Growing up, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was one of the few Disney movies I was allowed to see. The Lion King was not allowed because of Rafiki’s voodoo and blue magic butt, Pocahontas, with the mystic tree, was banned, but for some reason the magic in The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and Snow White was a-ok. I still don’t understand.
I was obsessed with Snow White. It was the very first piece of media I ever owned–I had been given the vhs for a birthday or Christmas, so long ago I do not remember which. I watched that vhs over and over, until I could perfectly imitate Snow White’s soft and high-pitched voice. I knew every word to every song, and I began my first stage of fantasy living. This was before I learned how to fly, but it was every bit as real to me. I spent my afternoons scrubbing the back patio mercilessly, dumping bucket after bucket of soapy water on the bumpy concrete singing Snow White’s working song. I probably destroyed quite a few rags and sponges, and my misdirected efforts never really got anything clean, but I loved it.
My second favorite fruit, after strawberries even though I was still allergic to them at the time, was the apple. We always had a basket full of them, and I had one every day. I didn’t just eat the apple, of course. I relived the moment of the evil witch’s deepest deception, dying Snow White’s death over and over again. I would polish the ruby fruit against my shirt or dress, look shyly up with trusting eyes, and then slowly, slowly take that fateful bite.
A dryness would immediately assault my throat, my eyes rolled up into my head, and the apple would roll carefully out of my hand as my arm flopped daintily out to the side and I collapsed into an unmoving heap on the kitchen or living room floor. The apple would roll away, settling to a halt as I drew my last breath.
I was quite good at playing dead as well, I landed the highly coveted role of the dead girl (who gets resurrected by Jesus) in the passion play at church, and I would commit; sometimes lying still and almost breathless for up to five minutes. If my death had not been as dramatic as I desired, I would pick that apple back up, take a bite in precisely the same spot, and continue to die until my sense of theatricality was satiated. Then, and only then, could I pick that apple back up, dust off the flecks of dirt invariably picked up by the broken flesh, and chomp down.
I loved Snow White for more than the beautiful princess, handsome prince, delightful dwarves, and sparkling gems. I loved Snow White for the darkness. I loved the black magic, the selfish queen, the reporting reeper crow. Snow White seems to be full of more darkness than the other Disney films. Everyone has a hidden motive, the hint of death and personal danger is prevalent in every scene (even the soup that Snow White kindly makes looks like poison to the dwarves!). The Queen is so scary not because of her magic, but because her motive is so petty. So what if Snow White is a little bit prettier than the Queen? That does not mean that Snow White would be a better ruler, or that the people love her more (as a shy girl who doesn’t leave the grounds, who even knew that she existed?). But this fear of replacement, and of worth being in beauty, is real. It is felt by most women, and probably many men. Perhaps not always beauty, but other born traits that are impossible to completely control. Strength, athletic prowess, pheremones, we all have insecurities that seem to be the thing that is most real to us, no matter how others see us.
Surprisingly, I believe that the characters from Snow White that scared me the most as a child, probably because I recognized something even more ingrained in the human psyche than insecurity, would be the vultures pictured above. These vultures are prominent in the frightening climax, when in a flash of lightning the Queen, disguised as the old hag, falls off of the cliff to her death. The scene ends quietly with a shot of the vultures circling above the fallen body as rain drops fall.
I believe that every single human being has a part of the vulture, the scavenger, in them. Whether small or large, there is a part of every person that searches for personal gain in every situation no matter how dire. Working in an office job, I’ve really become aware of it this summer. I am a willing and often enthusiatic participant.This is not always a negative thing, but I think it is definitely something to be aware of and watch out for.
For instance, when someone brings in a plate of muffins or bag of cookies, the message is sent in hyperspeed. Sometimes it takes only a matter of minutes for each baked good to be devoured. The Borders “Going Out of Business Sale” is another prime example. On the first day I bustled in with everyone else and my awareness was bursting with the overpowering spirit of the crowd. Borders was out. A business employing over 10,000 human beings, with 40 years of history, is about to be wiped off of the planet. Yet, instead of sympathy, there was a feeling of mania. What if the store shuts down, and I didn’t get what I wanted out of it first? The prices did not matter–most things were only 10-20% off (which, in the overpriced Borders terms, meant that they matched the normal full price from other retailers) but were scooped frantically up anyway. I left only with an Ayn Rand set that was on clearance, and another book I’d been meaning to buy for years anyway. Most people did not even notice the prices.
A final example: today at around 8am an office sent out an email saying they were getting rid of a lot of items. Like a yard sale, only free. I came into work at 9am, and when I did our office was deserted. Missing coworkers returned shortly, with fake plants and tales of bookcases and office supplies and decorations galore. I went to the giveaway a mere half hour later to find the room stripped bare. I still managed to come away with one bookshelf (the last one) and some office supplies, but the mecca promised me had already been de-fleshed. A dry, not merely rotting, carcass was left.
Apparently a person had come in, swiped things into boxes without looking at them, and in one fell stroke claimed about half of the giveaway. It didn’t matter what the items were, they were simply up for grabs. So they must be claimed.
I am grateful for my new hanging file folder holder on castors, but the whole situation was simply comical. I mean, here we were, fully grown adults, swarming on the office (practically running to get there) merely for some used office supplies that somebody else had already deemed no longer worthy of keeping.
I have to ask myself, what is that line? When does this habit of scanning for personal gain stop being mildly (in a bad, black and white choppy slapstick comedy film sort of way) funny, and become something larger, something depraved? There are daily court cases and stories of families being torn apart by contested wills. Why is it that we can, as a race, forsake living ties all for the sake of some dead person’s crap?
I love free things. I love stuff. But I don’t love it more than I love other beings.I love to be alone, I love myself, but I love others more. I love the human race more.
I am not trying to tell you that you should not take advantage of deals, I am a bargain shopper to the core. All I am saying is that perhaps, from time to time, we should all reflect on how we are behaving, and whether not our impetus for gain is healthy or if it is on the verge of becoming self-destructive.
After all, there is a reason that the Queen ends up, in beautifully crafted irony, choosing to become what she abhors most, the ugly hag, and then experiencing a similar fate as that she had devised for her imagined enemy in that ugly form. There is also a reason why Snow White, who sees an empty home and takes it, is saved at the end. Ultimately she acts for others, whereas the witch acts only for herself.
I suppose that the argument could be made that my analogy is weak–don’t the vultures profit ultimately, and indescriminately? They don’t care who the corpse once was, they just care that they have found their next meal. And they are not injured because of it. I, to probably make my point even weaker, will rebut by pointing out that I completely agree. The carrion-feeders do find sustenance. But there is something they do not find, and that is love, companionship, connection. They are two separate entities who stick together for survival (or, as I suspect, because only another such as odious as themselves will deign to be in their presence) but who are not concerned for the other’s welfare. They would probably feed on each other.
I find that to be quite tragic. I also see that possibility in humans. And that is why Snow White frightens me, and why I love that fear and darkness. I can see multiple possibilities, fates per se, and I know that all of my actions can shape that outcome. And so can yours.
a long-winded but very serious