Mirror, Mirror – Movie Review
Whenever a story is retold I’m curious as to what changes the story tellers will make, and why they make those changes. When a change is made, even a subtle one, it is bound to have implications. That change may be something benign, like a clarification or an explanation. Usually its impact is a little more pronounced though, like a change of focus, or of the intent or motive of a character. Often it has an effect on the overall message of a movie.
In the case of Mirror, Mirror, the remake of the classic Snow White story, the writers basically use a cinematic highlighter to let the audience know what the change is. Snow herself suggests a change to the basic story. “I read so many stories where the prince saves the princess. I think it’s time for a new ending,” she says with a smirk. The dwarf cautions her though, “No, no Snow! It’s tried and true story telling.” No matter. Snow ignores his caution and rewrites the classic story, making herself the hero (or heroine, to be exact) instead of the traditional damsel in distress who is rescued by the hero-prince.
The question that I think ultimately needs to be discussed is who is right: the dwarf in his caution against this change, or Snow in her stubbornness to stick with it. I think we can throw out the question of “Who cares?” or “Does it really matter at all?” from the start simply because if it didn’t matter, at least to the story tellers, the change wouldn’t have been made. So, at least in terms of the powers that be behind this story, they cared; they felt that it mattered.
Let’s look a little deeper at what they changed in this version. The overall ending, as Snow pointed out, is changed. The prince doesn’t rescue the princess; she rescues herself. This means that there is some change to Snow herself. She starts out as an oppressed step-daughter (which sounds familiar), but she ends up being an empowered, confident young woman who acts in the authority of her identity. What changes her? She sees the oppression, degradation, and bondage of the people in her kingdom. She is moved by compassion and empowered by the realization that she has the ability (because of her identity as daughter of the King) to do something, to help.
I think, as Christians, there is a lot of truth for us in this. Our enemy does his best to keep us in bondage. Sometimes we, like Snow, believe what our enemy says about us. We stay hidden away from the world, enslaved by lies, beat down and discouraged. Snow was told her father was dead, and she believed it. We are told God is dead, or at least He isn’t good, and we believe it. But then, someone whispers to us a reminder of who we are, daughters (or sons) of the King of Kings, and challenges us to go outside of our little bubble and get a good look at the oppression and bondage the enemy has been causing in our Father’s Kingdom (just like the Baker did for Snow). Our hearts break for the things that break His and, like Snow, we become empowered by the realization that God has called us and equipped us to do something about it.
This isn’t a bad change in the story—actually, I think it’s great, but let’s keep going. The writers didn’t only change Snow, they changed the Prince as well. The Prince still wanted to help, but he was silly and buffoonish, almost to the point of being cartoon-y. He was not a capable, noble, strong, manly prince whom Snow could truly rely on. He was a joke.
It’s not that I don’t have any sense of humor. It was kind of funny that the Queen’s magic love potion back-fired because it was a “puppy love” potion. It was a little funny, but don’t miss the fact that the writers made Prince Charming a dog. Was it just to be funny, or did it have a subtle dig attached to it? Perhaps more important than whether or not the writers intended a negative effect, the question remains, could there be a negative effect? Does the portrayal of Prince Charming in this movie suggest or even reinforce negative ideas about men? Does it suggest that Prince Charming can’t be counted on? Does it possibly suggest that men are jokes or even dogs? Does it suggest that they are weaker than women? (Think about that one—every man in the movie is bested by his female counterpart…even the good King was turned into a dragon by the Queen.)
So, while I see some real positives in the way the writers handled Snow, I am concerned about what they did to Prince Charming in the story.
There’s one other thing which keeps kind of niggling at me. I think it has to do with Snow’s comment about wanting a new ending to the story. If she had said that she wanted to be able to do something herself to help others, that would be great. But she didn’t. What she said indicated that she wanted to rescue herself. She didn’t want to have to lean on anyone else for help.
I understand that dependency can be a problem—IF it’s directed at the wrong thing. Dependency upon God however, and upon His divine order of things, glorifies Him. Snow’s statement indicates a desire for self-sufficiency and independence. God asks us to yield to His authority and sometimes that includes yielding to an authority He places over us, like a parent or a wife yielding to her husband. God’s plan for His people isn’t for each of us to become self-sufficient. Rather, it’s for each of us to work together, in love. He says we are each parts of one body, and we are to work together as a body.
I think the story would have been so much better and more powerful if the story tellers had chosen to edify both sexes. What if Prince Charming hadn’t been such a cartoon? What if he had been the one to encourage and empower Snow? What if it hadn’t been about who rescued whom, but about how they partnered together to rescue the Kingdom from captivity?
I wanted to draw attention to this because I think we often underestimate the impact our entertainment has on our minds and our culture. It’s the idea of planting seeds—a little seed is planted, and nothing seems to happen. No harm, no foul…right? But then one day we see something come up out of the ground and we don’t know where it came from or how it got there…and it’s an ugly plant. The problem is, the roots are deep and it’s really hard to root out now. If we catch it when it’s planted, it’s easy to rid the ground of that little seed.
At the beginning I said we needed to ask ourselves who was right: Snow for changing the story, or the Dwarf who said she should stick with tried and true story telling. Maybe it’s not an either/or question, but a both/and. Frankly, I’m inclined to think Snow should have listened to the Dwarf a little more. I do think girls ultimately want to believe in, be fought for, and rescued by a real Prince Charming but I also think that they want to be part of the adventure of bringing freedom to the kingdom. The problem comes when, instead of embracing both ideals, we drop one to grasp the other.
I’ve seen a plethora of jaded women, who really do believe that men are either jokes or dogs or both, who have given up on Prince Charming ever being either princely or charming. (Please note: I’m not saying that their experiences haven’t given them good cause to think that some men are jokes or dogs…the problem is when they assume therefore that all men are thus.) They’ve learned out of necessity to fend for themselves, and when Prince Charming really does arrive, they don’t believe it and are unwilling to trust him. What could be a beautiful partnership is ruined by their self-sufficiency. I’ve also seen plenty of men who are trying hard to become Prince Charming, but eventually get so beat down by wounded, independent Princesses that they give up. Oh, that we not be part of that cycle! Let us be on guard and seek to build each other up…even (and especially) in our entertainment.
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1 Thess. 5:11
“But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” Hebrews 3:13
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25
“So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” Romans 14:19
“Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’” 1 Peter 5:5
Questions for Discussion:
- Mirror, Mirror is about Snow’s journey from oppressed step-daughter to empowered, confident young woman who acts in the authority of her identity to bring the people in her father’s kingdom out of oppression, degradation, and bondage. Her journey mirrors the Christian life. Where would you say that you are along that journey?
- What do you think about the changes to Snow in Mirror, Mirror? To Prince Charming?
- Do you think those changes are indicative of our society’s treatment of men and women, and/or of the feminist movement? And do you think it’s possible that these changes could affect the way girls think about Prince Charming (the male sex at large)?
- As you read the verses above, how might they affect your response to the movie and the way the characters are portrayed?
- How would you say you think of the opposite sex? How well do you meet the standards God has laid for us in the Bible (see the verses above) when it comes to “upbuilding” each other?
- Do you find it easier to upbuild people of your same sex, or people of the opposite sex? Why?