Americans assumed fairy tales taught their children something about how to live. So some parents weren’t too happy about the message of Cinderella, who seems to be celebrated and loved simply because of how she is born—beautiful. An alternative story was written, about a Little Engine who succeeded because he thought he could, he thought he could make it over the big hill. This would teach kids to value their own exertions, not to count on fate or biologic endowments.
My point is that the idea we can change our next generation by changing their entertainments is not a new idea. Another, albeit ham-handed attempt to influence the thinking of today’s children has been made. This time it takes the form of a movie revision of the story of Snow White. The film, “Mirror, Mirror,” wants to teach your kids to be politically correct.
In this version of the old fairy tale, the princess fights for herself instead of letting men do that. She sword fights, after a Rocky-like training camp montage in which the seven dwarfs (shouldn’t they be “little people”?) teach her to swash-buckle and hit and beat the house at three card monte.
She steals from her host dwarfs, who are forest-dwelling highwaymen, to return their booty to “the people,” by which she means the poor. And if she’s ever married, you can be assured it won’t be in church. Marriage is a civil business to the guys who made this movie, not a religious one. No church in their village. No priests.
Also, I was surprised to note, no African-Americans or Hispanics.
But the cast assembled by Tarsem Singh (who we should still be blaming for his “Immortals”) does have a terrific look. The little guys they’ve got playing the dwarfs are solid actors, and the movie looks like—I was going to say “a million bucks,” but lets adjust for the times and say it looks like the current federal budget deficit.
And it has an interesting cast. Poor Julia Roberts plays the queen without any particular dash. Lily Collins, a British actress with Groucho’s eyebrows, and Armand Hammer’s grandson Armie, who play Snow White and the Prince, are both vaguely recognizable. Nathan Lane and Sean Bean have both been recalled from film purgatory, though neither is allowed to use his skills here.
“Mirror Mirror’s” treatment of the Snow White story is, once one gets past its impressive and sometimes all-dominating visuals, arch. The weak dialog mixes references to fairy tale nouns and verbs with conventional contemporary English, as if this were a fun new idea.
When the Queen, Snow White’s evil stepmother, goes to speak with her rival-recognizing mirror, the crown-wearer disappears into the glass, emerges from a lake, and walks a wooden pier into the first of a pair of thatched huts. I don’t understand this. Once inside, she starts to talk with a mirror-bound and much more demurely dressed version of herself. I don’t understand how this moves the story forward. They never seem to talk about anything the viewer doesn’t already know..
But, then, the viewer, even if pretty young, already knows we should get our gratification out of our own accomplishments, not out of our possessions—moviegoers paid over $9 to watch this show. We already know we have a responsibility for those less well-off than are we, but we note that taxation (think sales tax) is one of their main curses. Government seems so far from a rival to religion that we may never be ready to buy the idea that the justice of the peace and not our old minister should preside over our most important rituals.
So will “Mirror Mirror” do what it seems to have been designed to do, to help kids learn to think like tiresome New Ages, with CO2 hatred having recently replaced crystal worship? Don’t count on it.