My Dissertation | Snow White Chapter

Sunday, 7 August 2016

I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy writing my dissertation, at the time it was an awful experience but looking back on it I somewhat enjoyed writing it. I also put a lot of pressure on myself do well due to picking Disney as my topic. I disliked that a lot of my time at home was spent curled over my laptop, books and journals but all of the hard work I put into it paid off and I have honestly never been so proud of myself. I came to the realisation that writing about Disney is something that I thoroughly enjoy doing. Taking my time to analyse clips from the films I chose to write about and dive deeper into the meaning behind certain aspects of the films was extremely interesting and gratifying. Due to doing a film degree I had too textually analyse the clips I chose, therefore discussing the music and shots used was important. I also includes a chapter on what theories were relevant to my topic, but I won't be uploading that chapter on my blog.
I wrote a chapter on Snow White in order to compare the representation of gender in an earlier Disney film to those released during the Disney Renaissance, I wrote about The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Pocahontas and Mulan. I'll be uploading each princesses section in separate blog posts, in order to spread them out.
Overall, I received 75% for my dissertation, which is a first and I couldn't be happier.

How has the representation of the female gender in the Disney Princess movies progressed during the Disney Renaissance in relation to Snow White?

Snow White: the Model Woman of the 1930s

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was not only The Walt Disney Company’s first feature length film and what audiences recognise today as a Disney Classic, it “is the first full length animated film in cinematic history.” (Rustad, 2014, p.18) During the 1930s, the time period in which Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was released, women were expected to stay at home and be the homemakers, while it “was clear that men were not expected to do domestic work, nor did they have the ability to do so.” (England, Descartes and Collier Meek, 2011, p.563) This can be proven by analysing the portrayal of Snow White and the relationship she has with the dwarfs throughout the course of the film. The character of Snow White represents what was considered to be the ideal women in the 1930’s, which 
was “a time when women were confined to the stereotype of homemaker.” (Garabedian, 2014, p.23) Snow White can be seen cooking, cleaning and even comes across as a motherly figure for the dwarfs.

When Snow White first appears in frame the princess can be seen wearing clothes that are not befitting to her title. The dress has clearly been worn out as it is ripped and patches have also been sewn onto it. The colours used for this dress are also particularly ordinary considering her status as a princess. Light and dark browns have been used, however the style of the dress is tremendously similar to the one she is seen wearing for the remainder of the film. Davis states that the princesses “beauty and gentility shine through despite their rags.” (2006, p.101) A panning shot has been used in this frame enabling the spectators to view and appreciate that regardless of the rags she is wearing, Snow White is still portrayed in a way that makes her beauty and grace extremely apparent. This dress could represent how mundane her life currently is and her longing to find love. A medium shot is used to truly depict Snow White’s emotions once she has run up to the tower as the prince is singing to her, she smiles and wraps her arms around herself then looks down in embarrassment as she suddenly remembers the rags she is wearing. A cut shot has been used to depict the change in scene. A long shot is used as Snow White gleefully runs up a hill to pick flowers on the outskirt of the forest, from here on out the princess can be seen wearing her traditional blue and yellow dress. A long shot is used to establish the change in clothing as joyful music accompanies her. This could initiate the idea that now she has met her prince she must look prim and proper in order to win his affection, as it is believed that women are obliged to only make themselves look beautiful in order to please a man, they simply cannot do it just for themselves. 

Furthermore, during the opening scene when it is confirmed that Snow White is the “fairest of them all”, the magic mirror states that “rags cannot hide her gentle grace.” (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, 1937) A long shot of the Evil Queen illustrates her disbelief and humiliation to find out that she is in truth not the most striking woman in the kingdom. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs “story is filled with messages about beauty,” (Brzuzy and Lind, 2007, 274) and Snow White saw the beginning of the portrayal of dainty princesses. She represented the female gender in a way that made it evident that being perceived as beautiful was imperative, as the reason she had to flee her own kingdom was because her beauty out shone another’s.

A zoom has been used to illustrate Snow White cleaning stone steps as she lets out a short sigh, then goes on to sing “I’m wishing for the one I love to find me today.”  (Morey, 1937)  The diegetic sound that is present in this scene portrays Snow White in a way that indicates she will happily wait around for her prince to come and find her, she has no intention of making the endeavour to seek out her true love. This places the stereotype on women that they “are always rescued by men and cannot live happy lives without men’s help.” (Maity, 2014, p.29) Beginning to make it apparent that Snow White’s dream and quest is to patiently wait for her Prince Charming to come and rescue her, in order to truly find happiness she needs her true love to come and sweep her off of her feet. Furthermore, when Snow White is undergoing a dull chore she is still singing and imagining being with someone she loves, as Snow White sings “imagine that the broom is someone that you love.” (Morey, 1937) Even though she is participating in a particularly tedious task she is envisioning herself dancing with her true love even as she is cleaning, which reinforces the “embrace of Snow White’s pure maiden innocence.” (Rosen, 1973, p.190) The scene in which Snow White is singing Someday My Prince Will Come (Morey, 1937) further establishes the notion that finding their true love is particularly important to women. As the dwarfs gather round and listen, traditional gender roles have been explained through the patriarchal tone of the song. Snow White conforms to traditional gender roles of women by stating “to be happy forever I know...and wedding bells will ring.” (Morey, 1937)  Reinstating that in order to achieve her dream of finding eternal happiness she must get married, as “she lives her own being as incomplete, pending the arrival of one who will ‘complete’ her.” (Giradot, 1977, p.274) As well as the patriarchal message of the song, the music of Someday My Prince Will Come (Morey, 1937) represents a stereotypically feminine princess; the character has an extremely high vocal register, fitting perfectly with the dreamy melody of the song which adds to her yearning and lust to find true love. The visual imagery present in this scene also portrays a stereotypical representation of femininity. Numerous animals surround Snow White as she serenades the dwarfs in a motherly form, as the “animals provided the perfect foil for the princess. They were a class of peasantry whose simplicity and devotion proved the princess’s worthiness.” (Condis and Austin, 2015, p.1) Illustrating how the princess has been represented in an exceptionally feminine manner through her relationship with nature and also as a mother figure to the dwarfs.  

