Many movies fail to portray women and men in an enlightened way, but few fail to do so in such a dishonest and outright depressingly hilarious way as “Snow White and The Huntsman”. The characters of Snow White, The Huntsman and the Evil Queen serves up a messy stew of old tired caricatures of the genders and asks us to savor it as feminist cuisine extraordinaire. In the midst of this muddle of narrative flavors the film serves up a few side dishes of antagonists so stupid that their fall is unquestionable and a mini-course of plot-related questions hanging unattended to.
The film begins with Snow Whites mother, presumably the only person who’s heard of feminism in this movie, wishing for a child who would be both beautiful and strong. She doesn’t specify the gender of the child, which means she has the same expectations for both boys and girls, which is amazing and refreshing to see. After Snow White’s birth, she constantly speaks of how her daughter’s beauty comes from her wonderful personality, being a great feminist mom by teaching her daughter that a woman should define herself by her personality, not her looks. Unfortunately the mother being too clever for this film dies quickly. Snow White’s father then heads off to a mysterious yet easily won battle, where he rescues a woman held captive by this incompetent foe. Snow White’s father finds this captured woman to be so beautifully bonerrific that he marries her the very next day, not even bothering to learn anything else about her except her name. So Snow White can then forget all about women’s worth coming from their personalities; her father leads the way!
On the wedding night, the newly-wedded queen Ravenna (Charlize Theorin) starts recounting her past to the visually enamored king. True to form of the relation of the sexes in this film, the king ignores her story and only focuses on trying to get to some action. Ravenna in her monologue verbalizes how men exploit women, only caring about their looks and abandoning them when they grow old – a conclusion she has come to from a hard life. A smart man would respond to this information, but the king just keeps on trying to get busy. He is then killed, and his ten year old daughter is at once locked away in a tower. Everyone below the queen and her brother are left to starve. Unintentionally the film posits the ignorant masculine role as the primary cause of the narrative action which is founded on a blatant ignoring of the suspicious and questionable personality of the rescued damsel, as the King seeks only to obtain the typical hot wife. Ravenna is supposed to be seen as bitter and unfairly angry towards the world, but judging by what has so far happened (and will continue to happen throughout the film) Ravenna’s beliefs seem to be completely accurate about the world and especially the men that run it.
Snow White (Kristen Stewart) grows into a woman in a dark cell until one day the Queen figures out she needs the princess´ heart to become immortal. She dispatches her brother, Finn to escort Snow to her presence. Snow White, after praying because good people in this film are of the devoted Christian type and not of the nasty witch inclination, has found herself a nail (thank god for prayer!) which will become a handy weapon soon enough. Finn shows up and in a simplistic and indolent scene we find out that his most important character traits are his stupidity and the his sickening fondness for molestation. After opening Snow White’s cell Finn proceeds to leave the keys in the door, and the door wide open, and wastes no time to start groping the princess. Snow White asks why Finn has come. The following dialogue then makes it clear that Finn has been spying on Snow White while assuming she’s asleep, something that Snow has been aware of. This plotline is forgotten as soon as it’s mentioned and leaves one in confusion as to why it had to be in the film at all (besides the obvious reason to make us hate Finns character). Finn tells her not to be scared; the Queen only wants her heart, i.e. to brutally murder her and mutilate her body (That will calm Snow White down, alright!). Snow then strikes Finn with the nail and escapes the cell whilst locking Finn in (once again, thank god for prayer!). Since Finn blatantly laid out to Snow the Queens plans and leaves the key in the cell door lock unattended (with the door fully open as well) the results of Snow White’s successful escape was less than suspenseful. Finn literally set himself up to fail his task. A smarter person would learn from his mistakes, but Finns actions will continue throughout the film to be as laughable self-destructive. Finn is depicted as so dim that he cannot be viewed as a frightening character or as a believable one (which is obviously and notably sad as he is a horrific abuser!).
Snow White makes her way into the cursed woods and culminates in a scene of irksome and pointless hallucinations. We then are introduced to The Huntsman, who is so filled with stereotypical manliness that the first thing we see him do is get drunk and engaging in aimless, but man-producing, violence. These traits will be all that the character consists of, never really developing into anything but a thin stereotype. Finn appears outside the bar where the fights taken place and informs The Huntsman that the Queen demands his presence at the palace. The Huntsman gruffly replies, while sitting in a wooden bucket of water he was pushed into, “Can’t you see I’m taking a bath?” to which I reply: “Dear Writers: manliness is not the same as unfunny brainless macho-posturing and one-liners built around this behavior”. Finn drags our stereotype to the Queens palace, where the Queen promises to bring The Huntsman’s dead wife back to life (she has these MAGIC powers, see) if he in return will capture and bring Snow White to her.
