So I was watching bits of the Disney Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs again yesterday, with subtitles (I temporarily got a hold of the DVD).
In its way, it’s quite painful… boy oh boy. Just the voice of Snow White can really get to you – for today’s ears, it’s almost the embodiment of “ditz”. I didn’t think a voice like that could be real, until I met someone who sounded just like that – it was a local grocery store checkout clerk, no relation to Adriana Caselotti, the voice actress, as far as I know. I guess she couldn’t help sounding like that… but then, Disney very specifically chose her for the role. Not only that, he had her sign a contract which meant she never did any other voice work for the rest of her life (except for the uncredited line “Wherefore art thou, Romeo?” in the Tinman’s song in The Wizard of Oz). He wanted that voice to be specifically Snow White, and nobody or nothing else.
But what really gets to me is the songs, the ones by Snow White and the Prince. Right off the bat, the very first thing Snow White does is sing. “I’m wishing (I’m wishing) for the one I love to find me (to find me) today (todaaaay)…” Not “I’m wishing to get out of here so I don’t have to do meaningless kitchen drudgery” or “I’m wishing that my stepmother would be a little nicer to me and accept me for who I am” – nope. She’s wishing for the one she loves to find her. But wait a minute, darlin’ – you’ve never even met this dude, how do you know you love him? Wouldn’t it be a little more appropriate to say “the one I’m going to love” or “I hope to love”?
Well, regardless, she gets her wish, so it hardly matters. And as he’s just as big on warbling clichés as she is, they do seem like a good match. His song, that’s another thing: “One song / I have but one song / one song / only for you…” I can just picture them, a couple years later: Snow White sits at the breakfast table; Prince enters: “One song / I have but one song…” “Oh no!” groans Snow White, “couldn’t you please learn at least a second one?”
And then, of course, there’s the “Some Day My Prince Will Come” song. Yes, yes, I know, it’s cute and all. All those tunes are, in fact, quite singable, quite cute, quite fun to listen to (“Heigh Ho”, anyone?). It’s just that with this one, in particular, you have to work even harder than with the others to blend out the meaning of what this girl is actually saying. “One day my prince will come, and then everything will be all right, because I will have achieved the aim of my life.” Sigh. It wouldn’t really matter, if it wasn’t for the fact that for over 75 years, little girls have watched this movie, and with big wide eyes taken this song for their motto. Once a handsome man shows up, tells you that you’re the one & only for him (which, by his own admission, is the only tune he can sing), you’ve reached your destiny.
And what if the prince doesn’t show? Your life is blighted, Miss-Havisham-style. I heard someone say recently that this song is responsible for more wrecked girls’ lives than any other… That might be a bit drastic – c’mon, it’s only a cute tune to be enjoyed, isn’t it? Well, yes and no. I can enjoy watching this movie, it’s true. But it takes conscious effort to not think about the implications of what it is saying; in fact, I don’t think I can ever watch the movie without being struck by the sharp differences in the messages that were acceptable to preach in 1937 and today’s media-delivered sermons.
Quite frankly, I think movies like this need to come with a PG-rating – Parental Guidance of little girls is quite, quite necessary. “No, honey, it’s not a good idea to marry the first nice man you ever meet. Yes, sweetie, girls without boyfriends can be very happy. No, darling, you don’t need to spend your life waiting for a prince, you’ve got better things to do with your time.”
On a completely different note, having grown up in the Alps I can tell you that the dwarfs are rather good at yodelling. It sounds authentic.