Lips as Red as Lipstick

There is a new movie version of “Snow White” coming out next month. The poster:

Mirror Mirror

Another promotional picture from the movie:

Snow White with the dwarves

Can we please take official note that the seven dwarves are the only people in the promotional materials for the movie who are allowed to look “ethnic” (i.e., not Anglo-Saxon or Nordic) in any way? I would be fascinated, in fact, to find out how many of them had their skins darkened for either this picture or the movie itself. Also, we apparently get to tell them apart by their hats.

Mirror, Mirror is being promoted in print as a kick-ass, independent-princess version of the old Brothers Grimm tale. That, of course, is the story in which the childless queen wishes for a daughter with “skin as white as snow, lips as red as blood, and hair as dark as ebony.”

This Snow White doesn’t really have lips as red as blood in the movie. Her beauty doesn’t appear to be the thing that primarily attracts the prince, and it’s straightforward sexual jealousy over the prince that makes an enemy of the queen in this version instead of the nebulous “who’s the fairest” sort from the fairy tale. Snow White has human-colored (albeit shiny) lips in much of the promotional material. When your main character is supposed to be unnaturally beautiful, that’s an aesthetic decision that would have been roundly discussed.

So what’s up with the really obvious lipstick in these photos, and apparently in the scenes where Snow White is wearing this outfit? Are we not supposed to notice that these legendary “natural beauties” have been blatantly painted with modern cosmetics? Or is that natural beauty still–somehow–not supposed to be enough for us?

Lips as Red as Lipstick
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18 thoughts on “Lips as Red as Lipstick

  1. 1

    I think they’re going for an overly exaggerated animated-esque look? Seems to fall really flat to me. The best way to describe it is that it feels like it falls smack-dab into the uncanny valley.

  2. 2

    Mirror, Mirror is being promoted in print as a kick-ass, independent-princess version of the old Brothers Grimm tale.

    thing is, such a retelling might actually be a really kickass story if it were done right. perhaps something like this version of Cinderella. (warning, not really suitable for kids. unless maybe you let your kids read Grimm in the original versions.)

  3. 3

    Maybe the other Snow White movie coming out this year–Snow White and the Huntsman–will be the independent princess kick-ass story you are waiting for.

  4. Sas

    I don’t understand the clothes the dwarves are wearing. Are those supposed to be leather? They went all out with costuming for every other character, but the dwarves are all in shapeless brown bags.

  5. 6

    It’s just a movie. Designed as a “coming out” party for Lily Collins. It’s a trope: every Hollywood actress coming out of her teens has to be in an updated fairy story (or a sex comedy).

    Collins is quite lovely, but needs a serious session with a stylist with industrial-strength eyebrow tweezers. Or a weed whacker. IMO.

  6. F

    Collins is quite lovely, but needs a serious session with a stylist with industrial-strength eyebrow tweezers. Or a weed whacker. IMO.

    Why? So they’ll need to be penciled-in or tattooed? What’s with eyebrow abuse anyway?

  7. 9

    I know I would not have gotten any sleep at night without knowing what Kevin’s penis thinks about some rich beautiful celebrity’s eyebrows. I doubt Ms. Collins could wait to hear either.

    That said, I agree with karmakin. It looks like they’re going for a cartoonish look.

  8. 10

    I’m afraid I’ve been ruined for less … original versions of Snow White by two vastly better efforts:

    * Beach Blanket Babylon
    * Snow, Glass, Apples

    At least the second is available anywhere. Although the first is another reason that I regret the Company’s travel budget didn’t let me make it to ISSCC the last few years.

  9. 11

    Hey, the dwarves are miners. At least their custumes have a prayer of being functional. For real labor that is, not as in function for helping some guy get his rocks off. I’m referring to the costumes of the female characters, being the hetero that I am.
    Come to think of it, it likely follows for gay guys too: not sexy costuming on the dwarves. So they’re not the 7 Chippendales. Shucks!

  10. Sas

    Adamo, the dwarves in this movie are not miners, they’re bandits (as they were in some old versions of the fairy tale). These guys are presumably a big part of the film, dressing them all up in cruddy brown sweatsuits just smacks of laziness.

  11. 16

    RyanG, you’re right, it’s so progressive and original to have the bumbling, grotesque comic relief characters played by ethnics while the beautiful, heroic protagonists are played by white people. Why are people complaining? They should be grateful we let so many minority types into Hollywood movies.

    By the same token, black peoples everywhere issa be plenty joyful for da Minstrel Gungans in Star Wars Eppy-sode One. Because dey wassa whole plenny big city full of Gungans speakin’ in minstrel talk, and dem Gungans desa be representin’ dem black folks real big well.

