I've dropped a few hints in the past about being a complete sucker for fairy tale reboots, what with buying any fairy tale reboot book I can get my hands on, regardless of genre, as well as writing a whole novel on my own reboot version of the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale in order to suss out my conflicted thoughts on the Disney version as well as the original feminist text.
So obviously it was just a matter of time before I rented "Snow White and the Huntsman". And, well, color me underwhelmed.
There's not really much I can say on the consent issues and muddled message of the movie that hasn't already been said better here at Culturally Disoriented. As they point out in exquisite detail (and with screen captures!), there's not a single consensual kiss in this movie, which would be massively problematic in any movie but is especially problematic in the context of the larger movie message about whether men are socialized to care about women's consent or whether they are expected to just use them however they please and then crumple them up and toss them aside like so many human Kleenexes. A message which is then further fatally undermined by the female villain proceeding to then use up and toss aside some eleventy-billion young women like so many human Kleenexes, which is a shame because I was kind of intrigued there for about five minutes. OH WELL.
Nor was I even remotely pleased with the fact that the sleeping/death spell was broken by the Huntsman's kiss as (apparently) a True Love's Kiss rather than William's kiss, when William was the guy who Snow White attempted to consensually kiss. I don't think I need to go into here why it's totally problematic for a woman's romantic choice to be swept aside by some random Magic that totally knows better than the silly woman. And, yes, I realize that it's supposed to be romantic and a commentary on how she doesn't know her own heart and hasn't realized that she loves the commoner huntsman over her noble childhood friend and STAR-CROSSED LOVERS etc., but all this feeds into a toxic cultural narrative that we really shouldn't respect women's choices because they don't know their own minds 99% of the time, and it's for their own good to override their consent because otherwise how else will they learn they're wrong? And that is a serious problem.
I also want to take a moment to note here that I think it's really ridiculous that apparently this movie was considered enough of a ground-breaking epic saga that it's now apparently going to be a trilogy. Subjective opinions are subjective, as always, but if there was one thing I really liked about this movie -- and that's a question still up for debate in my mind -- then it was the fact that the movie didn't tie up everything neatly at the end, by which I mean the more-boring-than-usual love triangle business. Back when I still thought that this was a one-off movie and the choice was being left up to the audience to fill in the blanks at the end, I thought that was more than a little groovy: if you wanted Snow White to marry the drinking, brawling, so-of-course-they-gave-him-a-Scottish-accent Huntsman, then you could assume that she did; if you wanted to assume that she would marry Finnick Odair because she wanted to consensually kiss him and he's had some practice at the whole royalty thing and presumably would not be the least popular king ever, then you can assume that happens. And if you wanted her to dump both guys on the grounds that they kiss dead/comatose/unconscious women with whom they have no established romantic/sexual relationship whatsoever, then you could think that, too. EVERYONE WINS.
But. What I am instead going to talk about today is how tired I am of movie scenes where women apologize for not trusting every potentially damaging secret and/or minute corner of their heart to strange men they have no reason whatsoever to trust. Because I so tired of this trope. But first some backstory:
The Evil Queen has taken over the country via assassination and has kept Snow White locked in a tower for however many years it took for the child actress to grow up into Kristen Stewart. When the Magic Mirror reveals that Snow White is the secret to the Evil Queen's immortality, the Evil Queen decides that killing Snow White in her cell would be too grody and instead has her brought up to the royal sun-room. In the process, Snow White escapes and heads into the local Deep Woods which is totes evil and dangerous and whatnot. The Evil Queen correctly recognizes that her henchmen are worthless, so contracts out to the Huntsman to track and capture Snow White and bring her back to the palace. He manages the first part of the plan, and holds Snow White at axe-point for awhile, but the second part of the plan goes badly and the two end up fleeing the worthless henchmen together deeper into the forest.
The Huntsman doesn't know who Snow White is, nor that she's the rightful heir to the throne and the local figurehead du jour for the disaffected locals who are tired of the Evil Queen's evil reign. She will only tell him that she's "valuable" and that if he takes her to the castle of a nearby duke and resistance leader that he'll be rewarded. None of this is a lie, and frankly the fact that the Huntsman isn't able to make a logical leap from there to the conclusion that her value is political value doesn't really say much for his intuitive skills. But regardless we get this dialogue:
Snow White: Help me.
