2012, Snow Storms on Screen: Mirror Mirror reflecting the performance of Snow White

Curator's Note

Within both television and film, 2012 has been a year evidently saturated with texts reappropriating the Brothers Grimm fable of Snow White. These have ranged from Once Upon A Time on television (ABC/Channel 51, 2012) to cinema releases including Mirror Mirror (Relativity Media, 2012) all of which have offered an interpretation of the fairy tale princess for audiences to consider. How can it be said that 75 years after the release of the Walt Disney production, that any screen based representation of Snow White can have resonances with a contemporary audience? Have we become too familiar with the reboot of this tale to gain meaning from any issues in representation conveyed to us through the visual medium? Or is it that this proliferation of Snow White over the years has resulted in the audience just accepting Snow White as an established part of fable community and do not challenge what they are presented with?

I pose these questions within this piece as I cannot honestly offer one simple answer to solve all. Each is dependent upon the extent to which an audience member has been exposed to a previous text. Also it is a valid point to remember that Snow White is a tale predominantly aimed at children, so it may be continuously translated on screen in order to appeal to the next generation and their viewing tastes. Mirror Mirror offers an alternative, non traditional approach to the fairy tale which is demonstrated in this clip through the heightened sense of performance within the pre closing credits sequence. The intricate and exaggerated choreography to convey the emotion and lyrics incorporated with Bollywood style moves are heightened by the use of aerial and long shots allowing the audience to see the entire performed decadence of the scene. In addition the song "I Believe in Love" has a stylistically Indian music bed which suggests that this is a contemporary text utilising elements of the musical and Bollywood film genres to achieve a sense of uniqueness for audiences to enjoy. It is on that note I would like to conclude this commentary with the best open ended discussion line for you to consider: Mirror Mirror on the wall. Who is the fairest of them all?


 This is a fantastic conclusion to the week, Saeed, and points to another major area in film history that, as you mentioned, has gained significant attention in the past year. Fairytales have been an enduring part of film since its early days, and these classic stories are frequently revived, re-imagined, and used as a jumping off point for new ones. A major theme that has appeared throughout the week has been the idea that reboots serve as a means of attracting new audiences to long-standing titles that they may not have been familiar with, yet each time this occurs they are adding to a larger meta-text. Reboots never truly "wipe the slate clean" but instead mixes all of these previous versions together.

As was the case with the other examples brought up throughout the week, all of these films relate back to larger texts of literary origins. What I think you have done here so successfully is identify how adapting a classic tale like Snow White can truly illustrate how difficult it is to define what a reboot is in relation to an adaptation and a remake. As fairytales are in the public domaign, it makes it more cost-effective to use them as the launching point for a new project (either a single film or, as is the case with Once Upon a Time, a television series).

To build on the discussions that occurred earlier in the week, I was wondering what your thoughts might be on the differences between a reboot, an adaptation, and a remake, and how that in turn relates to the examples that you bring up in your post. Also, how would you define what a reboot is in this instance as each of these versions of Snow White, while related back to the classic text, are not connected to one-another in a business/franchise sense?

This goes back to my comments earlier in the week, and in discussion with Ian Peters. From my perspective, I don't think we can call 'Mirror Mirror' a reboot. A re-interpretation of the Snow White myth/ fable? Sure. But what is it rebooting exactly?

In 2001, Bill Willingham created the comic book series 'Fables' which placed the fairy tale characters into 'our' world (sound familiar, 'Once Upon a Time'?). Another comic book series/ franchise draws upon the Grimm Fairy Tales and other fables such as 'Alice in Wonderland' and others. The BBC screened a drama in 2008 called 'Fairy Tales' which, once again, positioned these characters in a modern day setting. What about the Sigourney Weaver Snow White tale? What about 2011's Red Riding Hood?

What we are in danger of here is conflating remake/ reinterpretation/ adaptation/ reboot and sequel/ prequel into one cacaphonous jumble that resists any cogent attempt at definition. There is a difference between these terms, I would argue. Yes, as Ian said, they often intersect and overlap. But can we claim that 'Snow White and the Huntsman' is a reboot of 'Mirror Mirror'? No, I do not believe that we can. 'Mirror Mirror' is part adaptation, part re-interpretation, part remake. If it is a reboot, what exactly is it rebooting? The myth? If this were the case then that would mean that every reiteration of the fairy tale myth is a reboot. This is playing fast and loose with a buzz word, in my humble opinion.

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