Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
A woman, overcome with vanity, sends out a man to murder her step-daughter and bring back her heart in a box. At the last minute he finds he has some moral objection to this. So he kills a pig, cuts out its heart and puts it in the box to show the step-mother.
So begins over 70 years of Disney animated features.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs [sic] is, on the surface, a nice fairy tale, but if you start to think about it (or overthink it – as is this blog’s aim) there are a lot of interesting themes, not to mention some weird stuff, going on in this movie.
Blood Diamonds, Workers Collectives & the Snow White Economy
The movie gets off to a good start on labor issues with Walt Disney thanking his staff for contributing to the work of the film.
“My sincere appreciation to the members of my staff whose loyalty and creative endeavor made possible this production.” – Walt Disney
Unfortunately, these shout-outs were less forthcoming in subsequent endeavors.
However the main source for labor themes in the movie is the workers’ cooperative the dwarfs run. Other movies that prominently show mine workers show them a little more like this:
You know, the kind that would go down in the mines before the sun came up, work in horrible dark conditions all day, and then come up after the sun has gone down. That is, when they’re not on strike.
‘But that is a coal mine,’ you say, ‘and therefore completely different’. Like this?
Far from the world of corporate-led corruption and African violence depicted in Blood Diamond (which reflects more of the reality of much of the modern diamond industry), the dwarfs are happy miners who sing happy tunes like:
“It ain’t no trick to get rich quick
If you dig dig dig with a shovel or a pick
In a mine! In a mine! In a mine! In a mine!
Where a million diamonds shine!”
This depiction of the diamond industry is, of course misleading.
However, there is a positive message that can come from their mining business. Let’s put it into the context of their world. They are presumably working in a smaller, less globalized, less corporate dominated economy than our world today.
The dwarfs have not entered into any business arrangements with foreign businesses, but have established a workers’ cooperative, where they do not have the profits going off to corporate middle-men or warlords. As a result, a more positive model of corporate governance is displayed to the audience.
Unfulfilled Merchandising Opportunity: Seven Dwarfs Workers’ Cooperative Playset! Complete with pick-axe, lantern and stick of dynamite for starting your own mine, and a miniature copy of Robert’s Rules of Order so you can hold your own cooperative meeting! (Gavel not included.)
Then comes the question of prices. The economy in Snow White is small. We’re talking really small. Not counting the animals, only 11 people are shown in the film – and the prince was not even a local. Surely the vast quantities of gemstones flooding a rather small economy would make them almost worthless.
The Prince may just be the key. The city he comes from seems to have a high demand for precious metals (seeing as the buildings seem to be built out of gold). Therefore, it seems likely that such extravagance would also drive up demand for gemstones. The possibility of trade with the golden, floating city seems the only reasonable solution for the gemstone market problem.
Another question: How can the dwarfs protect this mine from a hostile take-over?
Surely the fact that they are trading significant amounts of large, pre-cut gemstones, to presumably a limited market (we’re assuming there is only one floating golden city) would surely bring some attention. In fact, the magic mirror brings the fact that there are SEVEN of these mines to the attention of the step-mother who seems completely unsurprised (at least uninterested).
(We’re presuming that the other six mines contain crap-lodes of pre-cut uranium, potassium and concord grapes – amongst other sundry goodies).
It is clear that the dwarfs can wield a mean twig and frightened the bejeweled blitz out of the evil stepmother. So that may make a decent case for their own ability to protect the mine. However, it seems likely that they will not be able to protect their mine for long before some big empire comes in to take over operations.
Some additional life lessons from Snow White
Lesson 1: Short people don’t talk. The seven dwarfs are exceptions.
Hence, Whitey’s astonishment at the dwarfs verbal communication skills. So, just to be clear; expect animals to be able to communicate with you and help you clean house, but not little people.
Based on this first encounter with the dwarfs, we can extrapolate her proceeding thoughts:
“Oh, my stars and garters! I’m awful glad they can talk, ‘cause I’m not sure they could do sign language with those little fingers. I bet they can’t even manage finger spelling ‘M’.”
Her thoughts, not ours.
In fact, upon being accepted into the workers’ collective as a domestic worker, she then proceeds to demean the dwarfs by treating them as children, ordering them to change their hygiene habits (Bashful: Do you have to wash where it doesn’t show?), and setting a bed-time for them.
What a bitch.
Lesson 2: People who have dust allergies should never clean their house. There’s no reason to. Whitey’s efforts to clean the house go completely unappreciated, even by Sneezy, who presumably will benefit greatly from the reduced allergens.
- We can assume that the dwarfs are Leninists, as they used the model of Lenin’s crypt for Snow White’s, putting her on public display.
- What the helk is going on with Dopey? For one thing he seems younger than the others, but then he’s also just plain weird looking. I guess the forest dwelling dwarf gene pool mustn’t have been too large.
- What kind of system of government is this? Presumably the step-mother wields some sort of Queen-like authority in the area.
- For that matter, where are all the people?!!! What must have happened in this society that there are only 10 people living in this region, 7 of whom are dwarfs and, after the step-mother’s demise, 9 of whom are men. This leaves Snow White in the awkward position of ‘Smurfette’.
- What is the source of Grumpy’s deep-set issues with women? Apparently it has something to do with the evil step-mother, as she’s the only other woman in the entire realm. Put that in your pipe and grumpily smoke it!
And with that image, we give you our rating of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs:
Rating versus Joe versus the Volcano: Thumbs up.
Rating versus Joe versus the Volcano: Thumbs down.
(NOTE: We have Joe vs the Volcano coming on inter-library loan. Ricktopher hasn’t seen it yet, but anticipates great things.)