I found a synopsis of the Disney movie “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” (1937) on IMDB, and decided to give it to a sensitivity reader (who wishes to remain anonymous) to get their comments on this classic tale. The original synopsis is in regular font, while the sensitivity reader’s comments are in red.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
A beautiful but orphaned princess, Snow White, lives with her stepmother, the wicked Queen, who previously relegated her to servitude.
Already this first sentence is highly problematic.
First, the “beautiful princess” is named “Snow White.” Why is it that if someone is considered “beautiful” they always have to be White? The writer should at least consider giving the princess an ethnic origin.
Second, it is pretty clear from this sentence that the writer assumes that the only virtue of the princess is her physical beauty. This is sexist, as no woman should be judged by her physical beauty. Even if the writer really needs to mention her physical beauty, he should not forgo listing that she is also a strong independent woman.
Third, the writer makes the assumption that step parents are all “wicked.” Does the writer realize how many sacrifices step parents have to make? And how much they love their adopted children?
Fourth, the word “wicked” tends to be associated with women exclusively, and is therefore sexist in this context.
Fifth, the word “servitude” is just a euphemism for slavery. Whitewashing the practice of slavery with words like “servitude” is simply not acceptable.
The Queen is jealous because she wants to be known as “the fairest in the land” when Snow White’s beauty surpasses her own.
Again, the writer assumes that the only thing that women are interested in is physical beauty! What shameful stereotyping.
The Queen’s huntsman is ordered to take Snow White into the forest and kill her, but he cannot bring himself to do so because of her innocence and beauty, and instead begs Snow White to run away into the forest and never return to the castle.
Yes, we know by now how much the writer values physical beauty in women. This sentence in particular tries to indoctrinate young girls with the notion that you can get away with anything if only you are beautiful enough. This is a problematic message. I propose that the writer describes the princess as “mundane” and lets her win an argument with the huntsman, or, better yet, give him a swift kick in the nuts before she runs away from this psycho.
The forest animals befriend Snow White and take her to a cottage, where seven dwarfs live.
I wish to point out that height-challenged people should not be called “dwarfs.” If a reference to their height must be made, call them “little people.”
The dwarfs grow to love their unexpected visitor, who cleans their house and cooks their meals.
Jesus Christ, this writer is really living in the Middle Ages, isn’t he? Not only does he make the “little people” fall in love with our “princess” because she is so beautiful, but he is also claiming that a woman’s place is in the kitchen! Women can do any job that men do! Relegating them to household chores is not of these times.
But one day while the dwarfs are away at their diamond mine, the Queen arrives at the cottage disguised as an old peddler woman and persuades Snow White to take a bite of a poisoned apple, promising her it will make all her dreams come true.
The biblical references in this sentence are all too obvious: again it is a woman who causes the downfall of society by making someone eat from an apple. Moreover, this sentence is ageist as it supposes that old people are scary.
Snow White wishes for a reunion with the Prince, takes a bite, falls into a deep sleep, and the peddler woman declares she’s now the fairest in the land.
The writer is sexist in his assumption that any woman is obsessed with the desire to find a man. Moreover, he again states that women are preoccupied with physical beauty.
The dwarfs, warned by the forest animals, rush home to chase the witch away and she falls to her death, but they are too late to save Snow White.
Women do not need to be “saved,” they can take care of themselves.
Thinking Snow White is dead, the dwarfs place her in a glass and gold coffin in the woods and mourn for her.
Putting a woman on display to admire her physical beauty is absolutely disgusting — it is clear that the writer prefers to have women keep their mouth shut and just parade around for him; the association with beauty contests is all too clear.
A Prince, who had fallen in love with Snow White earlier because of her lovely singing voice, happens by and awakens her from the deep sleep with love’s first kiss.
There are many things wrong with this concluding sentence.
First, there is the issue that the “prince” falls in love with the princess because of her “singing voice.” He can’t fall in love with her brain or her personality, right? It must be something fleeting and superficial, like “her singing voice.” This is incredibly sexist.
Second, this “prince” just kissed a woman without asking for her consent first. Even if he had asked for consent, the princess was in no shape to give it. This is clearly rape.
Third, the whole story revolves around a cis-white male (yes, I know that the prince is never listed as being white, but with this writer we know what he is thinking, right?) in a relation with a cis-white female. I am missing a strong representation of the LGBTQ community in this tale. My suggestion is to make the prince a woman, or better yet, non-binary.
Sensitivity reader’s conclusion: This is a highly problematic tale which cannot be fixed with a few simple word-replacements. It needs a rewrite. At least the princess should be described as an actual woman and not this cardboard cutout of a cis-white male’s fantasy. However, I would go further and remove the whole “wicked stepmother” side story, and give the prince a bigger role, rather than making him a deus-ex-machina in the last sentence. Let the prince be the one to ban the princess because she spurns him, then disguise himself to feed her a date-rape drug. Then when he returns to have his “wicked ways” with her unconscious body, let her wake up just in time to break his balls! I have heard this writer is also responsible for a tale by the name of “Sleeping Beauty” — he is not really trying to hide his perverse preoccupations, isn’t he? Frankly, I think that the publisher should simply remove this bigoted writer from their roster and never publish anything from him ever again.