The Huntsman: Who are you?
Snow White: Maybe you should have asked the queen that.
The Huntsman: I don't trust you.
Snow White: I've given you my word.
The Huntsman: I still don't trust you. But you have a deal.
Which is, quite frankly, AWESOME given that he is the one who was holding her at axe-point five minutes ago and who she has no reason to believe isn't still working for the Evil Queen or wouldn't still turn her over if the price was right. But he doesn't trust her because she won't tell him her name, rank, and serial number. Stellar.
But you know what? Fine. Who am I to tell this guy who he should and should not trust? That's a decision that he needs to make on his own, and I totally respect that. Trust is complicated, and is something that needs to be left to individuals and respected as their choice and their right to make in accordance with their own comfort levels. This is, in fact, a pretty basic tenet of feminist doctrine, that people get to set their trust zones according to their needs and not according to the needs of others.
So the Huntsman gets to decide how much he chooses to trust Snow White, and whether or not he's willing to work with her in spite of not knowing the whole picture here. And Snow White gets to decide how much she trusts the Huntsman, and whether or not she's willing to work with him in spite of not knowing his motivation and whether or not he'd still deliver her to the Evil Queen given the right price. They both have these choices to make for themselves.
But because this is a Trope (and it is my firm belief that this trope needs to quietly slink off to die as soon as possible), as soon as a third-party overrides Snow White's wishes in order to inform the Huntsman of her royal status against her obviously-made choice to keep that information to herself -- and I want to note that this is YET ANOTHER EXAMPLE of the movie overriding a woman's choice because she just doesn't know the right thing to do and it's so obvious that the Huntsman should be told her secret because he's such a Nice Guy and probably her True Love and the woman who has known him for five minutes and makes the decision to strip Snow White's agency from her clearly knows the Huntsman better than Snow White who has been traveling with him for significantly longer and has already been honest-to-dog assaulted by him and there is a reason why we don't assume that Underdog Lovelorn Romantics cannot possibly also be rapists -- there is the obligatory Meek Apology Scene where Snow White meekly apologizes for not trusting the Nice Guy before her:
The Huntsman: Why didn't you tell me? Cause I'd think it was too difficult a task? You'd be right.
Snow White: I didn't trust you. I'm sorry.
And since I couldn't find a clip of the scene in question, you'll just have to take my word that her apology felt like it was supposed to be terribly sincere and not flippant.
This thing? I am tired of this thing. I'm tired of it being hunky-dory for hard-bitten drinking brawling wounded Nice Guys to not trust vulnerable heroines who have been locked up in dungeons and threatened with rape and violently assaulted and are a walking bundle of potential triggers but that when those same deeply-damaged heroines turn around and fail to trust the Nice Guy with every aspect of her heart and every potentially damaging secret in her possession then it is totally inappropriate of her to do so and absolutely worthy of an apology because could she not see he was a Nice Guy?!?
And once again we're back to the ridiculous notion that merely thinking that someone might potentially hurt you -- even if he's already hurt you once before -- is clearly way way worse than taking reasonable steps to protect yourself. But only if you are female and if the person you're failing to trust completely is a mopey Nice Guy. If you happen to be the Nice Guy in this scenario, then it's totally okay for you to openly not trust the heroine in general and particularly not with the specifics of your mopey backstory, even if said backstory is relevant to her interests because it drove you to physically assault her and nearly take her head off with a battle-axe. If you're a Nice Guy, you get all the privacy and space you require, and without a hint of blame. Naturally.
"Snow White and the Huntsman" doesn't really flog this issue the way some movies do. After the Huntsman abandons her -- thereby proving that Snow White was right not to trust him with her secret and that the local Fuck-Consent-I'ma-Do-What-I-Want woman who spilled her secret on her behalf is a certified jackwagon -- the village is attacked and the Huntsman comes barreling back to save Snow White and the movie labors onward. We never really speak of the issue again, if only because there are new depths of consent-overriding to descend to and we're on a schedule so off we go. But it's still another piece on the pile of movies that castigate women for their failure to trust Nice Guys and I'm quite done with the whole trope.
So here is a new rule: If a woman doesn't feel comfortable trusting her secrets to a man she feels threatened by, that is her right and she does not owe him an apology for making that choice.