'The Huntsman: Winter's War' Takes Snow White Out Of Her Own Story & It's Part Of A Problematic Trend
The Huntsman: Winter's War is a crowded movie, to say the least. There's Chris Hemsworth's titular character, named Eric, ever-charming and burly as ever. There's Emily Blunt as an Elsa-like ice queen of Frozen-style wastelands, whose snowy owl mask allows her to see through the eyes of various birds as she conjures up a few deadly popsicles. There's Jessica Chastain as Eric's former flame Sara, a badass hero who shoots arrows better than Brave's Merida and The Hunger Games' Katniss combined. And then there's Charlize Theron, hamming it up in glorious gold as the Evil Queen Revenna. One thing, however, that you won't see very much of in The Huntsman: Winter's War is the person you might expect the most: Snow White.
Although the famous character is constantly talked about and referenced and fought for throughout the movie, she's not actually present in the film. I'm not just talking about Kristen Stewart — I'm talking about the actual character. And although her absence was expected, removing her from the franchise reflects the bigger problem of eliminating female characters from their own stories in favor of highlighting men.
A female lead being kicked out of her own story has happened all too often. In many male-centric films, female roles have proven interchangeable from one movie to another. James Bond has a new love interest each film, and the women in the Mission: Impossible franchise "keep disappearing," as Entertainment Tonight has noted. The '90s Batman series had a revolving door of female leads, as has the Transformers franchise, and comedies like the Ted series and the Jump Street movies are guilty of replacing their women actors as well. But when, like with Winter's War, a movie's female star is replaced by a male lead in a sequel, effectively turning the franchise into a male-driven series, it's even more disappointing.
Before Winter's War, there was Disney's Tangled, a movie based on the fairy tale of Rapunzel and that was given a charming male lead and a gender-neutral title in order to appeal to a male audience. Then there's the upcoming Sicario sequel, which, according to Forbes , may not star Emily Blunt, despite the fact that a female drug enforcement agent was was made the film different in the first place. And now there's Winter's War, in which Snow White's absence is impossible to ignore. It's like if the upcoming Alice Through the Looking Glass decided not to feature Alice.
Axing Snow White, as Winter's War has done, leaves a gaping hole where the character once stood, and as it stands now, the franchise has become yet another vehicle for a male hero. As Scott Mendelson for Forbes wrote, "Since this movie isn’t about Snow White and Kristen Stewart is nowhere to be seen, it loses the one component that made it unique (a female-driven fairy tale action fantasy) and becomes just another would-be hero’s journey for a male movie star who is already flush with franchises and star vehicles." In other words, the wonderful reason that The Huntsman franchise once stood out from its male-dominated peers has completely disappeared.
The importance of the series once having had a female lead can't be understated. As Bustle's Kadeen Griffiths wrote back in 2014 when Winter's War was announced without Stewart, "It's the fact that they are taking a female main character and replacing her with a white male main character in the sequel to her own movie that's the problem. It's the fact that a successful franchise based around a strong female character is being twisted into just another fantasy movie franchise starring white men that's the problem." Having Snow White in this series mattered, but Winter's War chose to ignore this fact.
By removing Snow White from a story that essentially revolves around her, her lands, her army, and her battles, the film is saying that she doesn't matter. It's implying that it's not important if an interesting, female role in a franchise disappears in favor of interchangeable magical villains or a male character who only had a supporting role in the original story. And gender issues aside, the character's absence simply doesn't make sense; in the film, Sam Claifin's Prince William is married to Snow White and rules the kingdom with her, and he requests Eric's help in defending his wife's lands against Freya because Snow White is going crazy, being tortured by the magic mirror. At one point, viewers get one shot of the character, who is filmed from behind and is obviously not being played by Stewart, but that's it. Throughout the entire film, characters talk about Snow White, declare how important it is that she be victorious, and risk their lives for her, but the hero herself is nowhere to be found.
The lack of Snow White in The Huntsman: Winter's War creates a huge gap in the film's storytelling that makes it hard to wrap your brain around. There may have been a behind-the-scenes reason for the decision — the scandal surrounding Stewart's affair with Huntsman director Rupert Sanders could've had an effect — but regardless, it's disappointing to see the new film's male-dominated focus. Was Snow White and the Hunstman a bait and switch? Are fans supposed to not have noticed that a franchise that had begun with an engaging female lead removed her from the rest of the story? Come on, Hollywood — be better than this. Next time, let Snow White be part of her own story.
Images: Universal, Giphy