Snow White and the Huntsman is a pretty good movie. (There are no spoilers in this review).
Visually, this film is captivating. On the acting front, however, the only kudos I’d hand out would be to Charlize Theron, who’s over-the-top interpretation of dark Queen Ravenna devoured Kristen Stewart’s cardboard Snow White puppetry. In all fairness to Stewart, this film dials in on Ravenna’s tragic story, and there’s a lot to learn.
“There’s something incredibly attractive about a strong evil woman,” a Yahoo user commented on the Snow White and the Huntsman trailer. He got it mostly right: the film attempts to explore the power, both good and evil, of beauty. Snow White represents beauty as it should be, pure and innocent; Ravenna represents beauty corrupted, in all it’s writhing squalor.
“Beauty is my power,” Ravenna croons, relishing her beauty like it were a chocolately mousse. She remains eternally, ravishingly beautiful—with the help of a spell that enables her to suck the beauty from hapless victims like an asthmatic with a power-puffer. If she doesn’t inhale beauty, her true age ruins her, shrivelling her into a frightening old hag.
But it gets worse. Ravenna must also consume beauty because the spell that keeps her also states she must remain the most beautiful woman in the world. If a maiden more beautiful arises, Ravenna must ingest this beauty or disfigure it before she is robbed of her power.
As I watched the film, mouth agape, I realized that the witch queen is not as fantastical as she might seem. What makes her so terrifying is her familiarity. She’s not the devil, she’s North American culture.
We’re a beauty obsessed society, and we consume beauty in sickening proportions. The porn industry is beauty eating, among other things. Think about how much envy-based beauty consumption drives our magazine sales, the Hollywood news, and a good chunk of our media output.
When I work out at the gym, I have to be careful. Careful not to ogle svelte bodies working up a sweat, sure—but even more insidious, careful not to swallow the beauty eating addiction all around me. As I get older, the body I had becomes harder to keep. The sacrifices I need to make to rediscover my abs become more intense every year. The gym is full of people trying to defy the inevitable.
Mirror, mirror, on the wall…
“You’re not twenty,” Shauna reminds me, when I pinch the fanny-pack ponch around my middle . The subtext is, “So don’t try and look like you are. That’s a vain, futile goal. Be forty -two.”
I will, hon. Right after I get those abs…
Snow is pure, like the beauty the princess represents. “She is life itself,” Muir, one of the seven dwarfs, remarks.
I found it ironic that, while Stewart was clearly chosen because she’s become a sex symbol, her physical beauty doesn’t hold a candle to Charlize Theron’s. Early in the movie, Snow White’s mother, Queen Eleneanor, places her hand on her daughter’s heart, saying, “You posses a rare beauty, my love, in here. Never lose it. It will serve you well when you are queen.”
So her true beauty isn’t merely physical, but spiritual. A sacred dance between the inner and outer.
You and I
One might be tempted to think contrasting Snow White with Ravenna still misses the point, still idolizes beauty. I suppose that’s true, in one sense. But God has hardwired us to crave beauty. To enjoy beauty without trying to use, enthrone, or cling to it.
Enjoying beauty is a spiritual need, I think.
A royal sunset. A roaring coastline. A twinkling star. Sexual pleasure between husband and wife. A warbling songbird. A child at play. Unfettered laughter. The human body. The glory of God. The beauty of our risen Christ. A delicious meal. A lifetime of intimate marriage. The power of sacrifice. Music that inspires the soul.
Which is why Snow White says to the evil beauty Queen, “You can’t have my heart.”
We should be so bold.
Do you think I’m right when I say North American culture is beauty-obsessed? Weigh in here!