The Disney Princess Project: “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”

Heigh ho, heigh hoThe story of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” and the story behind the movie are fairly well-known. As many people know, this is the first full-length animated film and the first film that Walt Disney ever did, creating what is maybe one of the most loved genres of film out there.

“Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” tells the story of Snow White (Adriana Caselotti), who lives with her wicked stepmother, Queen Grimhilde (Lucille La Verne), after the death of her father, the king. Snow White cleans around the castle and is treated like a servant. One day she meets a prince (Harry Stockwell) while singing, but after they sing she is sent into the forest so a huntsman (Stuart Buchanan) can kill her and bring her heart to the Queen, because Snow White is the fairest one in the land, not the queen. The huntsman can’t bring himself to kill Snow White, so she runs off into the forest where she comes across some woodland creatures that lead her to a small, untidy shack. After she cleans up, she learns that it actually belongs to seven dwarfs–Doc (Roy Atwell), Grumpy (Pinto Colvig), Happy (Otis Harlan), Sleepy (Pinto Colvig, again), Bashful (Scotty Mattraw), Sneezy (Billy Gilbert) and Dopey (Eddie Collins)–and she begins to become a mother figure to them as they let her stay in their cottage. But the evil queen finds out that Snow White is still alive and begins to plot again.

The only thing I can knock this film for is that the prince is kind of a bland character that has maybe the least interesting design. (According to my mother, the animators had a hard time designing him because they weren’t sure what handsome was.) However, the prince appears in so little of the film that I really can’t criticize the film for this.

When you consider that this was the first full-length animated film, the animation is utterly amazing. Even if you compare it to some animated films made today, the animation is still utterly amazing. What the animation also does that I managed to forget is that both Snow White and the Queen have rosy cheeks. While this is noticeable–I appreciate that they aren’t as pale as me–it looks subtle and even natural in this movie. The main characters, while sometimes bordering on tropes, have very strong characterizations. Snow White is a cheerful, but sweet and caring woman who is incredibly down to earth. The queen, vain as she is, is driven by her desire to be the most beautiful woman in the land to her (SPOILER) death. Even the dwarfs change, notably Grumpy who starts off as akin to a crotchety old man but eventually learns to like Snow White and even care for her.

The film also has many moments that work very well in terms of design, even if they could be viewed as heavy-handed by some now, such as the poison on the apple forming a skull when the queen lifts it from the cauldron. But is is clear when watching the film as to how much time, thought and effort Walt Disney and his animators put into perfecting this film, which is why this film is still worth watching today.

But is Snow White a Good Role Model for Children?: Yes and no, leaning towards yes.

Snow White is an incredibly caring person and very resourceful, defeating the idea that princesses cannot help themselves because they have servants. To be fair though, Snow White is treated as a servant, so that in itself defeats the idea that she cannot help herself. Additionally, her hope that “someday her prince will come” is not grounded in the idea that a prince will save her but that she fell in love at first sight with the prince who heard her singing. The idea that she is discontent in her life and a prince will save her from her life is also absurd since she seems to enjoy her life with the dwarfs.

However, Snow White does enter a house without permission, although this can be excused because the cottage the dwarfs lives in looks a bit abandoned due to how unkempt it is. She also interacts with the old hag and takes an apple from her, which goes against the idea of “stranger danger.” However, the queen no doubt disguised herself as an old woman figuring that Snow White would never suspect an old woman of evil.

Ultimately, I would say that Snow White falls on the side of a good role model, just as long as parents explain that you shouldn’t accept apples from strangers.

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Programming Note

In a style similar to my previous blog post series “The Films of Pixar” and “The Great ’90s Animated Film Project,” I will be embarking on a new series of blog posts about animated films. This one will focus on the Disney Princesses, which are both characters in films and a multi-billion dollar franchise.

The franchise of Disney Princess has only been around since 1999 when Disney executive Andy Mooney noticed that girls went to Disney on Ice shows dressed like the the princesses in the Disney films, but in homemade costumes. He saw a perfect way to generate revenue and his idea, as we know, succeeded.

However, the franchise has received criticism for how it presents gender roles, the alleged absence of good role models for girls and the copious amounts of pink present in the marketing. This series will not only analyze the films but also examine if the princesses are actually good role models for girls.