All the while this is occurring we see an entirely male driven rebellion going on against the Queen simultaneously. An ENTIRELY male driven rebellion, since I guess women fighting would run the risk of the male warriors catching the girlie bacteria (basically cooties) from such close proximity outside of being only wives and mothers.
So The Huntsman now goes off to the woods and soon locates Snow White. The Huntsman however doesn’t want to hand Snow over until he gets his wife reanimated and presented to him, to which Finn, laughing wildly at our heroes naivety, tells our dimwitted hero that in reality Ravenna can’t bring back the dead, ending his nice little explanation with: “you idiot”. The Huntsman gets upset over this and proceeds to kill all the soldiers around him (he was sent with a battalion of helpers for his quest), however, for the sake of continuation of the tale, Finn gets away. Why does Finn tell The Huntsman he was being cheated while he was still in the midst of carrying out the bargain? Why is the vastly powerful and resourceful Ravenna ignorant of her brother’s inability to do anything according to plan? Why would she let Finn go along on the quest to capture Snow at all? Needless to say the supposed narrative will never answer these questions.
Snow White and The Huntsman flee into the woods, where they encounter an insanely aggressive troll which knocks out The Huntsman, but calms down after Snow White merely stands still and gazes (enchantingly??) at it. What are we to make of this passive gaze that brings the troll to heel? Naturally this can only be because women are so special, especially those who are beautiful! What necessity is there for the womanly and the lovely to do or say anything? Their mere divine and stunning existence solves any problem put before them. Oddly enough this doing nothing is shown as the empowerment of Snow White! Only non-action, the surface, is where women have power in this world.
So after the wacky adventure of calming the troll Snow White and The Huntsman encounter a tribe of women with self-inflicted scars and mutilated faces. One of the women explains that the scars were made to ensure that Ravenna wouldn’t consider their beauty as a threat and therefore harass and persecute them. Ravenna is indeed killing women who she thinks are too pretty to live. But her idea of beauty must be outrageously narrow. The woman telling Snow about this plan, for instance is magnificently and stunningly beautiful despite her self-mutilations (which are barely visible, causing even more confusion for the viewer). The women of the village are tremendously lucky that Ravenna’s ideals of beauty are beyond logic.
We find that the tribe of women is actually not a tribe, and the women tell our heroes that their men are actually off at war while they stay at home. Once again the roles of men and women, mothers and fathers are inscribed on the surface of the story. Who does what role, and where all men and women should find themselves in society and in their own thoughts about themselves are very clearly laid out: Men are fighters, actors, and aggressors. Women are beauties, passive and motherly (except the queen, but she’ll get hers!).’
The dwarfs’ naturally show up now in the logic of the tale. Like all the characters of this film none of the dwarfs’ personalities are ever developed, but they do take the main characters to a magical forest where a spirit blesses Snow. Turns out she was born special. Brilliant – no need to bother developing our heroine’s personality when we can be given an explanation of having simply been born with good royalty genes! At this point I realized that the film just was a love letter to classist society and female passiveness.
Finn is eventually killed by The Huntsman in a fight but not before Finn gets to tell the audience that he raped The Huntsman’s wife as well as countless of other women. It is not surprising in the character of the films logic that Finn the idiot told this to the Huntsman which proceeds to motivate him more in his anger and the will to fight (and naturally win). The film shows an off-handedness to the horror of such a character trait placed onto Finn and it is used only to motivate the males in the action of the narrative. The subject of rape, a world-wide problem for women, is introduced in to this film so a man can be empowered. The consequences and traumas the victim of molestation has to go through are sidestepped (ignored as unimportant) and the only thing that is depicted as relevant for the movie’s plot logic is the male’s chance to be heroically active. This is a trope commonly seen in films (“Book of Eli”, “The Expendables”, “Spiderman” and “Gladiator” to name a few) and truth be told, it needs to end.
