When I tuned into the latest retelling of Snow White: The Fairest of Them All, aired on ABC earlier this month, all I could think was, I hope my 6-year-old and 4-year-old nieces are not watching.
In the newest interpretation of Grimm’s fairy tale, a mysterious stranger appears after the death of Snow White’s mother. A caped ghoul with pustules and yellow eyes, he resembles Darth Maul of Star Wars. My nieces are afraid of Darth Maul, but the gray guy who looked like he was one of the walking dead was just the beginning of the horrors on this new show.
The ghoul’s sister becomes Queen Elspeth and Snow White’s stepmom through magic, and–as in the original story–vainly fixes on mirrors, continually asking them to tell her who’s the fairest of them all. Everything is fine until the mirror tells her that Snow White is fairest and–like the original story–the movie gets downright grisly.
Queen Elspeth commands a huntsman to take Snow White into the woods, kill her and bring back the girl’s heart to prove she’s dead. (In the original story, the queen asks for her stepdaughter’s lung and liver.) It’s one thing to read that in a story, it’s another to see it in Technicolor on TV. The huntsman is so taken by Snow White’s beauty, he lets her escape. But he must bring the queen a heart, so he kills a rabbit. Onscreen, we see the queen holding a quivering heart and as she sits at her table eating stew, she proclaims, “I ate your heart.”
The writeup in the TV listings quoted actress Miranda Richardson, who played the Queen, as saying, “There are dark moments, no doubt about it … but it’s nothing that an audience can’t deal with today.”
I disagree. I am not for censorship, but I do think scriptwriters and film producers need to stop going for shock value when what’s really called for is better storytelling.
We need more advocates for thoughtful, dare I say, “tasteful” TV programming.