Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Article: Mirror Mirror': What The Snow White Narrative Says About Women, Beauty And Aging by Emma Gray

With all of the emphasis on Snow White, I've been expecting articles like the following. I was happy with this one and thought I'd share an excerpt. No time to comment but there's not really new ground here, just a rise in awareness again of the topic.

From 'Mirror Mirror': What The Snow White Narrative Says About Women, Beauty And Aging by Emma Gray:

On the other hand, Julia Roberts' queen was by far the most compelling (and entertaining) part of the film. She was convincingly over-the-top, vain and haughty, barking orders at her servant, a fabulously sniveling Nathan Lane. Her casting choice might seem a bit ridiculous -- how can someone who looks like Julia Roberts be so preoccupied with her "crinkles"? But it was perfect, highlighting the fact that even the most gorgeous among us isn't immune to physical insecurities. Though I'm 24, closer in age to 18-year-old Snow White than her presumably decades older stepmother, I was drawn to the Wicked Queen's fear of getting older far more than Snow's quotidian coming-of-age quest for independence and a boy's heart.

The character of the Wicked Queen highlights two ideas that appear in many of fairytaleland's greatest hits, including "Sleeping Beauty," "Cinderella" and "The Little Mermaid": that women feel a lot of anxiety over "losing their looks," and that older women are intensely envious of the young women that surround them. I asked psychologist Vivian Diller, Ph.D., author of "Face It: What Women Really Feel as Their Looks Change," for her read on this phenomenon. "When you look at the traditional fairy tales, envy is almost always placed on the older, the less attractive, less fortunate. ... There is a belief that women [should] strive to be their younger selves or compete with women who are younger," she said. "Mirror Mirror" puts an of-our-times twist on these themes -- the scene where Roberts is plucked, pulled, plumped and tightened by all manner of creatures and substances was eerily reminiscent of the more bizarre beauty treatments currently on the market. And instead of the magic mirror being depicted as a male character, as in previous takes on the fairy tale, the mirror merely depicts her own reflection, suggesting that she's her own worst enemy. But the film falls short of complicating these ideas. The ending includes a particularly grating line, which only serves to reinforce the idea that the worst thing that could happen to a woman is getting old and, the line implies, inevitably ugly. (I will say that it's worth watching just for the Bollywood scene, though -- you'll know what I'm referring to when you see it.)
There's more in the article, of course. And I wouldn't say always as younger characters--stepsisters, anyone?--also show jealousy and spite for appearance.

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