When Snow White first comes across the dwarf’s cottage a medium shot has been used to represent a visual image of femininity as the princess is surrounded by animals and nature, she then states “oh, isn’t it adorable! Just like a doll’s house!” (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, 1937) A panning shot has then been used to show her gleefully and elegantly skipping over to the cottage, with all of the animals trailing behind her. While upbeat, high pitched music plays in the background, establishing her excitement of finding somewhere in which she can rest. Once the princess has entered the cottage a cut shot has been used in order to illustrate Snow White’s disbelief as she announces to the animals how filthy and disgraceful the inside of the cottage is, while stating “you’d think their mother would...” “...for a mother would never allow a cottage to become so filthy dirty.” (Capps, 2014, p.155) By having Snow White express this it is reinforcing the ideal and stereotype that women were expected to be in charge of ensuring the maintenance of the home and keeping it to high standards, as “film...often and anxiously envisions women stereotypically as ‘good’ mothers.” (Humm, 1997, p.3) Snow White is placed in the position of a good mother as she actively takes it upon herself to tidy the cottage and could even be seen as a mother figure for the dwarfs. While again proving her feminine manner through her relationship with the animals, as they assist her and she provides them all with a cleaning task to do in order to speed up the process. Snow White is “exemplifying an ideal of sweetness and innocence,” (Haase and Duggan, 2015, p.947) as she cheerfully dances around the room and sings to her surroundings as she enthusiastically sweeps the cottage. The diegetic sound that is present in this particular scene indicates that Snow White is more than happy to be cleaning the cottage, as high notes and an upbeat tempo have been used throughout the entirety of the song indicating her enjoyment and pleasure as she sings “cheerfully together we can tidy up the place.” (Morey, 1937) This film begins to prove that “the origin of Disney’s sexist portrayal can be traced fully in the depiction of Snow White.” (Maity, 2014, p.29) Dyer states that “the stereotype is taken to express a general agreement about a social is from stereotypes that we get our ideas about social groups.” (1993, p.14) Snow White is representing women in a way that establishes the stereotype that has been expressed about women, in which they are responsible for getting all of the chores done around the house with the possibility that they may even take pleasure in doing so. This is proven by analysing Snow White’s body language, as she is holding herself in an elegant and graceful manner even as she is dusting a shelf. 

In addition, in order to convince the dwarfs to let her stay, Snow White “takes an active role in earning her keep by doing housework for them.” (Davis, 2005, p.101) She uses domestic work as an expression of servitude and a way to gain appreciation. A medium shot has been used to reveal her joyful expression, while she goes on to list off the duties she will undertake in order to persuade the dwarfs to let her stay. A long shot has also been used to illustrate the dwarfs’ excitement once they find out Snow White will cook for them, as they all shout in unison, “hooray! She stays!” (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, 1937) 

Coming to the realisation that the princess will cook for them was the determining factor in whether or not the dwarfs would let her stay, as women are stereotyped as being responsible for everything in the kitchen while the men go out to work. The idea that women should remain housewives is expressed in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, as “Snow White rescued the dwarfs in a traditionally feminine way, by cooking and cleaning.” (England, Descartes and Collier-Meek, 2011, p.563)  The dwarfs go to work and take advantage of Snow White’s ability to cook and clean, as it is clear that they were not willing to do undertake both of these tasks as it was seen as the women’s job to “stay at home and keep the house clean.” (Zipes, 1995, p.37) This represents the female gender in a way that suggests tasks such as cleaning cannot, or will not, be done unless it is done by a women. As the cottage was not given a thorough clean until Snow White took it upon herself to do so. This can be proven when Doc exclaims “why, the whole place is clean” and cut shots have been used to reveal the dwarfs creeping around their cottage. While close ups have been used to express their shock and disbelief when they discover the whole place has been cleaned because they certainly would not have done it themselves. This establishes the idea that “gender issues surface in such a way as to reinforce conservative notions of social role.” (Bryman, 1995, p.131) Snow White undertakes the role of mother towards the dwarfs, as she simply could not have made herself at home unless her presence benefited the dwarfs in some way and as long as she managed earn her keep. 

I know that this is pretty long, my next five sections aren't as wordy! I'll be uploading my paragraphs on The Little Mermaid next.

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