At this point Snow’s childhood friend William, who’s in the rebellious army, has reunited with her. They start bonding after some days spent together. When they get some time alone, Snow picks an apple from a tree. Before eating it, she kisses William on the lips and then bites the apple. Cue Snow White shaking and spasm out of control while William transforms, revealing themselves as a disguised Ravenna. Ravenna gets ready to cut out Snow’s heart and begins a monologue about her own vulnerabilities and weaknesses (which Snow White will naturally use to win later on). Snow goes into a coma, either from the curse or from the horror of kissing her technically only living parent and legal guardian. One can only ponder the childish fear and longing for the same gender kiss which seems to be on display here, and the simultaneous avoidance of it in the odd mechanics of this scene (woman kisses woman, but she is a man here so no problems. Except…).
The real William and The Huntsman now show up to fight the queen, who turns into a murder of crows and flies away. William tries to Kiss Snow, but she doesn’t wake up, probably because the kiss was planted on her bottom lip and chin, not on her lips. Aim a little higher next time, Will.
Comatose/dead Snow White is brought to the rebellions village and set on a bed of hay. While everyone is mourning, The Huntsman gets drunk again and goes to see Snow. Alone with her, he tells her about how his wife changed him from a brute to a good man, but her death turned him back into a violent and sluggish brute again. The myth of a good woman and the miraculous power it can have over the brutish and violent nature of man is now laid out in the mis-en-scene of the tale. Glad they could get this myth of the woman and the man in, even if it is just as a passing comment!
The Huntsman then decides to creepily kiss a dead woman (since every character in this movie seems to feel the need to molest Snow White in one way or another). After kissing the clearly deceased woman The Huntsman leaves and Snow White awakes. It is established that Snow is more interested in William then the Huntsman, so one wonders why Williams kiss didn’t work (assuming the curse works the same way in this films as it did in the original versions). But Williams kiss most likely didn’t work because William according to the primeval ideals of this film is a wimp for crying at times and The Huntsman is a real man for being an alcoholic and potentially dangerous ax-swinging rough guy. Of course his kiss will wake Snow White up! He’s the real man here!
Snow then finally takes some form of action and makes a motivational speech for the rebellious army. She says she knows now how to kill the queen (since Ravenna bizarrely decided to openly talk about those things to a still awake Snow White). It is quite surprising how level headed Snow seems to be directly after waking up from a poisoned induced coma. And considering that now she is aware of the forbidden kiss of her stepmother one would expect a bewildered Snow White to somewhat immediately enquire about the nature of such a kiss along the lines of: “Anybody know about the legality of this?”
At this point everyone marches off towards the Queen’s palace, with Snow comprising the single woman found this peculiar army, but we are naturally not concerned with this as we have already seen how she is special unlike all other females in this tale (Those royal genes again, and she is prettier than everybody else).
The dwarves sneak into the castle and proceed to incapacitate the guards of the castle and open the main gateway for the army. This grand and wonderous action by the dwarves is ignored by every character in the film (they are of “that” class after all) and they are never really given credit for this or thanked for it.
With men dying to the left and right in the heat of the ensuing battle Snow White dashes up to the Queens room. Snow initiates her complex and amazing battle moves, which seem to be composed of simply standing still and gazing at the queen (it did work on the troll, remember. But why Ravenna doesn’t just simply kill Snow while she passively stands and stares at her raises a bevy of questions about the competence of the queen here, clear, though it may be now that Ravenna’s sole purpose at this point is to lose as punishment for seeing the world correctly).
So Snow, the only protagonist woman we ever see to take action in this film, never actually takes action, while the men all do and with a force. William and The Huntsman are shown as fierce warriors, and there are many scenes to remind the viewers of that. The trailers and advertisements promised to portray Snow White as a fierce warrior and as Snow just stood there while the Queen attacks, the only tension that filled the theater at that moment was: “When will the promised warrior princess show up?” Snow however finally remembers her promise to everyone and does kill the queen in the last minute, but not before blurting out: “You can’t have my heart”. To which the bewildered viewers of the film silently replied: “Snow, please just let it go and don’t make things anymore uncomfortable then they already are”.
In a final scene, and as the people in this films world do not appear to crave any sort of equality, Snow White is crowned Queen. While this is the moment when the audience is supposed to cheer for Snow White, all one could wonder at this point was : “They’re going get the The Huntsman to an AA-meeting now, right?
This film is nothing but faux female empowerment. However Kristen Stewart’s acting skills have improved tremendously and many of the films scenes were entertaining due to how unintentionally funny they were. But if you decide not to see this film, I safely can promise you it is a wise decision.