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The Snow White Remake: Start of a Culture War

A look into the controversies that the live-action remake Snow White is awakening


Reboots, remakes, and reimaginings are nothing new, but Hollywood’s obsession with looking back seems to be more present recently.


The live-action remake of Disney’s Snow White has not gone unnoticed. Two years away from release, March 2025, the film is already at the center of heated controversy and confusion stemming from supposed changes to the classical tale’s plot and characters.


Starring Rachel Zegler as the title character and Gal Gadot as the Evil Witch, the film reimagines the story through a 21st-century prism. In Zegler’s words, “she’s not going to be saved by the prince, and she’s not going to be dreaming about true love”. Ever since starting promoting the feature, Zegler seems to have angered many people. The movie has been criticized for being too ‘woke’, unnecessary modern. Below, is an attempt to briefly capture the fallout of the poisoned apple.


The controversies


1. The story is too… modern and different from the original

Everyone has an idea of how classical tales should be re-told. It’s not the first time -and won’t certainly be the last- that a Disney’s live-action remake is criticized as a cash-grab, millennial nostalgia-bait that doesn’t hold up to the original animated movie. In the case of Snow White, fans' grievance blends with comments by defenders of anti-progressive ideals. David Hand, the son of the original 1937 Snow White director, doesn’t agree with the changes made. “They change the stories, they change the thought processes of the characters, they just aren’t the original stories anymore. They’re making up new woke things and I’m just not into any of that”, he said in an interview to The Telegraph.


The live-action remake of some of Disney’s 90’s classics like Beauty & The Beast and Aladdin premiered without any struggles, and were kept quite similar to the original. However, cultural expectations have shifted since 1937, when the original Snow White movie was released, more than 80 years ago.


Take for example Prince Charming. He is a character who makes questionable decisions like kissing sleeping Snow White, a stranger he believes to be dead. I can see why Disney wouldn’t want to include that in the live-action. I bet that for similar reasons, the company considered a kiss by Prince Charming more acceptable to 1937 audiences than a slap on the back by a servant, as it was portrayed in The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm.


It’s worth pointing out that this is not even the first time that Snow White is depicted as strong. For example, Snow White and the Huntsman sees Kristen Stewart playing a tougher, more decisive version of the character. The upcoming remake is co-written by Greta Gerwig (Barbie, Little Women, Ladybird), who isn’t precisely the “girlboss” type. Most importantly, this production never intended to be a feminist revolutionary remake, as Barbie was from the very beginning.


2. Zegler is not “as white as the snow”

People who worry about the bloodline purity of cartoon princesses are not happy with a Polish-Colombian heritage actress playing Snow White, who is described as a princess with ‘skin white as snow’. However this isn't just about being truthful to a fictional story. This argument has been particularly loud among right-wing personalities and conservative influencers, who cry over what they call forced diversity in Hollywood.


Many people made similar comments online towards Halle Bailey, who led the live-action remake of The Little Mermaid (2023). We’ve seen it before with the all-female remake of Ghostbusters (2016), Black Panther (2018), Marvel Studios’ first solo female superhero movie Captain Marvel (2023) and many other adaptations and remakes with women and/or POP (people of color) protagonists.


Sometimes diverse casting can be a shortcut to appearing progressive without actually being progressive (Bridgerton (2020), for instance). Some fans are tired of big studios retelling old stories with a casting facelift, instead of producing more new original stories from minority creators. While there is truth in those arguments, sometimes they overshadow the happiness of fans who are excited to see themselves on the screen, like many Black girls reacted to the new Little Mermaid trailer. Furthermore, modern adaptations to classical tales coexist with new exciting stories and the original projects often face harsh criticism. Pixar's Turning Red faced backlash because of its unique cultural setting, subject, and characters.


Asking for less diversity often masks a racist and sexist point of view.


3. Zegler is bad-mouthing about the original Snow White movie

Zegler is known to speak with blunt humor and she has made a series of comments while promoting Snow White that haven’t sat very well with traditionalist Disney fans and conservative content creators.


In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Zegler confessed that as a kid, she was “scared of the original version,” having “watched it once and never picked it up again.” Many traditionalist Disney fans took this as an attack. They argue that ‘the fairest’ -and first- Disney Princess should be played by someone who loves the film's original version.

