Saturday, March 31, 2012

Wrath of the Titans: Transcending Political Chaos

Jonathan Liebesman's Wrath of the Titans is great! I had high expectations for this--and I made numerous preliminary political observations of the film, and it exceeds my expectations--and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Again, I can't understand other critics refusing to enjoy a film (and just between you and me, given the choice between seeing Wrath of the Titans or The Hunger Games at the theater, and waiting for the other to come out on DVD, I would go to the theater to see Wrath of the Titans in 3D and wait to catch The Hunger Games, because the later isn't going to suffer any loss on your TV screen).
So why is this film so political?
Great use of 3D throughout the film, wonderful SFX! The film utilizes two themes we are going to continue seeing this year: ruined kingdoms and someone trying to take back "lawful" control of the kingdom; this accurately reflects American politics today and the upcoming election in November.
2012 is an election year; all art, including film, exists within a political context which gives birth to the expressions within culture that require discussion. Through symbols and structure, by knowing what the audience knows, the artists and film makers (consciously or unconsciously) create a piece under the guise of entertainment that either speaks to our own beliefs or challenges us; Wrath of the Titans is no exception, and through the mythology of the players and careful structuring of conflicts, the film sends a loud message that chaos has been unleashed upon our own political atmosphere and the time to act is now.
The Titans unleashed: Minotaur, Chimera, Makhai, Kronos.
Well, actually, "now" isn't really "now" anymore, because films are anywhere from 1-3 years behind the current events; it's not the film's fault, it's just the way things happen, and that may be the underlying cause for complaint by some critics; two years ago, this political message would have been viable, but now the economy is so far gone, and voters seem to be so upset (at least I am) that the political transcendence the film calls for may seem hokey to some, however, the moment of forgiveness and reconciliation is so well done, it's still potent.
What is the conflict within Perseus? Having defeated the Kraken ten years previously, and married Io who died during child birth, Perseus swore to her that he would not lead their son Helios (a demi-god) to the sword or teach him the ways of war. Perseus' father, the god Zeus, comes to Perseus and asks for his help to defeat the Titans being released and Perseus says no because of his promise to Io and he wants to raise his son. This is one of those obvious moral dilemmas when you must do one in order to do the other (join the fight so his son will have a world to grow up in) but it's also a call to voters, especially those who haven't voted before, that the "end has begun," and before we had weapons, like the gods, we had power, and we--like Perseus--have to use that power wisely to save the world.
The key to understanding the film is Kronus, the ancient father of the gods, including Zeus, Hades and Poseidon. As a titan, Kronus is associated with chaos and darkness, especially since he tried to always devour his children. But the three brothers united and combining their powers were able to overcome the darkness that both gave birth to them and tried to destroy them. What circumstances do these elements of the myth describe?
The American Revolutionary War.
Kronus, he looks like chaos and darkness as a mass of lava and ash, his son Hades agrees to deliver his brother Zeus to Kronus so Kronos can take Zeus' power and become strong again. What is so well realized and executed in this final battle scene between Perseus and his grandfather (since Perseus is the son of Zeus) is that Perseus has to enter into Kronus with the spear (the thunderbolt of Zeus, the trident of Poseidon and the... and the... thingy from Hades; he's usually associated with the helm of darkness, and he uses that in the film, but he has a physical weapon and I don't know what it's called) and throw the spear into the stomach of chaos so unity can destroy chaos, light destroy dark.
When America came out of the War for Independence, the political in-fighting (chaos) and lack of a clear path to be taken as to unity and economy and laws (darkness) gave birth to opposing sides, the Democrats and the Republicans (they only came to be called this later, but this is easier) and there were also political independents who are still with us today. The political organization overcame the chaos threatening to tear the country apart in its infancy, and even though that chaos was the cause of the American political system as it is today, the releasing of it is now chaos and the system can't stand it, potentially destroying the entire country, even the world.
The temple of the gods in ruins. Zeus tells his son Perseus that because people have neglected praying to the gods, the gods are losing their strength and their power to protect and save the world.  The gods have become so desperate to insure their own survival that a prayer to the war god Aries means that he will come and, instead of saving you, destroy you and offer you to his grandfather, Kronus to save his own skin. By the time Perseus realizes that he has to do something, Zeus is all ready bound and being drained in the Underworld, Tarturus, but Zeus' brother Poseidon hears the prayers of Perseus and comes to relay to his nephew what has happened and what he must do. Greek idols are a thin veil indeed for the religious persecution many are feeling today as their liberty to pray is under attack and that being a cause of our weakening political strength, but it's clear also, the refusal of many to prayer, or sheer negligence, is also weakening the country and contributing significantly to our ever-growing decline.
Up to this point, Wrath of the Titans suggests that the same kind of political instability and chaos this country suffered during and around the end of the American Revolution is attacking us today, that just as Hades permits the walls of Tarturus to fall, and the demons to escape, and refuses help to rebuild unless it's on "his terms," so our political leaders (and one specifically) are failing, not only this country and the world, but themselves. (There's a beautifully and well-done scene of forgiveness between Zeus and Hades that could have worked politically two years ago, but not today, and that's the reality of the time it takes to make a film and everything that has occurred since).
Draining Zeus of his powers feeds chaos and darkness. Zeus' son Aries, the god of war, has betrayed his father, and Aries' "sibling rivalry" for the love and affection of Zeus against his half-brother Perseus, is fuel for his warring internal conflicts that has deadly consequences for all. Is there a "war" that the Republicans gave birth to which has turned and betrayed them, robbing them of their power? One of several things Wrath of the Titans does well is emphasize the family relations and how everyone is related to everyone else.
When Kronus begins making his appearance, there is the great spewing of the volcano that must invoke the last days of Pompeii in the mind of the audience, with the fire and ash cloud reminding viewers of the devastation caused by 9/11.  But Perseus has been successful in assembling the spear of the gods three weapons so he can face Kronus. What does the spear mean? Unity. And it has to be yielded by someone who is a peace maker, not a war monger, because that power of unity is the one thing chaos can't digest so it's the only thing that can kill him.
Agenor, the son of Poseidon that no one knows about except Poseidon, Perseus finds him in jail and solicits his help to find "the Fallen" god to get inside Tarturus; who, or what, does Agenor symbolize? Political independents and those who generally don't vote. Perseus has been fighting his half-brother Aries outside the walls of Tarturus, and Perseus laments that he knows he can't beat the god of war; Agenor gives Perseus a pep talk about how he was in prison just a couple of days ago, but he's in this now (going from someone working against society through crime to someone working for society by achieving unity). Just as Aregon is known as "the navigator," political independents will be major players in "navigating" the political future of the country with their potential swing vote.
One of the many aspects of mythology to be incorporated into the film as a political metaphor for today is Tarturus, the Underworld. Hephaestus, the fallen god of Olympus who fashioned the weapons of the gods and built the prison for Kronus, tells Perseus and Queen Andromeda, that the mind is the real labyrinth, and the Underworld will cause them to turn on each other and turn on themselves, but finding the right path will lead them to Zeus. Tarturus, then, can be taken as a metaphor for the political process because of all the rules of Congress, the Judiciary proceedings, and the power and limitations of the President and the rights and power of voters (not to mention that it is ever-shifting and never the same).
The outer gates of Hades leading to Tarturus where Zeus is imprisoned.
Hephaestus, the creator of the labyrinth, gives them the map so they can get through, but that isn't enough. Just as Aregon gets frustrated by continually running into dead ends, so many American voters are feeling frustrated at the dead ends of justice and the political process not permitting us to exercise real power and hence, express our will.
Aregon holding the map and trying to decipher the path to take, Andromeda behind him and Perseus bringing up the rear end. They are attacked, split up and lost, but still mange to get to Zeus and free him.
