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The Theme of Snow White: a Portrayal of a Stereotypical Feminine Woman

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What is the theme of Snow White? We can say that Snow White is the first Disney princess who is depicted as a prime example of what a stereotypical feminine type would entail in the USA in 1937.  She is a petite, pale skinned Caucasean with big eyes on her perfectly made up doll face. Even though she is a princess which should instantly relate to authority and power, she is portrayed as a passive, subservient creature who has little control over her life. 

The disruption of roles, however, is not something uncommon in literature but the interesting thing here is that the roles seem to have a life of their own on both a thematic and emotional level. The notion that women’s lives are not theirs to shape, that their destiny is prescribed and that it’s not who they are, but what they are that determines their lives is evident. That prescribed role, that role Snow White is given, is embraced by her who proves that being beautiful, charming, polite, and having good manners can take her from the state she doesn’t want to be in (which is the beginning of the film), to the state she actually wants which is living happily ever after with her getting married to a prince. Therefore, the preconceived idea of what is expected by a female in that period of time, the gender stereotype of the time is that women should be beautiful, pretty, and cute. Forces which are far beyond their control dominate their lives and they are literally unable to take any action. 

The image of the good mannered housewife, who literally does nothing but being attractive, keeping the house clean and the pots in the kitchen full, is projected. She immediately starts cleaning the house of the dwarfs the moment she enters it, completely defying the potential danger her presence there might have. It seems as if it is her duty to respond to the household chores, despite the fact that she does not know who the house belongs to. She subtly implies that if a woman is a pretty and competent housewife, she has nothing to be afraid of. The significance of beauty is highlighted with the role of the step-mother, as well. Beauty is praised when the stepmother asks the mirror “who is the fairest of them all?” as if this is the only attribute a woman should have because intelligence and strength of character are not appreciated as characteristics a woman should have in that particular era. She is a powerful woman with authority and unquestionable control over Snow White but even she herself is portrayed as unable to mold her own life. If she maintains the privilege of the ultimate and the only beauty in the kingdom then her power will remain unchallenged. Consequently, although she possesses magical powers and she is the queen, it is beauty and only beauty that justifies her superiority. The stereotype of beauty as the only worthwhile trait in a woman is reinforced. 

Snow White is attractive and this is why the huntsman shows pity on her and spares her when he has direct orders to kill her and take her heart. Snow White is attractive and this is why the seven dwarfs feel they are not threatened by her and decide not to kill her when they find her asleep in their beds. Snow White is attractive, even when dead in her glass coffin, and this is why the prince decides to kiss a lifeless corpse which eventually brings the happy ending to the story. In other words, Snow White does nothing or says nothing, takes no action but salvation is granted to her anyway, only because of her physical appearance, just because she is pretty. She is totally incapacitated at the climax of her story and is not even distempered when she wakes of to the kiss of a stranger. Women are weak and they need a man. 

In conclusion, Snow White right from the beginning of the film establishes that idea when she makes a wish in the well so that her prince will find her. Women only have to be beautiful and wait for that strong man to spot them and pick them to make them feel safe, protected and secure.   

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The Theme of Snow White: a Portrayal of a Stereotypical Feminine Woman. (2023, February 11). GradesFixer. Retrieved March 26, 2023, from
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