Snow White goes 'woke' - is that such a bad thing?

A live-action reimagining of the classic film is ruffling feathers.


It's been kicking off in the fairytale village of Lohr, the birthplace of Snow White. No, scratch that; it's been kicking off in the toxic global village otherwise known as the internet. Some of its citizens are not Happy; actually, they're extremely Grumpy, accusing Disney of turning the 73-year-old animated classic Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs into a Dopey woke-fest, watered down by political correctness.

Slated to hit cinemas in March 2024 as a live-action film, Snow White, as it's now known, has been "reimagined". In the new script, written by Barbie director Greta Gerwig and Erin Cressida Wilson, Snow White is less passive, people-pleasing and bashful than in the cartoon.

Animated Snow White; Rachel Zegler
Rachel Zegler's casting as Snow White in Disney's live-action remake of the beloved tale has caused quite a stir due to her ethnicity. Photo: Disney, Getty

Not white enough for some

Gorgeous West Side Story breakout star Rachel Zegler, 22, is playing the title role. Her casting was savaged by some online because, as a Latino, she apparently has too much pigmentation in her skin tone to satisfy the Snow White purists. They're demanding Disney stay faithful to the original text, which describes the young princess as having "skin as white as snow, lips as red as blood, and hair as black as ebony".

Snow White traditionalists have forgotten Walt Disney himself updated the source material, a German fairytale written in 1812 by the Brothers Grimm. For one, he gave the seven dwarfs names, like the hayfever-prone Sneezy. The original story also had a horrific ending, with the Evil Queen forced to dance in red-hot iron slippers until she died. Wisely, Disney thought that was a hot boot-scooting step too far for kids in 1937.

Changing with the times

Zegler also angered the purists when she branded Prince Charming from the original movie a "stalker" due to him keeping a watchful eye over Snow White and then kissing her without her consent. "I just mean that it's no longer 1937," said Zegler during the movie's pre-promo campaign. "She's not going to be saved by the prince, and she's not going to be dreaming about true love. She's dreaming about becoming the leader she knows she can be and the leader that her late father told her that she could be if she was fearless, fair, brave and true."

I'm not against Snow White being independent and self-sufficient. Whether you're a girl, a boy, a man or a woman, or non-binary, a lesson you spend a lifetime learning is the only one who can truly save you is yourself.

Gal Gadot and Rachel Zegler at Snow White event for Disney
Gal Gadot, who will be starring as the Evil Queen, and Rachel Zegler say they're proud to be bringing Snow White into the modern age. Photo: Getty

Dwarfs replaced, for the most part

Another massive controversy is rather than seven dwarfs, Disney has gone down the diversity route. So now there are seven "magical creatures" from a range of ethnicities, and heights, with leaked pics from set showing that only one of them is apparently living with dwarfism.


Prior to the film being made, Game of Thrones star Peter Dinklage, who has dwarfism, said on the WTF with Marc Maron podcast: "You're progressive in one way, and you're still making that f**king backwards story about seven dwarfs living in a cave together. What the f**k are you doing, man? Have I done nothing to advance the cause from my soapbox?"

Obviously, Disney listened. But another performer with dwarfism, Jason Acuna, also known as Wee Man from Jackass, was among some in the dwarfism community who disagreed with Tinklage. "What they're doing, it's pretty much replacing jobs that people could have as little people. 'Snow White and Seven Dwarfs'? It's for dwarfs," he said.

Scene from Disney's 1937 film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
The seven dwarfs have been replaced by magical creatures in Disney's reimagining of Snow White. Photo: Disney

Former Fox News firebrand and controversy creator Megyn Kelly said on her YouTube channel the cast has been "racialised to check every box they can, except for all the dwarf boxes because they're offensive — I guess you can have the one dwarf, that's not offensive."

Representation matters

However, disability activists say we rarely see little people in movies playing dentists or construction workers. Instead, we're offered characterisations of people with dwarfism being childlike and naive and singing heigh-ho, or as something of a pet like Mini-Me in Austin Powers, that perpetuate harmful stereotypes and can lead to bullying.

Look, I'm no Doc of philosophy, but what Dinklage is essentially saying is don't "other" people. Unless you've been on the wrong side of being othered, you have no idea what it means to belong to a group that is still treated differently from mainstream society.

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