This metaphor provides relief to angry Americans, but there's another dimension to the labyrinth that is timely: the Minotaur. As a metaphor for the mind, the labyrinth symbolizes a man's progression into himself. As Perseus gets separated from Aregon and Andromeda, he sees his young son Helios wandering the labyrinth, and Helios asks him, "It's cold in here, isn't it?" then Helios turns into the Minotaur and viciously attacks Perseus; why?
Why is the half bull and half man minotaur associated with male sexuality? Because of the urge (stronger or lesser in various men) to behave like a bull in their sexual practices. The minotaur takes the form of Helios to trick Perseus, but it also reveals to the audience how a man not only protects his son from worldly danger, a man protects his son from becoming a sexual animal, and that is the great lesson a father passes onto his son, controlling his own emotions, lusts and passions. If Perseus fails in this lesson, then Helios will "grow cold," in forever unsatisfying sexual relationships.
Helios isn't really there, it's a trick of Perseus' mind, because the reason Perseus is going through all these trials is for the future of his son, but he's also thinking of the possible future with Andromeda, and that's why Helios (as the projection of Perseus' mind) talks about the "cold" because Perseus' wife is dead and Perseus wants Andromeda to warm his life up again with her love. But the other side of that same coin is the pure lust in Perseus' heart for Andromeda that he has to overcome, not only to have a genuine relationship with Andromeda, but to get out of the labyrinth and save his father. The minotaur has become important because we saw him in Immortals (please see Immortals & Divine Deeds for more), we will be seeing him in Snow White and the Huntsman and it's easily argued that Shame is about the minotaur that Brandon Sullivan (Michael Fassbender) has surrendered to and is suffering the consequences because he won't battle the minotaur the way Perseus does.
Andromeda. How many other women are we seeing with bows and arrows? There is Katniss in The Hunger Games, and Merida in the upcoming animated film Brave (and there is at least one more I can't remember right now); why? Diana, goddess of the hunt, is often depicted with bow and arrow as the vestal virgin who refuses to marry and leads a life amongst the animals instead. It could be a challenge to women to chose between the hunt (for world success) and marriage and how more women are choosing the hunt.  
It would be easy for either political side to claim moral and narrative superiority in this film (the Democrats saying it supports their position and the Republicans saying it supports their position) and that possibility also contributes to the political atmosphere right now: both sides are fighting to "own the narrative" of what their struggle is about. But what is certain is the fall of the great and mighty powers that have been (Zeus, Aries, Poseidon, Kronus) and the rise of those who have been pushed off to the side, the fallen: Aregon, Hephaestus, Andromeda--even Perseus as a fisherman. The reversal of the power structure and the gathering of, as Zeus says, "Every strand of power," does indeed reflect how times have changed.
Bill Nighy as Hephaestus. There is a wonderful characteristic he has, that of talking to Bubo, the owl many of us remember from the 1981 version of Clash of the Titans. Why does he do this? For two reasons. One, because the makers of Wrath of the Titans know the audience is mentally referencing Clash of the Titans and that means we, too, are having a conversation with the film, Bubo being an iconic symbol. Secondly, Wrath of the Titans wants to have a political conversation with Clash of the Titans: 1981 was a vintage year for film because--like today--there were dramatic changes taking place that made film the perfect arena in which to discuss them, and Perseus's struggle over himself symbolized the rampant sexuality that film was seeing as destroying society (AIDS was discovered at this time and it was feared it could wipe out the world) and while Hephaestus talking to Bubo invokes everything in Clash of the Titans, when Andromeda asks, "Which one of you is in charge here?" and Hephaestus says he is, it clearly establishes the here and now political agenda as being sovereign, but still wanting to remind us of how history repeats itself (for more on the 1981 version of Clash of the Titans and Perseus' inner struggle, please see The Medusa Within: Clash Of the Titans).
Wrath of the Titans is a completely different film from Clash of the Titans from a couple of years ago (and I am very happy to relate that there is no sex or nudity, one brief kiss, and no foul language) but Zeus and Hades making peace with each other and forgiving each other to unite together and battle the political and threatening chaos and darkness descending over the world is a welcome solution to a disintegrating kingdom; it might just be too late for us today to make those same concessions (just observation). But it does a wonderful job of emphasizing the power each of us has, and the responsibility that comes with power.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Walt Disney & the Brothers Grimm: A Comparative Analysis of Snow White

Snow White became a part of the Grimm Brothers' fairy tales in 1812 and was made into a classic, feature length film by the Walt Disney company in 1937. Exactly 200 years later, Mirror, Mirror comes out this weekend (starring Julia Roberts) and Snow White and the Huntsman comes out June 1; as audiences watch the new adaptations (one a comedy, one a drama) the 1937 Walt Disney version is the one most will mentally reference as the film progresses to spot changes and similarities, inwardly considering Walt Disney's to be the original; what might seem to be changes to the story could, in fact, be citations of the original story which Disney himself changed to create his world that we all know so well.
The physical description of Snow White is important because Disney kept it in his adaptation and even parts of her famous costume are retained by both Mirror, Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman. The Grimm Brothers' tale reads: Once upon a time in midwinter, when the snowflakes were falling like feathers from heaven, a queen sat sewing at her window, which had a frame of black ebony wood. As she sewed she looked up at the snow and pricked her finger with her needle. Three drops of blood fell into the snow. The red on the white looked so beautiful that she thought to herself, "If only I had a child as white as snow, as red as blood, and as black as the wood in this frame." Soon afterward she had a little daughter who was as white as snow, as red as blood, and as black as ebony wood, and therefore they called her Little Snow-White. And as soon as the child was born, the queen died. It's mid-winter, so things have been cold and are going to stay cold, and the idea of a queen sewing is a prime image of the spiritual life, because each of us is called to be royalty in our souls but this woman is royalty in the material world; when we have success in life, we undoubtedly turn to the spiritual and want more out of life than just the material, and what it is we are to be sewing? The bridal gown, the "new man" that Christ calls each of us to put on, on the gown of virtue and love. The queen getting distracted by what happens outside the window is why she pricks her finger: when we don't follow the dictates of the spiritual life and look to the physical world instead we only hurt ourselves. Knowing she became distracted, and recognizing the spiritual qualities she herself should have been exercising (more on that in a moment) she wants to have a child that will accomplish spiritually what she was not able to do in the physical world, the material world. A child as white as the snow is a child both pure and full of faith (the color white) and steadfast in that faith and purity (the snow, winter signaling the time of hardship that won't overcome faith). As the Disney version says, when the queen has dipped the apple into her poison, "The symbol on the skin of what lies beneath!" because Snow White's skin is white and pure, so is she in her soul (and conversely for the queen). A child red as blood means she is the expression of perfect love: red is the color of love because our blood is red and when we love to the utmost, we are willing to spill our blood, so a child red as blood means a child made completely of love (no rebellion like a teenager). "Black as the wood in this frame" of the window reminds us that windows are the symbol of contemplation and meditation; when we are in deep levels of meditation, we are dead (black) to ourselves, we are aware of serving others and fulfilling our duties in life, and by so doing, that feeds our ability to mediate and become self-aware (the frame around the window). The queen dies as soon as the child is born because we "cannot serve both mammon and God," i.e., the world and the spirit. Snow White is the "fairest in the land" because she has the greatest virtue that adds to the greatest beauty, or makes even a ugly woman beautiful, if she so practices virtue.
Little Snow White, the original Grimm Brothers' tale, can be read here for free; it's only a couple of pages and quite interesting. As we review Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, I will be referencing significant changes Disney made to the story (I had originally intended to also post on the 1997 film Snow White: A Tale Of Terror which has some interesting aspects to it, and I will mention it from time to time, but not specifically post on it; it is available for instant viewing on Netflix).
