Who Reigns Supreme? A Study of Snow White, Princess of Disney

“Hair as black as ebony, lips as red as the rose, skin as white as snow.” Snow White, princess of “another land, far away,” is the first of Disney’s royal heroines. So far, our Who Reigns Supreme? blog series has cast its eye on the more recent ones. Today, we pay tribute to the one who started it all.

The Case Against Snow White, Princess of Disney

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was made to be timeless. Still, in many ways, it is a product of its own time. So is its title character. Audiences can change a lot over 85 years, so it’s no surprise that many modern viewers would not consider Snow White their favorite.

Today’s standards hold that Disney princesses must be fairly complex and active. Snow White may be the movie’s focal point, but she is hardly its heroine. Her personality is not exactly three-dimensional. Moreover, she is ultimately a damsel in distress, waiting for her prince to kiss her. People these days find that portrayal rather lacking.

More Than Meets the Eye

On the face of things, Snow White is a simple character. The trait of hers that drives the story is her beauty. The Evil Queen puts a hit on her for being the “fairest of them all.” She only survives her curse because the dwarfs think she’s too beautiful to bury, giving passing charming princes easy access to her glass coffin. Defining a woman by her looks is hardly even first-wave feminism, let alone progressive by modern standards.

Yet there is more to the princess than her appearance. She radiates positivity. Even animals can sense it, and they sure sense it. The huntsman sent to kill her can’t find it in his heart to destroy someone so innocent and harmless. The dwarfs, completely apathetic to hygiene based on their home’s sorry state, enthusiastically clean themselves just because she asked — nicely, yet assertively. Her presence is commanding, not from inspiring fear like her stepmother but from being kind.

Cheer and Grumpiness

Besides the villain, the only character not immediately smitten with and beholden to Snow White is Grumpy. The avowed woman-hater calls her presence “poison,” and he only gets his face washed when six dudes overpower him. The princess is not ignorant of this. When she tries guessing each dwarf’s name, she stares him down with hands at her hips and a low “Ooooh.” Look at that: the girl can be sassy.

More telling, though, is a throwaway line from her nighttime prayer: “Please make Grumpy like me.” Asked with a child’s plaintiveness, this humorous plea is a crack in her cheerfulness. She recognizes that she’s not entirely welcome in this nice cottage, which may be a reminder that she lost her own home just that morning. As much as she sings about wishing for romance, she may yearn just as much to be shown the kindness she freely gives others.

What You Get for Being Nice

That’s what makes her apparent death so devastating. The Evil Queen takes advantage of her kindness to invade her refuge in disguise, feigning injury as an old woman. She appeals to her desires by claiming her cursed apple will make her dream come true. Some may balk at her naiveté, but Snow White is a child. Even after receiving several warnings about not talking to strangers, she’s too kind to see anything but the best in people.

That kindness pays off. For starters, while all the dwarfs shed tears for the fallen Snow White, Grumpy breaks down. He dedicated his brief time knowing her to insults and aloofness, and now it’s too late to show that he does like her. That is until the prince she meets briefly in the beginning finally comes to the end of what we are told is a long search. Her restoration is a triumph of positivity over evil.

Snow White does not get her happy-ever-after ending simply for being pretty. The Queen was once fairest of all, but she was wicked, and that commitment to evil leads to her downfall. On the other hand, Snow White was sweet to everyone she met, even those who did not deserve it. When modern critics talk about what lessons kids would take away from watching this old-fashioned movie, that example may not be so outdated after all.

Snow White Princess Gifts at Your WDW Store

Fans of Snow White, princess movies, and Disney, in general, can find much to enjoy here at Your WDW Store. We offer all kinds of goodies that can make your merch-related wishes come true.