The Disney Princess are composed of Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora, Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, Pocahontas, Mulan, Tiana, Rapunzel and Merida. (Merida is officially a Disney Princess this summer.) In addition to the above princesses, I will also examine Megara and Kida as one ends up with a demi-god and another one is actually a princess. While I’ve already written about Pocahontas and Mulan (twice), I will write about them again because I’m not done writing about how much I dislike Pocahontas and in the context of feminist criticism of Disney Princesses, Mulan is a very interesting film. Additionally, I’ve already written about Hercules, but I’d like to examine if Megara is a good role model.

The tentative order of the films is as follows:
1). Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
2). Cinderella
3). Sleeping Beauty
4). The Little Mermaid
5). Beauty and the Beast
6). Pocahontas
7). Hercules
8). Mulan
9). Atlantis: The Lost Empire
10). The Princess and the Frog
11). Tangled
12). Brave

The order might change due to the order Netflix is able to send me the DVDs. I expect to write about Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs on either Tuesday or Wednesday.

In Praise of “Law and Order: Criminal Intent”

Note: This post contains spoilers for all ten seasons of “Law and Order: Criminal Intent.”

There was a point in time when the “Law and Order” dominated NBC’s schedule like “CSI” did on CBS’ schedule. There were the main “Law and Order” shows–“Law and Order,” “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” and “Law and Order: Criminal Intent”–as well as “Law and Order: Trial by Jury,” “Law and Order: LA” and the spin-off “Conviction.” But now “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” is the only show that remains on NBC, while the occasional rerun of “Law and Order” and “Law and Order: Criminal Intent” on cable channels.

After picking up “Law and Order: Criminal Intent” on Netflix, I rediscovered how good this version of “Law and Order” was. Early this morning, I finished my journey through all of “Law and Order: Criminal Intent,” which essentially ends with Det. Robert Goren (Vincent D’Onofrio) and Det. Alexandra Eames (Kathryn Erbe) basically riding off into the sunset to solve the next case for the Major Case Squad. (Okay, there was no sunset, but they did get into an SUV and drive down a street to go to their next case at the end of the series finale.)

For those of you unfamiliar with the series, the show examines detectives of the Major Case Squad pursuing culprits while the audience also sees the lead-up to the crime as well as how the perpetrator or suspects act post-crime. The show initially focused on Goren and Eames, as well as Captain James Deakins (Jamey Sheridan) and ADA Ron Carver (Courtney B. Vance). Come season five, we’re reintroduced to Det. Mike Logan (Chris Noth), who was previously seen on “Law and Order,” as well as introduced to his partner, Det. Carolyn Barek (Annabella Sciorra). Logan and Barek episodes alternate with Goren and Eames, but otherwise it’s the same. Come season six, we have Captain Ross (Eric Bogosian, who will probably be best remembered for being on “Law and Order: Criminal Intent” than being a really good writer) and Logan gets a new partner, Det. Megan Wheeler (Julianne Nicholson) while ADA Carver leaves. In season eight, Logan leaves and is replaced by Zack Nichols (Jeff Goldblum), but then in season nine, Goren and Eames leave while Ross is murdered. Ross is replaced by Zoe Callas (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) and Wheeler never returns, only to be replaced by Det. Serena Stevens (Saffron Burrows), and season nine generally isn’t enjoyable. Season 10 goes back to the original format with Goren and Eames back, but with Det. Joseph Hannah (Jay O. Sanders) and Goren finally going to therapy. (There are some other minor casting changes, but that pretty much covers all 10 season.)

Although the show had a shift in tone around season six as we got to know more about the personal lives of the characters, particularly Goren, the show remained an enjoyable crime show. Sure, it was predictable because of the format, but as the series went on you started to feel a connection with the characters and become interested in the adventures of Goren and Eames and other detectives. When Captain Ross was killed, I found myself a bit sad about the character’s departure because of how all of the characters interacted with him, as well as the fact that the FBI made it very difficult for the detectives to find the person responsible for the captain’s death.