As I mentioned, the original Snow White tale is only a couple of pages, but we are presented with an entire book here. Why? It was a rather standard device Disney used for many feature-length films, including The Sword and the Stone, The Wind in the Willows, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, (I think The Jungle Book), etc., but the importance is a referencing an authority, an author, someone who no longer exists, but their story from antiquity does exist (we will discuss this at greater length next week with The Ten Commandments).There is an aesthetic response, the idea of us being children again and someone opening our favorite book to read to us, but there is also the validation that the story to be told is published, preserved for all ages and hence of value. This introduction to the story is also important because in the featurette for Mirror, Mirror, the dwarfs decide to "skip the story book" opening and just get on with the story, which is a reflection of our cynicism today; but Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs knows everything exists within a context, and this intro in writing of what that context is lets us know what that context is. The blue fabric upon which the book rests symbolizes the "wisdom" being offered up for our consideration in the pages; how do we know that? The book, like our heroine, is white, so that contained therein is pure and faithful, it can be trusted; it is also edged in gold, symbolizing royalty, and in this case, the "royal wisdom" that will bring us all to happiness if we heed it, like Snow White, or ruin, like the queen, if we don't.
In 1937, when Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was released, who was poor and dressed in rags?
The Great Depression was in full-swing, and there was unprecedented unemployment and food lines; like Snow White, most Americans were hoping for that thrill of true love that would get the heartbeat going again and lead the country out of the dark times. But an economic and historical analysis doesn't explain why the film is so timeless; we might argue it's the great artistry of the illustrations, but with advances in computer animation nearly every day, wouldn't that make Snow White seem old and worthless? (Not that I would ever argue that).
It will be a fruitful exercise for us to consider the presentation of the queen's castle pictured here, and compare it to the one we will see in Mirror, Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman. In this picture, we don't see any decay or ruin: the kingdom looks beautiful and lovely (unlike what we are going to be seeing in the two new versions). Is that to demonstrate that the queen is a good ruler, and her subjects prosper? No, it's to show us the "image of health" so when we see the queen, we know she' s not it. This play on opposites is also at work in the two queens this year: they will be dressed to the nines in rich clothes, while their subjects languish in poverty. The evil queens will look wealthy and beautiful while the subjects poor and miserable. Incorporating strong opposites in films allows an easier comparison--that doesn't even have to be articulated--for the audience to understand how the "balance" of justice will be swayed by the hero and why.
When there is a story that achieves the timeless quality, it's because it's about something that is timeless, and that is the soul. (I know there are readers who will say I am reading into this story what I want to; regardless, Snow White does say a prayer when she's spending the night at the seven dwarfs' house, and that verbal verification of Snow White "being in communion with God," allows us to understand God answering her prayers in the tradition by which God works).
The window of the castle wherein the Evil Queen and Snow White live. This castle is an earthly castle (juxtaposed with the castle in the clouds at the end after the prince awakens Snow White) and hence an indication of the worldly.  The window where our attention is focused is one of the chambers of the evil queen where her mirror is kept. Women being in tall towers of the castle are a typical mainstay of fairy tales and legends, and--just as with houses--castles symbolize the soul: what a soul guards and cherishes (the way a castle is a fortress, what is that soul defending within itself?) or what is being kept within. The windows of a castle (are few because of defense purposes) so there is not much "reflection" going on (this castle invokes the Norman style of architecture most, which were heavily fortified). Self-meditation and reflection are a large aspect of the story, therefore, since there are not many windows--only a magical mirror--we know the queen's castle is built upon a rock that is as hard as her heart, and it keeps her in so she doesn't have to meditate or grow, but only grow cold towards others.
The opening shot of the castle isn't to let us know that Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is a fairy tale, it's to let us know that we are about to be given a royal lesson on what life is and what each of us should know about living. Fairy tales are the secular parables often validating the Biblical parables taught by Christ, just employing a different method of decoding (with two editions of Snow White coming out this year, two versions of Hansel and Gretel and Jack and the Giant Killer, not to mention the plethora of fairy tales on TV this year, the entertainment industry obviously thinks we need to be taught some lessons again).
Isn't it odd that a woman renowned--and wanting to be known for--her beauty is shown to us back first? There aren't any features on the back (at least not with her big black cape) and that's what we are supposed to notice about her, she doesn't have any features. She can be vain about her beauty all she wants, but the truth is, when someone is that that caught up on how they look, they lose their individuality and that means the features that makes them physically recognizable from others. Our identity is our destiny, and to waste yourself on the seven deadly sins--including vanity--is to let yourself be eaten and destroyed by that sin, to the point there is nothing left of you. Note, if you will, that on either side of the queen's staircase are two gold/brass stands with blue light coming out of them: depression. Anyone who is as vain as the queen is so because she is depressed; she may not know it, but just as the queen will offer Snow White the apple to satisfy Snow White's appetites for love, the Mirror offers the queen the validation that she is fairest in the land to satisfy her appetite of vanity that feeds on her. Next are the pillars: pillars are a sign of strength and what are the pillars protecting? The magic mirror (more on this below). The pillars have helped to create a space deeply guarded and private so that no one can see the queen's evil designs (although, as Grumpy will later validate, everyone knows the queen is into black magic). Around the mirror are all the signs of the zodiac and above that is a blue curtain with gold stars upon it. The zodiac signs and the blue curtain verify that the queen is into astrology and the reading of the stars for wisdom instead of looking to the heavens where God is and trusting in Him, like a sorceress, she prefers to trust in herself and her power, and this is why she's depressed, we cannot live apart from God.
"Slave in the magic mirror, come from the farthest space, through wind and darkness I summon thee. Speak! Let me see thy face." The first word of this film is "slave," and who is the slave but the one saying the word? In theory, structuralism is an approach which communicates to the audience through the way it structures opposites and opposing forces throughout the story. For example, Snow White is dressed as a slave, a scullery maid, but is royal in blood and beauty; the queen, dressed as royalty, is not royal by right of blood or inner beauty and she is the slave to her own appetites (these are devices we will see again in both Snow White tales this year). As we have discussed before, mirrors and glass symbolize reflection and inner-meditation; the queen literally perverts (turns upside-down) what mirrors are used for: instead of looking at herself, she uses the mirror to look at others and judge whether or not they are as fair as she.
Lightening appears four times in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, this image documents the first time; then there is the queen using a thunder bolt to mix her potion (and there is lightening), lightening when Snow White falls "dead," and lightenting strikes the place where the queen tries escaping the seven dwarfs as she falls to her death. These are all connected together and meant to remind the audience of the journey the queen takes to her death. Rather odd pose for the queen in this picture above, isn't it, that she almost appears to be crucified in this image?  The idea of the queen holding up both hands and the wind rushing at her (like the Crucifixtion) invokes Moses, parting the Red Sea, but this is an inversion, the unholy and the unclean, the summoning of dark arts instead of Holy Wisdom. Let's discuss what her costume says about her. Purple, as we know, is the color of royalty; for Christians, it is the color of Christ who should be "the King of our hearts," but for those who wear purple themselves (artisitically speaking) they are taking Christ's place. She wears a golden crown upon her head, but what has she done to earn it? A crown unearned is a crown all ready lost. There is a single pearl in it, all that might be said to be left of the queen's inner goodness and real wisdom, but she as she wantonly throws away her beauty, so she throws away this last pearl (please note there are no other jewels on the crown). Beneath the crown, the queen wears a black skull cap, covering her hair; hair symbolizes the thoughts, so basically, for intensive purposes, she doesn't have hair (we'll discuss her white hair coming through below) but only the black skull cap (black being death in the truest and most spiritual damning sense of the word and the skull cap means that death shuts out all other things, nothing else can get loose or show through). There is also a widow's peak on the cap, meaning that she is not married (Snow White's father, the king, is dead, of course, but this is her spiritual state). Her beauty exists for her sake, for her own enjoyment, and not for any other reason, that is why beauty to her becomes objectified, it's not subjective, along with all her other qualities (because she doesn't have any other qualities but power) and so beauty is being used to objectify herself to herself. The high, tall collar she wears "frames" her face because her face is all she has in this world and it's white to show us the "white of death" the whiteness of an old corpse (this element of the high collar is retained by both queens in Mirror, Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman, so we had best pay particular attention to it). The red lining of her cape lets us know that her anger and appetites lie at the bottom of her motives and the red sash around her waist (normally a chastity belt) signifies that the queen is chaste, but from her disdain for others, not out of virtue, like Snow White.