In another interview with Variety she talked about the changes in the story, emphasizing that “it’s no longer 1937” and that aspects like focusing on a love story and the kiss with Prince Charming are weird and outdated.


The anger directed at Zegler is likely a general frustration toward Disney’s willingness to frame their classic films as hopelessly outdated. On another note, being more or less devoted to the original story is not a decisive factor on how good her job as an actress is. Zegler’s job is to act as a new Snow White in a movie, not be that animated fictional character.


4. Reimagining the seven dwarfs

On January 2022, actor Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones, Cyrano), said on a podcast that he found shocking that Disney was proud of casting a Latina actress and having a more modern take out on the story, while still “making that f* backward story of seven dwarfs living in a cave.” The house of the mouse addressed the concerns and promised that they were consulting "with members of the dwarfism community" during the pre-production process for the movie. The discussions around the dwarves set social media on fire again on July 13 2023, when The Daily Mail published an article with photos allegedly from the set of Snow White that showcased an actress -not Zegler- dressed in Snow White’s signature yellow and blue dress with a red cape, accompanied by a cast of diverse male and female actors playing the seven characters. The Daily Mail referred to the scene as ‘Snow White and the Politically-Correct Companions’. This sparked anger from many angles. From those seven actors, only one was a dwarf. Were Disney's inclusivity efforts actually backfiring and leading to fewer work opportunities for actors who are part of the dwarfism community?


In October 2023 the studio released the first official image of the movie: the titular princess -yes, Zegler this time- surrounded by seven dwarves. With this image, Disney confirmed the appearance of the seven dwarves in the movie -yay!- although they casted only one actor, Martin Klebba, who will play Grumpy. Doc, Bashful, Sleepy, Sneezy, Happy, and Dopey will be in the film in 3D/CGI animation -what?. At this point, everyone is lost.


Note that the upcoming remake is titled Snow White, not Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. As of today, Disney has not made any comments on how important is the role of the seven characters in this story.


Everyone is mad. So… what now?

This entire conversation is another reminder of how loud culture wars sound online nowadays, as debates over identity intensify as a political narrative. However, is it worth your time and energy judging a movie that still needs to be finished and getting angry about it on the Internet?


In an attempt to contend with a big audience and save it from failure in the box office, the feature will likely result somewhere bland and prosaic. The studio has two more years to work on it and prove that one reimagined princess will not be that harmful.


Sources

​​Coen, S. (2023, August 18). “my dad and Walt Disney would be turning in their graves over woke Snow White remake.” The Telegraph. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/world-news/2023/08/18/disney-snow-white-seven-dwarfs-remake-woke-backlash/

Entertainment Weekly. (2022, September 26). Rachel Zegler & Gal Gadot on Reimagining “Snow White” | entertainment weekly. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gDBdoafhIf

Gearan, H. (2023, October 27). Snow White live-action remake reveals first look at Rachel Zegler with CGI dwarves after major backlash. ScreenRant. https://screenrant.com/snow-white-live-action-remake-rachel-zegler-dwarves-image-disney

McDonald, B. (2022, July 20). Episode 1299 - peter dinklage. WTF with Marc Maron Podcast. https://www.wtfpod.com/podcast/episode-1299-peter-dinklage

Powell , E. (2023, July 14). Exclusive: Snow White and the seven... politically-correct companions? First Pictures of new live-action remake of Disney Classic shows stand-in princess walking with diverse band of Merry Men and women after row over using dwarf actors. Daily Mail Online. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-12298801/EXCLUSIVE-Snow-White-Seven-Politically-Correct-Companions.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490&ito=social-twitter_dailymailus

Renfro, K. (2022, January 25). Peter Dinklage says the new “snow white” live-action casting is hypocritically woke because of the dwarf characters. Insider. https://www.insider.com/peter-dinklage-says-snow-white-reboot-is-hypocritically-woke-2022-1

Variety. (2022, September 10). Rachel Zegler and Gal Gadot on bringing a new modern edge to “snow white.” YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2RVg3yetTE4

The Walt Disney Company. (2023, October 27). Disney showcases magical look at “snow white.” https://thewaltdisneycompany.com/snow-white-disney/


 

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