    In the Lord of the Rings, there was a whole army full of orcs, a degenerate race of crypto-foreign people. (Tolkien’s description of orcs: “squat, broad, flat-nosed, sallow-skinned, with wide mouths and slant eyes… degraded and repulsive versions of the (to Europeans) least lovely Mongol-types.” Sure, the orcs were the bad guys, and they were portrayed as savage and sub-human, and they existed mainly as arrow-fodder for the humanoid blond or brunette Nordic and Anglo Elves, Men and Hobbits… but that’s cool, because there were so many orcs! And quantity is more important than quality.

    Avatar: the Last Airbender. A fantasy series set in a mystical, primarily East Asian world, with significant Pacific Island and South Asian influence. It’s adapted into a movie, with colorblind casting. Suddenly, the Inuit and Tibetan heroes become white. (The rest of their tribe are still allowed to be Inuit/Tibetan, because they’re not important, they just hang around in the background). Three of the four nations (the good ones) are magically converted into Western Europe. The fourth Asian Nation, (the evil one that started the war), is now converted to a mix of Indian/Iranian/Italian/generic Mediterranean/ethnic people. (They’re allowed to be brown because they’re the bad guys). See, there was a whole nation full of ethnic people fighting the three good white nations! So that’s another example of how equal our film industry is!

    Let’s see now, Le Guin’s Earthsea, a fantasy world in which the majority culture consists of people who are reddish brown or brown-black in complexion, and resemble Native Americans or Melanesians (there are some pale types, Kargs, who are savage barbarian invaders from the North). This series is adapted by the Scifi channel. Suddenly, Ged is white, along with the entire dominant Earthsea culture. His best friend/sidekick is still black. As for the evil Kargs, they are now a generic foreign race. A whole race of generic evil foreign people! Sweet.

    The Chronicles of Narnia. Assuming they make subsequent movies true to their source material, the white Narnians will soon face their enemies the Calormen, a swarthy, backward people who come from a hot sandy country based on a mishmash of Arabia, Persia, Turkey and India. The Calormen worship a god with four arms who is actually a evil flesh-eating blood-drinking demon who reeks of corruption. They are soundly whipped by the Narnians, and their Sultan is turned into a donkey by the Lion-Jesus just to humiliate them further. Some of the darkies are actually nice people, but all the good deeds they did, they actually did for Lion-Jesus without knowing, rather than for their filthy backwards four-armed animal-headed god.

    These are just a few examples of the positive and equal portrayals of race in modern fantasy movies. I would like to thank RyanG for reminding us that, contrary to the hand-wringing and whining of so-called “anti-racist” activists, our film industries are very progressive and fair regarding race. And even if there are racial problems, they would magically disappear if people stopped talking about them and pretended they didn’t exist.

    Duly noted, everyone.

  12. 17

    I think the impulse to use modern fashion items like lipstick is similar to Renaissance painters’ dressing Greek mythological characters and Biblical characters in contemporary (Renaissance) robes and hairstyles. There’s some sort of battle going on between authenticity and the familiar.

    In this case, yeah, familiar modern sexual norms are winning in the minds of the producers even though I imagine its jarring to a large portion of the movie-going public who sees right through it.

  13. 18

    Unlike me, Ms Collins earns her living by being pretty.

    As a representative of the target audience for her “product” (her prettiness), I find the unibrow look unbecoming. I am certainly not alone in this assessment. Nor do I limit this opinion to otherwise attractive actors. Heck, I found Andy Rooney’s eyebrows offensive. I trim my own to avoid the bushy look.

    If we were talking about any other characteristic of the young woman (her ability as an actress, her political viewpoints, her education, her views on feminism, her understanding of sting theory — whatever), then her eyebrows would be irrelevant. And I would not have commented on them.

    We’re talking about a movie that specifically cast her in a role very specifically defined as being beautiful. It’s her defining feature in the role. Nothing else. “Fairest in the land”. Not “smartest girl on the block”.

    That’s why it’s relevant to discuss a physical feature of hers which — in my valid opinion as a member of the target audience (a movie-goer) — makes her less-fit for the role. And one that is quite easily remedied. Heck, my own eyebrow trimmer cost me about $10. Does nose hair, too.

    Seriously, do you think I’m not allowed to have an opinion on someone’s beauty when the subject at hand is — that person’s beauty? Just because I’m not beautiful? Or because I’m a male? Does that mean I’m only allowed to comment on male actors’ looks — and you’re not?

    You’re all OK with denigrating the rest of the movie — the costuming, the casting of whomever for whatever role, the whole trope itself. But when it comes to the most important thing in the movie — the lead actress — I’m not allowed to comment on a feature of hers that I find off-putting and makes me less likely to attend the movie? Because I have a penis? Really? That’s your argument?

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