In the Grimm Brothers' version, the stepmother/queen asks the Mirror, "Mirror, mirror, on the wall, Who in this land is fairest of all?" and the queen always believes the mirror and knows the mirror tells the truth. This brings us to a fascinating aspect of the spiritual life: the devil will tell us "the truth" if he can use it to lead us further away from God, and this is exactly what happens. The mirror knows the queen cannot bear to not be the fairest in the land, and she will do anything to stay fairest in the land, so he tells her the terrible truth, knowing that she will eat it up and be eaten up by it; the same happens in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. In the Grimm Brothers' tale, there are a few more details making the story on a more obvious spiritual plane, such as Snow White being only seven when she becomes "a thousand times fairer" than the queen. Seven is the number of the sacraments (wait on the dwarfs!) and so at her young age, she was all ready to be fully receptive to the sacraments because of her inner "snow white" beauty.
The Magic Mirror surrounded by smoke as he does the queen's bidding to appear. Remember the phrase "smoke and mirrors?"  According to Wikipedia, "Smoke and mirrors is a metaphor for a deceptive, fraudulent or insubstantial explanation or description. The source of the name is based on magicians' illusions, where magicians make objects appear or disappear by extending or retracting mirrors amid a confusing burst of smoke. The expression may have a connotation of virtuosity or cleverness in carrying out such a deception. In the field of computer programming, it is used to describe a program or functionality that does not yet exist, but appears as though it does (cf. vaporware). This is often done to demonstrate what a resulting project will function/look like after the code is complete — at a trade show, for example. More generally, 'smoke and mirrors' may refer to any sort of presentation by which the audience is intended to be deceived, such as an attempt to fool a prospective client into thinking that one has capabilities necessary to deliver a product in question." Note, please, first the signs of the zodiac framing the mirror; then there is more stone and at the top of the mirror, down about half-way, are the two twin bodies of serpents (which are also on the back of her throne).
 In Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the Magic Mirror doesn't even need to name the girl fairer than the queen, the queen knows by her traits listed by the Magic Mirror; to be fairer than the queen is to be the enemy of the queen and hence to be sentenced to death. We then see Snow White for the first time, and this simple pose and circumstance (a favorite of Disney artists) tells us everything we need to know about why she is as white as snow."Rags cannot hide her simple grace" the Magic Mirror tells the queen, and it's that grace which makes her fairer than the queen and evil which the queen will employ to destroy Snow White.
To see someone dressed in rags would have resonated with audiences in 1937, because the compassion they felt for Snow White being treated thusly would have given them a sense of compassion for their neighbors in similar circumstances. The wooden clog shoes she wears (Cinderella will also wear them before she wears the glass slippers)  Why did Disney change Snow white from being "red as blood" in the original to "Lips red as the rose?" the queen lies and therefore believes all others lie; snow white doesn't lie and so she can't imagine that someone else would; "love is on her lips," and the only thing on her lips, so love can grow, just as a rose does. Disney had to chose her eye color because the Grimm Brothers' account doesn't provide for that; why brown? Brown is the color of humility, so she doesn't "see herself" as a princess, rather, she sees everyone as being better than herself and she sees everyone in the best light. The royal purple and blues of the queen's raiment should be contrasted with the browns of Snow White's, and the rags.
The setting and tasks of Snow White are exactly the opposite of the queen's (structure again): The queen is removed from nature (nothing living is inside the queen's chamber), Snow White is outside (flowers are growing and there are birds). The queen consults a "magic mirror" to survey how others look (to see the face in the Magic Mirror, not her own heart), while Snow White looks into water (the wishing well) to see her heart's inmost desire. The queen, in conversing with the Magic Mirror, converses with the devil (Grumpy says so when he mentions her practicing black magic) whereas Snow White converses with the Holy Spirit in the guise of the doves, the embodiment He took at Christ's Baptism. These two elements, the stone and water (her cleaning the stone staircase), present in this shot, can be juxtaposed against the shot when the queen will die (the rain will be hitting against the stone entrapment where she will "fall" to her death, "fall" being the spiritual death she will experience).
The heart is often compared to a well in the Psalms because it's deep, life-giving water is contained therein, you can see your reflection (in the water), hear your voice (in the echo) and hear the Voice of God. The echoing in the well illustrates for us the "process of discernment," wherein we come to a choice we have to make and we "bounce it around" within us to determine if it's true, if it's the right path in life for us to take. The echoing of the well/the heart, is like a prayer, which we offer to God and ask for guidance, and then His answer is the the voice we hear within our hearts.
Knowing that about the queen, we can say that this is the moment (scrubbing the stone steps with water) that Snow White "comes to life" even as the queen has set herself on the path of death. The stones refers to the staircase to heaven" and the firmness of purpose with which Snow White's "simple grace" has resolved her to set her course and path in light to attain; the water she uses on the steps is te grace she needs to continue and keep herself clean from temptations. Both women are at a staircase; the queen goes up the steps to the Magic Mirror, Snow White stays at the bottom and cleans them, because of Snow White's humility, she doesn't ascend, but because of the queen['s pride, she does ascend, even into the heavens themselves as we can tell by her decorations of astrology where the Magic Mirror is kept.
The face of the Magic Mirror. Is it really a face? We know the eyes are the window of the soul, so for a mirror that can "see" so much, his eyes are hollow, he has no eyes are all, bearing a closer resemblance to a mask, rather than a face, and this mask with no eyes is what the queen sees when she looks into her magic mirror, whereas when Snow White looks into the well, she sees not only her face, but her heart's desire and the face of the prince, her true love. The colors comprising the mask of the Magic Mirror is the exact opposite of Joseph's coat of many colors (each color symbolizing a different virtue in his soul) and reveals his vices and the queen's. At the top, closest to the brain, is blue again, the color of depression; then the eyes are outline in yellow/gold and purple. Both colors are meant to denote royalty, but the queen has made herself the pinnacle of royalty instead of God, hence she sees herself as being above all others, including God. That the nose is also purple and outlined in gold means that she has "a nose for trouble" and this is why she consults the Magic Mirror everyday to find if there is one fairer than she, she wants to find trouble before trouble finds her. The cheeks, wherein our state of the soul can be determined (by how we blush or smile or grow pale), are green, and where green is usually the color of hope and rebirth, in this case they refer to that which is rotting and dying. The purple mouth I will discuss below.  The yellow/gold chin invokes the saying "take it on the chin," and yellow is being referred to here as the color of cowardice (such as a yellow-streak), so instead of being able to take insults lightly, the queen takes everything in a cowardly way, and responds as a bully.
What is Snow White doing at the wishing well?
Her night she spends at the cottage of the seven dwarfs she prays at her bedside, and then she prays again (making her wish known to God) before biting into the poisoned apple (which is what saves her from the poison of the apple). When we pray, it's important that we don't think we are dropping our prayers into an empty well, rather, that the Spirit who is Holy not only hears our prayers, but was the one who prompted us to make the prayer to begin with. Perhaps the strangest line in this song, "I'm hoping, and I'm dreaming of, the nice things, he'll say," is also the most damning, literally, because the Magic Mirror tells the queen nice things, i.e., the things she wants to hear, but Snow White is longing for the nice things that are the truth.
