ITZY's Snow White
“Just one bite, and all your dreams will come true.”
Poor Snow White. She’s just too good; too naive, too trusting. Although the dwarfs warn her about the queen, she still welcomes her into the cottage. Of course she’s disguised as a frail old woman, but the dwarfs had warned her about that, too. But when she sees the animals attacking the old woman, she’s moved by pity. What’s the lesson there? Of course in our modern world, which is more backwards and dangerous than a fairy tale, we have to be cautious about helping strangers. But the lesson still is to help, even when there’s a risk of being harmed. Snow White took that risk.
Disney is releasing yet another live action remake of a beloved animated classic. This time Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is getting an unnecessary modernized update. Most likely the color palette will be dull as all the rest. (All those intoxicating primary colors in Aladdin just totally washed out, a gray pallor over Beauty and the Beast in both visuals and tone). And of course Snow White is now going to be ‘feminist.’ The romance is not going to be the central focus of the story anymore, you idiot. No, the new and improved Snow White is going to be a leader, whatever that means.
The original film is lauded for its technical brilliance. The story usually isn’t, but at the time, movie stars Carole Lombard and Clark Gable were actually weeping during the film’s premiere. Charlie Chaplin said “it surpassed even our high expectations.” No less than Walt Disney’s own wife Lillian scoffed at the idea of the film and she was proven wrong. It was the enormous success of Snow White that convinced MGM to produce The Wizard of Oz (1939). It even inspired Citizen Kane (1941).
The film has often been criticized for its portrayal of the helpless princess and has spawned endless discourse on damsels in distress popping up too frequently in Disney films. Women are strong! Women can save themselves! Women don’t need love! We are not allowed to be weak or helpless anymore. Female characters need to reflect this.
So you can see now why Snow White is unfashionable.
But not quite.
Ringo, ITZY’s latest Japanese single, has an anti-Snow White bias, which earned an eye roll from me. Still, it’s empowering and defiant, qualities that have defined their music since 2019. And their retelling is a lot more radical than most. The music video contrasts dreamy fairy-tale aesthetics with action movie scenes where they arm themselves with guns.
“Bring me the apple,” they sing, not unlike the Evil Queen’s “bring me the heart of Snow White.”
But the songwriters missed something crucial: Snow White chooses to eat the apple too. It does take some coaxing, but hers is an enthusiastic bite.
The main difference in
Ringo is that they don’t faint. There is no cursed sleep, no antidote in a kiss. I can respect the vision because it ties into ITZY’s fearless concept. And they take the apple on their own terms. It’s not a punishment or an evil object. It sets them free. A storybook opening transforms the apple into a sword and shield.
The apple is a symbol of freedom for Snow White, too. She was safe in that cottage. It was short lived when the queen found her, but all she had to do was heed the dwarfs’ warning. She also could’ve been content for the rest of her days cooking and cleaning, only with the added benefit of not being despised by the people she takes refuge with.
The queen might have kept on coming, donning new disguises, or simply returned to her real form and killed the dwarfs and Snow White.
But for the time being, she was safe.
There was just one person who couldn’t have found her. The prince.
Snow White wanted to find him again. It was him and his castle and that wish of happiness forever contained in the magic wishing apple. And so she risked her own life to make it true. She wasn’t saved by a prince. If that was true he would’ve killed the queen. Nature took care of her, albeit not in the same way it did Snow White.
I don’t expect ITZY to play dreaming princesses. Love might be the most powerful force on the planet, a strong theme in literature and film, but in reality it is inconvenient, confusing, messy and embarrassing. It’s also a lot of hard work that sees little reward sometimes. When ITZY sings about love, it’s always on their own terms. There’s never any hesitancy, shyness or waiting games on their end. They’re never made to feel insecure or off balance. Snow White just doesn’t suit them. But that doesn’t mean she’s useless.
Snow White suits the girls who are gentle and soft spoken, who can’t defy the people who hurt them.
She is a young girl with a very limited view of the world. All she knows is what she can see. And yet she dreams of more.
It may only be dreams of a nameless prince, of a love she’s never known (she’s even denied the love of a parent) but it is hers. And there’s no amount of cynicism that can convince me it’s a worthless dream. Especially for a lonely orphan.
She tells the dwarfs that “there’s nobody like him, anywhere at all.” A dream made real. A prince just as smitten as she is, just as much of a hopeless romantic as she is. He’s the one she chose, so he was the only one who could break the spell. She won’t settle for anything less. The dwarfs do care for her but she doesn’t want to spend the rest of her life with them.
Snow White may have lain in a glass coffin, essentially dead to the world, but she isn’t ever passive. All of this never just happened to her.
Ringo is my favorite Japanese title. There’s all this adrenaline coursing through the song. There’s no Evil Queen to defeat, rather it’s the idea of a prince, of needing to be rescued that the girls take aim at. But there’s really no harm in it either.
There is clear Garden of Eden imagery in the video but it has nods to Snow White as well.