“Mirror, Mirror” and The Lonely Quest For Beauty

In my last post I ranted about a fairy tale movie I disliked, “Into the Woods,” so now I’ll tell you about one I enjoyed a lot. “You’ll like it so much, Mummy,” said my oldest who had watched it before with Daddy, “It was, like, made for you!” The movie is called Mirror, Mirror and stars Julia Roberts as Snow White’s wicked step-mother. But rather than being just another evil old lady movie, Mirror, Mirror takes quite an interesting and humourus look at the problem of beauty. 

 

The story is told from the perspective of the step-mother, an aging queen who is trying to hang on to the beauty of her youth with all her might. Her most intimate and honest relationship is with her magic mirror; it is the only one permitted to see her vulnerability and insecurity. Time is taking its toll and threatening to snatch away her claim to being “the fairest of them all.” As she has always used her beauty as a source of power, this loss has not only personal but political ramifications, and makes her fearful of losing her crown. 

  
When a handsome (but this time not sleezy like the one in Into the Woods) young prince arrives at the castle, she sees in him an opportunity to solve her financial problems and gain security. The pre-ball ‘beauty treatments’ she undergoes are a painfully funny commentary on woman’s willingness to suffer for her appearance. She uses a a bird-dropping face mask, bee stings on her lips as an instant volumizer, and a horrific harness-like undergarment to squeeze her into her old dress size, to name a few. 

 Yet despite her physical appeal, the queen lacks warmth; she is always determined to feel superior to those she is with, even the prince whose affections she is trying to gain. While she dresses as a magnificent peacock for the costume ball, the outfit she chooses him is that of a rabbit, with silly huge ears sticking out of his hat. It is very clear who is in charge. 

  
 All her efforts at impressing him are trumped by the simple elegance of Snow White, who arrives dressed as a swan, and captivates the prince. The most charming part about her though, rather than her appearance, is how little she thinks of herself. Her defining traits are to be found in her care for others, from the palace servants to the people of her late father’s kingdom. She shines in relationship, rather than in isolation. Integrity and finding the courage to fight for the good are what make this girl attractive. Her Audrey Hepburn-like beauty is something that simply fits with the goodness that exudes from within. 
   
She proves herself a lot more capable than even she expected she was, and finds, with the amusing help of her friends the dwarves, the strength to fight to reclaim the throne of her father from the abusive queen who is taxing the people to death to support her lavish lifestyle. While the young Snow White’s life expands as she gains in her sense of purpose and in serving others, the older queen’s life, built on manipulation and control, collapses inwards as her isolating self-admiration becomes insufficient to ensure her own happiness.   

I highly recommend this movie, for being both humourus and thoughtfully done, and touching on interesting themes of youth, age, beauty, generosity and selfishness. The themes of using beauty as a source of power, and basing one’s self-worth on externals, are certainly important issues facing women in our society today, and worth discussing with our daughters and friends. 

Finally, Mirror, Mirror also ends with an unexpected Bollywood style song and dance number by Snow and the dwarves which is sure to make you laugh! 😄 I sure did!

Movie Rant: “Into the Woods”

I don’t think I’m that hard to please when it comes to movies. I laugh easily, like most things unless they are creepy or offensive, and even enjoy lots of kids family movies.  But not this one! Despite loving the Muppets musicals and being a fan of most fairy tales, I could hardly handle this fairly tale musical, Into the Woods.

  

The basic recipe was:

  1. Take a whole bunch of fairy tales.
  2. Put them in a blender.
  3. Sing A LOT.
  4. Make it all rhyme. The songs don’t have to make sense as long as they rhyme.
  5. Then, when everyone thinks it’s over, make it an hour longer!

Besides the headache of hearing endlessly rhyming songs sung loudly to a very similar tune, there was the added annoyance of a totally confusing message. At one point Little Red Riding Hood, while plotting to kill a giant, says, “I don’t think my mom would be very proud of me. I’m about to murder someone.” She is reassured by Cinderella, in song of course, not to worry, cause “Your mother isn’t here; you have to make you own decisions now.” So while we hear at one moment that giants are perhaps people, too, and there could even be good giants, we in the next moment witness the ‘good guys’ killing one anyway. Wha!?

Earlier Red Riding Hood is met in the forest by a creepy wolf, who is, unsurprisingly, played by Johnny Depp (please, Johnny, stop playing creepos—you’re too good at it!). He sings about her tender flesh in a way that seems quite unrelated to his belly (yuck!) and she, after being eaten by him and then rescued, pipes away about all she learned…and keeps repeating that it was scary but exciting. What are we supposed to make of that!?

Another “charming” moment is when the sleezy prince woos the baker’s wife, who just had a long awaited baby, by reassuring her that they should  “live in the moment” and that anything goes “in the woods.” This is after he and his brother prince sang of their supposedly heart wrenching love struck “agony” for their newly met beloveds, Cinderella and Rapunzel, while tearing at their shirts at the top of a waterfall. Ugh! 😝 As the prince later explained, “I was raised to be charming, not sincere.” My girls were not impressed. 

Well, anyway, forgive me as this was more of a rant than a review, but in the hopes of sparing precious hours of your life, here is my advice: If anyone invites you Into the Woods, run! 🏃🏻🏃🏻🏃🏻

Woman: part, parcel, or person?

The other night after dinner I let my kids watch a bedtime movie so I could clean the kitchen. First we chose a Jim Carry comedy about a superhero, as the kids had heard it was really funny. I gave a hesitant ok and popped in and out of the living room to make sure it was suitable.

At a certain point there was scene in a lounge with a female singer in a sparkly dress “purring” a little to confidentially to the men in the audience. My 9 year old daughter said right away, “Mom, her dress is too short.” “Yeah, kinda more like pajamas,” I agreed. “She’s being inappropriate,” stated my 7 year old bluntly, as the woman continued in the manner of an overly friendly cat, rubbing up against people. “Let’s change it,” concluded my 9 year old. So we did. 

Figuring it would be a safer bet, especially for the younger ones, we switched to a cartoon. An adventure story about archeologists. Surely this would be fine, right? Again I popped in and out to make sure while tidying the kitchen. I came in to the following scene: 

A slightly nerdy looking guy, the main character, having a discussion with a slim woman with glasses and a pony tale. There was some dangerous adventure to be had, and he objected to her going alone. Then from the other room she asked if he was offering to come along. He hummed and hawed until she reappeared, now in her “archeology outfit” which consisted of little jean shorts and a small, revealing tank top. Her glasses were also removed. All his hesitation disappeared, and no surprise: of course, he was coming!

Perhaps kids won’t really notice this subtly sexual joke, likely put in there for the adults watching, but what message does it actually send to girls? Guys won’t be willing to make sacrifices for you because of your friendship or your brains, but you can be sure they’ll do anything for your boobs. Great! And we really think feminism has advanced so far…

Whether or not women’s bodies are being presented as sources of power and control over men (again, this is a manipulative rather than healthy message), the fact is what seems to matter about women is their parts…the pieces of their bodies that interest men. Perhaps brains are also presented as a good thing, but only as long as they come in a pretty package. 

Parts. Packages. Juicy bits. What are we talking about here? Cars, internet bundles, steaks? Things. We are still talking about women as if they were things instead of people. This is objectification. Do we want our daughters to be objectified? 

 
What really matters about women is that they are people, and like men, each one of them is unique, irreplaceable, and worthy of love and respect. Tell me Hollywood, when are you going to grow up enough to share this message? It is one of true beauty and of hope for relationships that actually respect each person as a person, and just not a set of spare parts to be used for fun…until a better model comes along.