This is what all of us are called to do: reflect, find the inner being of our true self, our true identity, our true purpose in life (and learn how to discard the false self) and this literal reflection of Snow White's (put it up against the queen's Magic Mirror) offers us the business that we should be about.
To say the wish is to utter the prayer, and to utter the prayer is for the prayer to be answered. When the heart sings its prayer, that is the most powerful prayer there is, because it is the unification of your heart and your mind making your petition to God. It doesn't seem as if her prayer is answered, because as soon as they find each other, the loose each other, but that's the way God works: He tells you what He is going to do, then leads you of into the Wilderness for ever, then brings you back out of exile and fulfills His Promise to you, because you weren't really praying for what you wanted, you were praying for what God all ready wanted to give you, and in uniting your will to His, you put your heart and soul upon the path of life He created for you. That's just the way it works, there's no getting around it.
When you truly see yourself, you truly see God with you.
The Prince, then, is God, the True Lover of our soul because He is the creator of it. When we finally get deep enough within ourselves, we see God there, too. Then He leaves us, and there's darkness and we don't see Him again until after the long sleep has ended (but that's further on). We can know that Snow White is truly in a state of Grace with her Creator because, after she has run away from Him (this is the typical fear that prophets and Biblical figures show when approached by God, remember, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God,") is that instead of running to change her clothes, like most women would do, she straightens her dress, but she is not afraid of being seen in the humble clothes of the scullery maid; it's because of her humility that she is attractive to the prince, to her God and Creator, unlike the queen.
This is a great shot of the queen, looking on Snow White and the prince as they serenade each other. This is the embodiment swine," because e, "Cast not your pearls before swine," because swine are those who live according to the appetites and they do not understand the wisdom that has taken a person much discipline and time to acquire, and thus, how precious that wisdom is; people who live according to the appetites are not capable of "reflecting" (even though the queen looks out from the window, she can't see what is going on because she has never achieved the state of holiness Snow White has so the queen really has no idea of what is going on. Now, if Snow White were in this exact same pose, the window would mean reflection, the curtains would indicate that something is being revealed (but the queen closes the curtains so nothing is revealed to her) the blues would mean wisdom, the red would mean love, and the golden light would indicate the advancing degree of spirituality of Snow White in getting closer and closer to her innate dignity as the child of God the King. But it's the queen in this shot, not Snow White, so the queen's appetites (red) and her depression (the blue) make her take action against Snow White (the cowardly yellow color) because the queen's afraid Snow White will take everything the queen has (her beauty).
When the prince serenades Snow White, she comes out from behind the curtain revealing herself to Him as Eve did not reveal herself to God after she partook of the Forbidden Fruit (more on that later). Whereas Eve's appetites were such that she had a greedy streak in her to taste the Forbidden fruit, the kiss which Snow White sends to the prince on the dove (symbolic of the Holy Spirit) gives the kiss to the prince on the teeth; not on the lips, but on the teeth. This is an important aspect because, as a part of the mouth, the teeth symbolize the appetites, and teeth are important to the characters of this story (both Dopey and the queen as the Peddler woman have only one tooth) but the cleanness and whiteness of the prince's teeth mean that his appetites are purged and true, not self-serving as the queen's are.
Why is the evil queen the stepmother of Snow White? The queen symbolizes the world and worldliness living within us. We are in the world, but called to be separate from the world; the queen is in the world, and wants to rule the world, not only with power (her official position) but also by her beauty. Our true mother, heaven/the Church/God, is what gives birth to that part of us that is most real, whereas the world gives birth to that part of us which is passing, our earthly-biological bodies and worldly possessions.
And now enters the Huntsman.
Taker her into the forest where she can pick wild flowers, the queen tells him, and there you will kill her! The picking of ht wild flowers symbolizes of course the pleasures of the world, the appetites, because the forest and what happens there, is the fall from grace. The reason it's a "huntsman" doing it is because of the way the devil "hunts for our souls" (as the Lenten entreaty says, "The Lord will save us from the hunter's snare"). The queen is fully enslaved to the Magic Mirror, and the queen believes the Huntsman to be as enslaved to her, so it''s not that she trusts him (because that would be a virtue) it's that she trusts in her power to frighten him into doing her bidding.
The emblems on the back of the queen's throne speaks volumes about what she values. There are the peacock feathers surrounding the throne--the opposite of an aureola, a halo signifying holiness--and symbolizing instead pride and vanity. (The peacock feathers encircling the queen are used on the costume of Julia Roberts' in Mirror, Mirror). It's the two serpents that are really important, because of the serpent in the Garden of Eden causing the Original Sin, it has always been associated with Satan, and that's from whom the queen gets her power. Her throne is made of wood, rather strange for such a vain queen, yet it illustrates for us again how she is usurping Christ's royalty for her own: the throne of Christ is the wood of the cross, but the queen wants nothing to do with that.
This is the text of the original Little Snow White from the Brothers Grimm: Then she summoned a huntsman and said to him, "Take Snow-White out into the woods. I never want to see her again. Kill her, and as proof that she is dead bring her lungs and her liver back to me." The huntsman obeyed and took Snow-White into the woods. He took out his hunting knife and was about to stab it into her innocent heart when she began to cry, saying, "Oh, dear huntsman, let me live. I will run into the wild woods and never come back." Because she was so beautiful the huntsman took pity on her, and he said, "Run away, you poor child." He thought, "The wild animals will soon devour you anyway," but still it was as if a stone had fallen from his heart, for he would not have to kill her. Just then a young boar came running by. He killed it, cut out its lungs and liver, and took them back to the queen as proof of Snow-White's death. The cook had to boil them with salt, and the wicked woman ate them, supposing that she had eaten Snow-White's lungs and liver.
It's beyond ironic that the queen calls the huntsman "faithful" when she herself isn't faithful. When the huntsman objects to killing "The little princess," it's probably because she's royalty by true blood and, just as everyone knows that the queen practices black magic, so everyone probably knows how good and true Snow White is. In Snow White: A Tale of Terror, Gustav plays the huntsman, meaning the queen and huntsman are kin in deed. The queens' relationships to the huntsmen in Mirror, Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman will be interesting to explore.
Why her lungs and liver?
I think for two reasons. One, it shows the real bestiality of the queen, because back then, the lungs and liver of an animal were regularly eaten as food so it displays what the queen thought of Snow White (and all people in general, animals, not people); but of course, in thinking of others as animals, it shows what an animal she is. Secondly, the spiritual significance: the lungs permit us to take in "the breath of life" (the kiss the prince will give to Snow White at the end of Disney's version) and the liver is vital for detoxification and cleansing, as well as metabolism, so we can get rid of toxins within us (sin and our appetites to sin) nor can we digest food, that is, the Food of God, the Bread of Life and the Word of God by which we are called to live. So, the queen is not only wanting to kill Snow White physically, but kill her spiritually as well.   
Bring back her heart... who else do we know that has a sword piercing her heart the way the emblem on the box does? Mary, prophesied by Simeon at the Presentation of Jesus in the temple.  That is how we can know this is to be interpretative spiritually.
As Snow White goes about gathering her "wild flowers," she sings the song the prince sang to her, "I have but one love," and this reveals the reason the queen wants Snow White's heart: by removing the love for the prince (for God) by removing the heart, Snow White will no longer be Snow White and pure, because she will loser her spiritual capabilities. The queen doesn't have to do that though, just the temptation of the world is enough to lure Snow White off the path and for her to get lost. But I'm jumping ahead. First, Snow White stops gathering flowers to see to a little blue bird; is this just hokey or what? No, because this demonstrates how compassionate it is to everything living, even a little bird, and because of her own hardships (having lost her mother and father) she is therefore able to exercise more compassion. Later, we will see how little compassion the queen has, when she goes off to deliver the poisoned apple to Snow White and the queen (as the peddler woman) stops and kicks a drink pitcher at a skeleton).