What also made the show enjoyable was that it felt like a modern “Columbo.” In many cases, we knew who the perpetrator was and we got to see him try to wiggle out of the chase from Major Case. But there was also a bit of a Sherlock Holmes-esque characterization of the main duo. Goren was a fascinating, troubled and brilliant detective while Eames was his partner who was often as brilliant as her partner. The show also had captains who would routinely reel the detectives in when they overstepped their boundaries. There were moments where Goren was actually suspended for his behavior, not to mention that his reinstatement in season 10 did require him to see a therapist. Something that has always bothered me about “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” was how often Det. Stabler (Christopher Meloni) would rough up suspects in the interrogation room, but he was suspended for that in some episodes.

There was also a chemistry between Goren and Eames that was completely platonic, but made them a great duo to watch work a case. Although I’m sure there are probably fans out there who would have loved to have seen them get together romantically, the platonic working relationship between the two was terrific to watch and was one of the reasons why the show was such a joy to watch.

For being a show that wasn’t high art, “Law and Order: Criminal Intent” managed to be thoroughly enjoyable, not demanding of needing to catch every episode and often amusing because of the writing. It’s actually a bit of a shame that the show didn’t last longer, but it went out on a high note. At least there are still reruns and the entire series on Netflix, because I really recommend watching the show if you want something that’s a guilty pleasure. Meanwhile, I would love it if Dick Wolf gave the world a final “Law and Order” show, this time focusing on Doctor Elizabeth Rodgers (Leslie Hendrix), the medical examiner.

Hospital Planning and Flu Patients

Currently the hospitals of Chicago, as well as other cities in Illinois, are seeing such a large amount of flu patients coming in that some are among the 11 hospitals in Illinois that will only handle patients with life-threatening illnesses. This is such a huge problem that my mother saw a story about it on the evening news on CBS 58 in Milwaukee.

What interested me in the Tribune‘s article on the problem was a quote from an emergency department doctor at Northwestern Memorial:

Zich estimated that more than 35 patients with flu-like symptoms passed through the emergency department’s waiting room while Northwestern Memorial was on bypass Monday night.

 

The majority of those ER visitors did not require medical attention, he said.

 

“The flu in and of itself is not a reason to come to the emergency department,” Zich said, noting that an ER visit is “not necessary” unless the flu is coupled with difficulty breathing or another serious illness, such as heart disease.

For the longest time, people have been going to ERs for minor problems. I tend to not be this type of person because of how my mother raised me. This has been speculated to be the result of people not having a primary care doctor, although I’d also point out that urgent care clinics seeming to be a relatively new thing–and incredibly scarce in Chicago as I discussed in an op-ed for Gapers Block–people might tend to go to Emergency Rooms on weekends since most doctors don’t have appointments on the weekends.

There are some hospitals in Chicago that are trying to curb the occurrences of people coming in to the ER for problems that don’t really require attention at that high of a level. According to a spokesman at Rush University that I spoke with in the spring for an article I was writing, that hospital wants to help connect patients with primary care doctors in the patient’s area. University of Chicago Medical Center has a well-intentioned program that directs patients who come into the ER for minor problems to primary care clinics. (I say well-intentioned because the program has been accused of resulting in alleged patient dumping by University of Chicago Medical Center.)

In many ways it makes sense that ERs are doing this. I can see though that a potential problem with flu patients coming in–especially since this flu strain sounds to be a bit harsh–is that in some cases flu should be taken very seriously. But in most cases, a person should stay home and wait for the bug to pass. Last February, I went to the ER at Northwestern Memorial for a shoulder injury and found that the ER was packed. Based on what I was hearing, most of the patients who were there with masks on their faces had been waiting for five hours to be seen. In addition to going to the ER being very costly, you’re going to have to wait a very long time.

However the question that I have after reading about this is if John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County is being horribly affected by this. When I visited Stroger Hospital to write about the Cook County Health and Hospital System for Gapers Block, I learned that the hospital divided up the Emergency Department into three different sections and triages the patients with problems like the flu separately from other patients. That hospital acknowledged that people will come to an ER for problems that can be treated elsewhere and figured out a way to help streamline and find a more efficient way to run an ER with this occurring.

It is inevitable that people will go to the ER for non-life threatening conditions or conditions that aren’t serious like a major injury. Something that Chicago hospitals might want to look at after this flu outbreak is how to help make an Emergency Department run more efficiently as people come in for things like the flu.