Tobold's Blog
Friday, July 21, 2023
A neutral look at a battle of the culture war

Frank Zappa once said that “A mind is like a parachute. It doesn't work if it is not open.”. The fundamental difficulty of discussing culture war issues is that most people interested in discussing that don't have an open mind, while many open-minded people are sick and tired of the media barrage on culture war issues and don't want to discuss them. But in this forgotten corner of the internet, where I am basically talking to myself, I still want to talk about the occasional culture war story.

Our story today starts with the Brothers Grimm, two German academics of the early 19th century. They were part of the Romanticism movement, which revived interest in traditional folk stories. So they set out to collect and publish that folklore, fairy tales that had been told in villages for centuries. They believed that these folk stories had value, and should be preserved. But beyond the German cultural sphere their work might have been forgotten, if it hadn't been for Walt Disney, who with a keen eye for copyright issues saw a great source of copyright-free source material. Half of the characters we today think of as "Disney princesses" are in fact Brother Grimm princesses. Thus folklore and history were preserved for eternity, and everybody lived happily ever after. Or not ...

To a neutral observer it is obvious that folklore stories from the 19th century and earlier reflect the values and beliefs of that era. And a 1937 American movie of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs reflects both the values of the source material, and that of 1937 America. Which are unsurprisingly different from the values and beliefs of 2023 America. And it turns out that the values and beliefs of 2023 America are so much divided, that there is no possible version of Snow White that doesn't cause outrage with one side or the other.

For the progressives, the 1937 movie or the source material are unacceptable for many reasons: The very name of Snow White, based on a wish by her mother, comes from her having "skin as white as snow", which is seen as racist. The seven dwarves are considered to be insulting to people with dwarfism, and are too male. And with Snow White "dead" in a glass coffin, and thus unable to give consent, Prince Charming is considered to be part of rape culture. Not to mention that Snow White isn't exactly a very strong feminist role model, her part in the fairy tale is rather passive.

The new live action version Disney is currently filming thus has a Snow White that isn't snow white. Dwarves that aren't dwarves, but multi-gender magical creatures of various heights and sexual orientations. And apparently Prince Charming got completely cancelled and removed from the story. The new version is unacceptable to the conservative side of society. Not only do they believe that the Brothers Grimm had a point in conserving traditional stories; they also fear that their children are being targeted by media with progressive values that they don't share.

I understand the worries of both sides (which sets me apart from 99% of the internet). I totally believe that we should have fairy tale movies with progressive messages and an inclusive cast. The part that worries me is calling that movie "Snow White". I am a hobby historian, I do not believe in revisionism. It reminds me of George Orwell's "the one who controls the past controls the future". Stories from the past are full of important reminders on how the world was different back then, and how people were formed by and adapted to the conditions they were living in. I think the progressive thing to do is to annotate historical culture goods, not trying to revise them. Parents absolutely should watch movies with their children and discuss the values presented in them. But we should also create new, modern, progressive stories instead of trying to revise the old stories, while simultaneously milking them for their brand value.

You're missing a wrinkle to the story. Disney was initially going to cast actors with dwarfism for the roles of the 7 dwarfs. This would have been a great opportunity for folks that otherwise don't get roles in prominent movies like this one. But then Peter Dinklage came out and disparaged the whole idea calling it backwards. This effectively soured Disney on the idea and is thus why they went with the mythical creatures idea for the dwarfs. This upset many in the little people community because they saw it was Peter Dinklage essentially pulling the ladder up behind him and taking away opportunities for other folks like him. I gotta say when I heard about this I sided with the folks upset that they lost out on what was likely the opportunity of the lifetime because the most popular actor in their community spoke out against it.

Also Rachel Zegler is white Tobold. She may not be snow white but unless you think Disney was going to cast an albino actor they were never going to find someone snow white anyways.

As a white Latino I find it funny how the groups latinos are thrown together with changes based on the point the author is trying to make.
She may not be snow white

That is literally what I said.
Come on, you're not talking to yourself :) some of us are out here reading and responding...

I'm in the middle on most of these issues, the extremes on both sides seem very foolish and dangerous to me. There's a middle ground where people can be respected and men don't find yet another way to damage women. Yet we live in a day and age (at least in the US it seems) that if you're not outraged about something then people are outraged about you!

We live in ridiculous times. A large swath of society seems to be abandoning civil discourse in favor of attacks. It's like the type of attacks that seemingly used to be reserved for sleazy politicians has become mainstream. It really is disheartening. It seems so many people are so busy telling everyone else what they mean by what they say that they've stopped listening to each other. They forget that the persons own experience colors the way they interpret information. That goes both ways, which is why civil discourse and true listening is important.

It's a sad time when people who disagree with something are immediately attacked. This isn't going to end well and is a huge tax on our societies. It almost feels like some external entities set this in motion leveraging social and traditional media. I wonder what large entities have been known to do such a thing...
I took that line to mean you were implying she wasn't white. Sorry if I misinterpreted that.
Some random comments (to Tobold and others):

We live in ridiculous times.: I'm not so sure. Reality is not what appears in the media, and in my real life interactions I don't see this kinds of extreme behaviour. Sure there are opinions, but nothing even remotely close to what you see in the media (or social networks, I may add, where outrage = clicks = money).

I do not believe in revisionism.: you're right in calling it revisionism, because it's exactly what it is. I prefer "book burning", but it's the same idea. It has two major problems: it falsifies history, and (for me even worse) makes the original problem invisible. You cannot at the same time bring focus on a racist history while at the same time erase it, because it undermines the attempt to show how racist it was.

But we should also create new, modern, progressive stories...: exactly. I find all this "let's revise old stuff" to be an insult to all modern authors. It basically sends a message that a reheated old story is better than anything modern authors can come up with.
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Based on scientific facts I do not believe that somebody can scientifically be "white" or "black". It is a pure social construct, with no base in genetics. We pretty much all have a certain percentage of genes of African origin. The fact that Hispanic and Latino Americans are *both* victims of racism *and* perpetrators of racism against African Americans makes things very complicated. I'm going with Wikipedia here, which counts Hispanic and Latino Americans as "the largest ethnic minority". And it seems pretty obvious to me that Disney cast somebody from that ethnic minority as Snow White deliberately for virtue signaling. They felt they would be attacked from the left if they had cast somebody from the non-Hispanic white majority as Snow White. And I think they realized that for a character called "Snow White", they couldn't exactly cast Halle Berry.

Please remember that comments following Godwin's Law are going to be deleted.
"The fact that Hispanic and Latino Americans are *both* victims of racism *and* perpetrators of racism against African Americans makes things very complicated."

Soooo many Hispanics refuse to admit this. I'm a white Puerto Rican and grew up in a community that was predominantly white and black and then shifted to majority Hispanic over time. The amount of casual racism thrown out towards black people shocked me. I heard more racism from other hispanics then i heard from whites growing up. I was also the recipient of poor treatment from both groups because I was a minority as a kid and experienced racism and then when more Hispanics came in I suddenly was too white to fit in with them and lumped in with the gringos.

In Latin American and Hispanic media (especially Mexican telenovelas) you see stereotypical castings with white European looking Hispanics as main characters and darker skinned or mestizo actors as paid help or nefarious characters.

Racism is embedded in Latin culture in so many ways and its like everyone just pretends it doesn't exist when they come to the US.
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