We can be confident that this scene illustrates Snow White's compassion because, to those who have compassion, compassion will be shown, and the huntsman shows Snow White compassion in letting her live and telling her what the evil queen intends for her. As the huntsman comes to kill Snow White, his eyes turn green, meaning, in carrying out his orders to execute Snow White, he sees her as the queen sees her ("green with envy"). When Snow White realizes the huntsman is going to kill her, she screams but doesn't beg for her life the way she does in the Brothers Grimm version; Snow White is resigned to her fate, but this also provides a chance to humanize the huntsman and his penance shows he is still human even while the queen is not.
In Snow White and the Huntsman, when the huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) finds Snow White (Kristen Stewart), he hasn't led her there, as in the two previous versions, rather, he finds her and saves her, but they also find a minotaur-esque creature, invoking male sexuality, which means, the huntsman has to overcome his own appetites for Snow White before he can help her in defeating the queen, because the huntsman (at this point at least) will have to be as worthy to fight the battle against the queen as Snow White will be.
Snow White is not playing dumb, and this can get a bit annoying for people watching the film today (we are so wise in our cynicsism) but because she couldn't imagine wanting to kill anyone, she can't imagine anyone wanting to kill her. As the Magic Mirror named off traits of Snow White when the queen asked who was fairer than she, so Snow White asks the huntsman who is so bad that they would want to kill her and even after naming all the terrible traits, Snow White (unlike the queen) still doesn't know who it is, because her purity is purer than the queen's evil is evil.
Why does Snow White getting lost in the woods happen this way? Are the woods really that bad? The illustration lets us know where we are on the spiritual map, in the natural progression of the spiritual life. The earlier encounter with the prince is the romance stage, the seduction spoken of in the Song of Songs written by Solomon. After the Lord is certain that we have fallen in love with Him, He leaves us, but we forever have the image of His Face and Love upon our hearts; He wants us to prove that we love Him more than anything else, and He wants to prove to us that He Loves us more than all of our sins. Snow White, working as the scullery maid at the castle, was pure there, pure enough to see the Face of God within her own heart, but she's released into the world so that the Dark Night of the Soul can begin and she can be even further purged.
Let's discuss this iconic outfit of Snow White's. Snow White has black hair, symbolizing the thoughts, so she's dead to thoughts of herself, but her red bow in her hair reminds us that her thoughts are "bound" by love. Like the queen, Snow White wears a framing collar behind her head, but her's is white, meaning, her identity (face) is framed by faith, innoncence and purity. Her dark brown cape reminds us of her humility "enfolding her" and the red lining of the cape that, again, her humility comes from genuine love. Her blue top means the opposite of the queen's misery and depression: Snow White has wisdom. She uses what she has learned from her suffering to make herself better for it, rather than turning it against herself or others (as the queen has done). Again, we can be confident about this interpretation because of the red showing through her sleeves (strength) meaning that her wisdom is based on love, not her appetites or anger. Her yellow skirt, covering her legs, symbolizes her will. Since it is yellow (the color of gold) we know that her understanding of her dignity as a princess (more in than spiritual sense than in the social/political standing  as a princess) is what guides her to the greater degrees of perfection God calls her to (her shoes also are yellow/gold, re-enforcing this).  But the human condition is not a rational condition, and we rarely see the suffering we are sent from God as beneficial; the trees which attack her throughout the ordeal in the forest validates for us how scared we are by the thought of our sufffering Christ sends us and how we want to "run away" from suffering instead of embracing it because of what we see as "the face of suffering" (the trees coming to life which is really meant to "bring us to life," the Life of Christ).
There is an additional purpose to Snow White getting lost in the woods: to show how, at this point in her life, when she's "following the way of nature" (leading a life of the appetites) she's actually at odds with nature, in a state of rebellion against nature. Our true nature is to be at one with God and everything God has created; when we revolt against God, we are in revolt against God and everything God created, just like Satan. That everything has become dark, evil and threatening to Snow White in the woods is accurate: she's in a state of sin and so be cleansed of that sin.
It's not as clear in this exact shot, but in the video, as this shot is coming up, the light shines on Snow White's sobbing figure the same way it will towards the end when she is in the coffin and the dwarfs mourn for her, before the prince comes to kiss her and awaken her. The light is the light of truth and indicates a deepening state of grace and awareness of that state of grace (as opposed to being aware of the darkness you are in). In this scene, however, the light doesn't come through as strong and clearly as it does in the closing scene with the prince, meaning, that work still must be accomplished in Snow White's soul for her to be purified and ready for "the marriage feast."
I'm sure you're saying, but what did she do? It's the queen who's at fault!
The queen is allowed to exist up to this point because--unwittingly--she is the means of Snow White's perfection. Snow White hasn't done anything wrong, she has tried to become spiritually perfect, and the more a soul tries to become spiritually perfect the more God wants to help them along their way. What Snow White is being healed of are the wounds from Original Sin and the senses (St. John of the Cross calls it the "purification of the senses") and how they can lead the soul astray from God (Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz will also have to go through "the dark forest" before she can conquer the Wicked Witch).
The blue birds guiding her indicate the Holy Spirit leading her. Snow White busting into song seems pretty cheesy, but God doesn't grade us on what is or is not cheesy, rather, what is sincere and genuine, and her ability to sing at this time is her ability to praise God which is exactly what the saints do.
After Snow White has come out of the nightmare of the purgation, there is a time of respite, and her sobbing shows a state of penanace and how she now understands the dark things that have lurked within her (but are now gone; the animals coming out to be with her indicates her reunification with nature and hence, with God for successfully enduring this trial). This brings us to what promises to be a popular topic this year: the cult of the warrior princess. As a princess, Snow White represents all women who are the crowning achievement of God's creation; because of the Fall and Original Sin, we have to work at fighting spiritual battles to regain our status as the spiritual royalty God intends us to be, not only for ourselves, but for our fathers, husbands, brothers, children and other women. Snow White's battle is interiorly fought, and this battle has been translated today (to some degree) as actual battles.
Original theatrical poster for Disney's first, feature-length film.
To some degree, it elevates the struggle women fight interiorly to overcome temptations and purify themselves so as to fulfill their destinies; but who thinks that's what is really meant when women today put on armor and lead the charge against the foe? This brings us to the conflict, between the interior world women are meant to conquer first, and the political world that is the temptation to conquer. Women cannot achieve any good in the world anywhere, unless they have first achieved good within themselves. There is a dramatic difference between the "battle cry" of the Feminists and the war of suffering of femininity; Snow White represents the later. (This is a topic we will be referring back to all year).
This part of the story offers an interesting difference between the Grimm Brothers' version and Walt Disney's version. The Grimm Brothers' version reads that, as Snow White ran through the forest, She ran as far as her feet could carry her, and just as evening was about to fall she saw a little house and went inside in order to rest.  Inside the house everything was small, but so neat and clean that no one could say otherwise. There was a little table with a white tablecloth and seven little plates, and each plate had a spoon, and there were seven knives and forks and seven mugs as well. Against the wall there were seven little beds, all standing in a row and covered with snow-white sheets. 
Do you see the little turtle there? He signifies the audience, because we the viewers, like him, are always "behind" what's really going on, and just as we start to catch up to what's taking place (on the interpretative level) then the story is moving full-speed ahead again and we have to get our momentum back up. The animals, just like in Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, offer easy characters endowed with human qualities for the audience to identify with because in them we see our own animal tendencies and even though we laugh about it, at least we have recognized ourselves in the characterizations of the narrative.
