knows what she’s doing and she does it with class (funeral). She despised being prettyfied. I thought it was much more groundbreaking.

    • Sanne says :

      I agree, Katniss Everdeen totally kicks way more but than Snow White. So does Lisbeth Salander for that matter. And I didn’t even begin to mention all the sexism in Mirror Mirror. But still, taking into account that Mirror Mirror is based on such an extremely sexist fairy tale, deemed appropriate bed time story for girls and boys all over the world, I think Mirror Mirror did quite a good job in breaking some stereotypes.

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