Debating Disney’s ‘Woke’ Remake of Snow White

‘Not going to be dreaming about true love’ … Rachel Zegler in Snow White

Controversy Surrounds Disney’s Upcoming Snow White Remake

Scheduled for release in 2025, Disney’s live-action adaptation of the beloved 1937 animated classic, Snow White, has already found itself embroiled in a whirlwind of controversy and confusion. The studio’s recent decision to release a first still featuring the iconic princess and her seven loyal companions might be an attempt to reaffirm the project’s status amidst the surrounding oddities. From the outset, the uproar surrounding this movie has been undeniably peculiar.

Snow White appears to have sparked the ire of ‘anti-woke’ campaigners on both sides of the Atlantic, as well as advocates for actors with dwarfism, who rightly argue that such roles should be portrayed by actors who have dwarfism. Even Peter Dinklage, the renowned Game of Thrones star, expressed his discontent with the project, denouncing it as a ‘backwards story about seven dwarves living in a cave together’ and lamenting that such antiquated and patronizing narratives persist.

In essence, it seems almost everyone who has weighed in on the matter thus far holds a distinct view on how the Snow White story should be retold, or whether it should be retold at all. The film’s lead, Rachel Zegler, conveyed Disney’s intention to reframe the tale through a contemporary lens, emphasizing that Snow White won’t be a damsel in distress saved by a prince, but rather, an aspiring leader empowered by her late father’s guidance to be fearless, fair, brave, and true. Zegler also criticized the original 1937 film for its outdated portrayal of women in positions of power, characterizing it as a ‘love story with a guy who literally stalks her.’

Disney's 'Snow White' replaces dwarfs with varying sizes, genders

While Zegler’s remarks may seem fairly innocuous given the age of the original movie, they sparked a storm of outrage from various quarters, including Twitter accounts under names like ‘End Wokeness,’ the UK’s Daily Mail, and the conservative US channel Daily Wire (which, astonishingly, went so far as to create its own anti-woke rival movie).

Much of the controversy surrounding Snow White has been fueled by paparazzi snapshots allegedly taken during filming in Bedfordshire. These images seemed to suggest that the dwarves had been replaced by a racially and gender-diverse cast, mostly composed of able-bodied, average-height actors—referred to by the Daily Mail as ‘magical creatures’—with only one member having dwarfism.

Is this portrayal genuine or manipulated? At this juncture, few would be shocked to learn that it was concocted by a mischievous AI programmed to select the most incendiary image for social conservatives. Disney has clarified that these images are not ‘official’ photos, which is hardly surprising, given their striking resemblance to a 1980s amateur production rather than a major Hollywood endeavor.

Leaked Documents Reveal How Disney Will Replace Seven Dwarfs For Live-Action  Remake

Disney’s response has been to offer a solution that may not wholly satisfy anyone, but is sufficiently baffling and unobtrusive to potentially quell further controversy. In the released still, Zegler is accompanied by seven entirely CGI-rendered dwarves, purportedly all played by actor Martin Klebba (though alternative sources suggest he will be limited to the role of Grumpy). Evidently, the studio has bought itself time to address this predicament, with the ultimate goal of delivering a final product that doesn’t significantly ruffle feathers—at least to the extent that it negatively impacts the film’s box office performance.

Yet, this entire debacle raises the question of the true purpose behind this new iteration of Snow White. It won’t cater to the conservative yearning for a romantic, traditionalist depiction of heterosexual love. Nor does it appear to possess the substance to warrant a sharp, satirical feminist overhaul akin to what Barbie might receive. Zegler is set for extensive green screen work, leaving us to wonder: what lies ahead?

The concern is that we may end up with something bland and mundane—a 21st-century, tech-enhanced reinterpretation of a classic that has endured due to its reflection of the era from which it emerged. Thankfully, Disney now has nearly two more years to prove us wrong.

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