Because she was so hungry and thirsty Snow-White ate a few vegetables and a little bread from each little plate, and from each mug she drank a drop of wine. Afterward, because she was so tired, she lay down on a bed, but none of them felt right -- one was too long, the other too short -- until finally the seventh one was just right. She remained lying in it, entrusted herself to God, and fell asleep.  After dark the masters of the house returned home. They were the seven dwarfs who picked and dug for ore in the mountains. They lit their seven candles, and as soon as it was light in their house they saw that someone had been there, for not everything was in the same order as they had left it.
Anyone knowing anything about the spiritual life knows what this feeling is like: you think you've progressed really well, very far, you must be almost done, and then you get a look at a corner of your soul where there is nothing but filth and you almost can't bear the feeling that you are starting all over again. Snow White, looking through the window, is really doing the opposite of the evil queen: looking through the window, Snow White sees herself and the disparate state of her soul, but the queen looks into the mirror, doesn't see herself, but does hear how fair she is.
The key to understanding the original version is in the phrase, "the masters of the house,": the dwarfs in the original version are the spiritual masters to Snow White (who, in this version, is only seven years old) and so she finds her way to a retreat where she will be able to work on the spiritual life (it's the dwarfs who tell her she can stay if she will tend house for them, meaning, if she will become one of them, a spiritual master, she may remain with them but not if she won't "tend to the house," i.e., her own house, the soul).
Whereas animals symbolize Snow White in a state of grace, amongst this filth and disarray, they symbolize the appetites and passions, certainly not on the scale of the queen, but their unfamiliarity with washing indicates the state of their souls. The unused brush means they don't discipline their thoughts (hair symbolizes the thoughts); the squirrel in the shoe means they haven't disciplined their wills, they do what they want instead of what they ought; the animals around the cooking equipment means they eat what they want and not what they ought to eat (in terms of spiritual food, the Word of God). When Snow White first sees it, she says, "It's adorable, just like a doll's house!" but that is part of her naivete that compares her to the child-like Dopey: to God, any sin is sin, any blemish is a blemish and any imperfection is an imperfection. This part of Snow White's spiritual training is not "a game," like with dolls, it's about her immortal soul, and eternal destination.
In Walt Disney's version, Snow White is older and Disney decided to make her the spiritual master to the dwarfs; so what do the dwarfs represent? They are spiritual projections of Snow White herself, the "childish" or venial sin and imperfections. She exhibits the traits of each of the dwarfs at some point (she's bashful with the prince; she stutters like Doc with the huntsman, she's sleepy at the cottage; she's happy without realizing the sadness of the world [more on this below] and then she's pessimistic [Grumpy] without remembering the happiness of the world [so there's a lack of balance to her moods, she lacks the serenity and peace the saints possess]).  This part of Snow White's spiritual progression is what St. John of the Cross refers to as the purgation of the spirit and is intended to bring the soul into perfect, loving union with God Himself. How does Snow White accomplish this with the dwarfs?
Whistle While You Work should be the theme song of all Christians, because we are all called to "clean house" as Snow White is doing (tendd to "clean house" as Snow White is doing (tend to our souls and keep them clean of sin) and that work is itself a prayer to God, doing His Will instead of your own and the whistling is the song of your heart singing praises to God.
So who are the dwarfs?
As we said, they are projections of Snow White and the traits she must overcome within herself so she can battle the queen and enter into the final stage of spiritual perfection. That the dwarfs are miners seals the deal because the mine is another representation of the contemplative life, inner-reflection, the jewels we find when we "mine our selves and identities" instead of seeking after passing treasure in the world (like the queen).
Just like Snow White earlier singing into the well, now, through the dwarfs, she sings into the mine, the deepest part of her soul, where the greatest dirt is, but also the greatest treasure. Each of the dwarfs have a job to do in the work fo the mine andin the work of the soul. Doc, in taking the jewels to closely exmaines them, employs the gift of discernment (distinguishing between good and bad) and Dopey, in sweeping up the jewels of no value, perhaps (in spiritual terms) does the greatest service because in our real life, how often do we cling to what we think is a jewel, but is really worthless? Even harmful to us? Dopey-the-child-like has the simple faith that throwing out the bad just leaves more room for more good.
This is a great shot of Dopey because he's so child-like (he's the only dwarf without a beard) and his other characteristics contribute as well: his big ears are like children's because children hear eveyrthing, espeically what you do not want them to; his big blue eyes (espeically with the diamonds stuck in them as above) shows how children see everything especially things adults have grown to overlook out of habit, things we should be aware of but it's more conveient not to notice (think, if you will, of The Sixth Sense, "I see dead people"). What is most important about Dopey is his single tooth, because--after the queen transforms herself into the old peddler woman--she, too, has a single tooth. The difference is, Dopey's appetites have not "grown into him yet,"he has the simple appetites of a child and enjoys life as simply as a child; the queen, on the other hand, has given such free reign over to her appetites that she's all rotted away and decaying.
When Snow White "goes upstairs," as always, she enters into a higher state of consciousness; reading the
names on the beds, she laughs at what funny names they are, but the name is the identity, and as we know, the dwarfs fulfill those names perfectly; since they are projections of Snow White, she's getting at good look at who she herself really is (but is not intended to be by God). "I'm a little sleepy myself," she says, admitting her own resemblance, and she falls asleep.  This isn't being sleepy over doing housework, this is being sleepy "of the spiritual life," and because beds are likened to coffins (the temporary coffin we go to each night before the eternal coffin) this sleep foreshadows the deeper sleep in the glass coffin towards the end.
As the dwarfs say, it doesn't take much to get rich quick, all you need is a shovel and a pick to mine the whole day through. How many of us would do that if the gems were just there for the taking? They were, within us, within our souls, but we never see it that way, because the pick is used to "break through" the hardness of our hearts to get to the rubies of real love and the shovel is used to remove the "dirt" of sin so the diamonds of life and grace can be harvested. Why do dwarfs do it? They symbolize, like Hobbits from The Lord Of the Rings, "halflings," they are not full grown people because they retain their child's simplicity, but they are older and wiser than children. Being "small" (humble) like children they can mine their souls, but they still haven't progressed as far as someone like Snow White is destined to progress.
When the dwarfs arrive home, they find that someone has been there (not unlike the Story of the Three Bears and Goldilocks, in the Grimm Brothers' Little Snow White version also) and the methods of their deductions reveal their spiritual state: someone hid all our dishes, our cobwebs are missing, someone cleaned my cup--the sugar''s all gone; "Why, the hole place is clean," Doc exclaims, to which Grumpy replies, "There's dirty work afoot!" This is exactly how we treat God when He has freed us of the dirt of sin and worldly desires, "my cobwebs are missing!" because we want our cobwebs back.
"Goldenrod" in the blue vase (blue for wisdom) with brown wood handles (brown for humility) is a play on words: "the golden rod of Christ's discipline and love" is what frees us (sneezing out the bad things) but because it is a rod, we don't want it no matter how golden it is, which validates the wounds of Original Sin, because if we were truly rational and loving, we would readily submit to Christ's rod of discipline. When Doc says, "Look what's happened to our stable, I mean, our table," that's not a stutter, that's accurate: their appetites (the table) are like the appetites of animals (the stable where animals are kept and fed).
How does Snow White resemble Sneezy?
Bashful holds up the goldenrod to Sneezy and Sneezy sneezes all over the place; this indicates the dwarfs, turning upside-down everything that has been done for us by God and how we "sneeze" it all out. We aren't looking at the freedom we now have as a result of whatever it was being taken out of our lives, or cleaned, we look at what we have lost, as Lot's Wife looked back at the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. When they discuss Snow White staying with them, it's the gooseberry pie that wins them over (their appetites) not that she needs help. This is how we know they are children: absent from them are the serious mortal sins of adulthood (like the queen's) but absent from them, too, is the advanced holiness to which we are all called.
