The other day while visiting my brother and his family in New Jersey, everyone went to see Snow White and the Hunter. Despite my lackluster first impressions of the movie, I keep thinking about it. One thing that keeps it in my head are all the fascinating gothic costumes worn by the evil stepmother. But really what sticks in my head is the torture this evil stepmother is put through. Yes, she’s evil and she kills quite a few people, including Snow White’s daddy, the King (right before having sex with him by the way, the gothic always troubles lineage). But a huge part of the movie consists of her writhing in anguish – either from being struck down or from aging, going from youthful to an old lady in a matter of minutes. My favorite moment was when she was prevented from killing Snow White by the Hunter and upon returning to the castle, she crawls across the floor in oily muck, complete with dead ravens (evocative of the Louisiana oil spill). She looks like Montevidayoan favorite Samara from The Ring when she crawls out of the TV to kills the boyfriend – all shuddery and soaked.
(You can see the shuddery crawl towards the end of this montage.)
Like Samara, the queen is all about the body in media: transformed (from youth to old age, from outside the castle to the king’s bed, from the forest back into the castle). The black ink and oily muck that seems to pour out of her functions much like the mucky well-water in The Ring. Like in The Ring, the queen is incredibly physical, shuddery, saturated.
Overall, the wicked queen has all these feelings – horror, torture, sexuality – but they seem to move through her, not emanate from her. She’s stuck in her room, dominated by a weird golden mirror (which invokes Klimt as well as Abu Ghraib for me), going through all these agonies, while the rest of the plot takes place outside her castle (where she is represented by her blond, incestuous brother – blondness, incestuousness and evil are all associated, but more about that in a future post about Swedishism/orientalism). The reason she is ruining the world through dictatorial mismanagement – environmentally as well as economically and politically – is for Beauty. As the icon of beauty, she is both isolated and connected to the world, she is both supernatural and superphysical. She is wracked by AFFECT of every kind; and we are wracked along with her (she’s hot, she’s castrating, she’s evil all at once). It’s as if affect and violence together moves through her, but her personhood cannot capture them, cannot “domesticate” them (to use Feng’s word from her last post).
Like the Queen, Snow White has no interiority. They are both flat. Snow White too is put through a lot of torture, but I remain oddly unmoved by her torture and griping. She has not charisma, no sexuality. But unlike the queen she moves around a lot – busting out of her prison cell to run around in the woods etc.
Like the Queen she is aided by black birds – showing that the queen and the snow white are indeed, as the queen tells snow white, connected. They are two sides of the same figure. Both have only one seeming moment of interiority: the queen’s recollection of a childhood attack against her village, and for snow white when she listens to the hunter’s sorry story about losing his wife (fake interiority – in death she experiences the queen’s perspective, the huntsman’s story makes her come alive with sadness). In both cases, their lack of human-ness/interiority seems to give them zealous powers: the evil queen to destroy all kingdoms (do it!) and Snow White to lead all the resistance on a suicide-like mission against the queen (because in death she has seen the world from the queen’s perspective, the queen is both beauty and death). In both cases, they want to destroy. They are terroristic.
They catch violence, they are animated by violence, they are tortured by violence, they channel violence.
One more thing: This really isn’t a great movie, but it’s OK if you’re stuck in a town without any other good movies to go to….
No, one more thing: As in The Ring, there’s great detail to the torture of horses. I want to return to the horse violence in the near future so this will be my bridge.