Again, when Doc says, realizing "it" is upstairs, he tells the dwarfs, "One of us has to go down and chase it up"; meaning, spiritually, that they know there are "monsters" down in the lower passions which have to be brought to the light of the reason so it can be expunged; them locking out and attacking Dopey refers to our inability to discern because we do exactly the same thing when we get rid of the good things within us and hold onto the bad things. The idea of getting "it" when "it's sleeping" doesn't always work because (whatever "it" is within us that has to be gotten rid of, we never know what "it" is until it's awake and showing itself).
When the Dwarfs realize it's Snow White asleep in their beds, Bashful says that she looks like an angel, and then Grumpy says that she's a female full of wicked wiles. This also illustrates the dwarfs inability to be balanced and see things in the light of truth, but comparing Snow White to an angel is probably closer because she is spiritually advanced but still has far to go. When she awakes and knows the dwarfs by name, it's because she has "awakened" within herself from this brief spiritual sleep and, rested, she can recognize their traits within herself and name them.
There is of course the sanitary reason for washing, but there is the spiritual reason as well. We wash (repent of our sins and cleanse our hearts of evil desires) so we can be of an open-heart to enjoy the feast of virtue and joy the Lord wants to serve us; the more cleansed we are, the greater our enjoyment of the feast; when the Lord promises us a feast (such as the feast out in the wilderness the Lord promised the Children of Israel leaving Egypt) they thought it would be the feast of the senses, instead of being purged of the senses. The problem with this can be seen in both Grumpy's behavior and Dopey's: Dopey swallowing the soap is accidentally "taking in too much" cleaning and get carried away, but Grumpy is not doing any at all (like many of us).
Dopey eating the soap in Disney's version makes an interesting juxtaposition against the Grimm Brothers' version and Snow White: A Tale of Terror. In both those editions, the queen eats what the huntsman brings her in place of Snow White's organs. In Disney's version, the same case of illustrating the queen's insatiable appetites is apparent when she's given the heart of a pig and yet she doesn't know the difference because that's what her own heart looks like: pigs symbolize the appetites, and uncontrollable appetites, that she's given the heart of a pig right at this point, indicates that her appetites for being fairest in the land are fueled and beyond satisfaction (killing Snow White won't be enough for her at this point).
Just before she enters this room, the queen passes an open coffin, indicating that, whereas Snow White has taken a brief nap (lapsining into spiritual death so she can be rejuvenated) the queen's nap of reason will lead to her total death (Snow White being in the bed that is a temporary coffin, even the glass coffin later is only temporary [the resurrection of the just]). This chamber more than anything else symbolizes the queen's soul--filled with rats and the raven--and validates what Grumpy said, she is "filled with black magic." We are seen what happens to someone when they don't wash, as the dwarfs did in the previous scene.
The evil queen descends (going down means going into the lower passions and appetites, so the pig heart was an accurate indication of her continuing fall from grace) and knowing she can't trust anyone, she goes herself which means that she won't listen to those trying to stop her for her own good, she is bent on her ion destruction as much as Snow White's destruction. Whereas the dwarfs go down into the mine to cleanse themselves of their sins and imperfections (or try to) the queen goes down into her chamber to mine "her knowledge" of witchery and black magic to attain what she wants, worldly pursuits.
We can compare this book to the book in the opening of the film; whereas the white and gold denoted the royal wisdom, the alchemy signs and dust and dirt upon the book let us know this is forbidden knowledge, at the same time that we all ready know the queen has traded in her "queenly raiment" (of the soul) for the peddler's cloak and cackle, because this is really the exact same thing as The Picture Of Dorian Gray: all her sins and crimes have amassed to finally "unveil" her and she her how she truly is.
"I'll go in a disguise so complete, no one will ever suspect," but the truth is, no one ever doubts it's the queen because the old hag she turns into is exactly the way everyone thinks she really looks and everyone can recognize the type of evil deed she does as her being the only one capable of doing something so awful. It's one more proof of the queen's arrogance and vanity that she believes she can outsmart everyone.
Each of these ingredients to "changing the queen," as said, doesn't change the queen at all, rather, she's reciting what she has all ready become but because she abused the Magic Mirror by using knowledge for worldly pursuits instead of for spiritual gain, she doesn't recognize herself, she's as blind to herself as Dopey when he has all that soap in his eyes. The mummy dust to make her old, is the going back to pagan tradition, before Christ, when man was not "reborn" by the coming of the Messiah, but still old in the old Original Sin. The queen has to "age" her voice with an old hag's cackle because anyone that would laugh at someone's death instead of mourning them is a hag, which means witch, a woman married to the devil.
The reason is it the "scream of fright used to whiten her hair is because the white hair has no color in it, color being indicative of some virtue, but white hair is hair that is dead, and hair symbolizes the thoughts, so the queen's ability to think is as dead and decomposed as a white corpse because the queen cannot scream with fright over the crime she is about to commit. The blast of wind, to fan her hair: wind can be associated with the Holy Spirit because it is pure and clean, blowing away toxic vapors, for instance; however, when the queen calls upon it, it's the destructive powers from hell that can make her hair crazy, i.e., her thoughts, so she will be bent on destruction (the wind will be blowing when she falls to her death).
Instead of using the window to look in upon herself, she uses it to aid her destructive plans; the green of the potion is not life-giving (as green usually is) rather, it is rotten (the color of mold).
Next, as mentioned earlier, the queen calls upon a thunderbolt to mix the evil brew; lightening and thunder are traditionally pagan symbols for the justice of the gods (Zeus and Jupiter were often depicted with lightening bolts) and so the queen--who herself, as royalty, should be a symbol of justice for all, instead of executing crimes by executing an innocent person--will feel the full wrath of the pagans she uses for her own ends.
The queen seeing her reflection in the chalice of the potion (not the chalice of Christ) is the first time she has looked at herself throughout the film despite having a mirror. The queen taking the cup in both hands symbolizes that she is fully willing to do the deed and has no hesitations about drinking the potion and carrying on her plan; Snow White will take the poisoned apple in both her hands before she takes the bite. (An interesting comparison in the Grimm Brothers' version, the queen only puts on make-up to become a beggar woman, but Disney wanted to show how thoroughly rotten the queen was by bringing out all her hidden traits.
The shattering of the glass of the cup as she drops it imitates the shattering of the inner mirror and our ability to reflect and turn back (Snow White: A Tale of Terror and Snow White and the Huntsman show the queens looking into the mirrors as the glass shatters and goes all over the place). Her hair turns from black to white, that is, one stage of death (black) to a deeper stage of death (white like a corpse). Her hands shriveling show what she has done with her hands, her deeds, have withered her because they have drained her of life. Her voice changes because, unlike Snow White who uses her voices to sing (pray to God) the queen uses her voice to command people to praise her (the Magic Mirror and the Huntsman).
The queen's pet raven hiding in the skull. Ravens always symbolize death (the way Doves always symbolize the Holy Spirit and life), and skulls always symbolize death (and sometimes the contemplation of death) so for the raven to be inside the skull means the queen experiences her spiritual as well as physical death. That the rave looks out of only one of the skull's eyes means that we, the audience, will only see half of her death--her falling from the cliffs--but not catch the other half of her death. When the raven pokes his beak through the skull's nose, that's an ingenius way of showing how the queen's "nose for trouble" is feeding her appetite (the beak) for bringing destruction upon others.
The queen choosing to make a poisoned apple for Snow White, "one so fair," repeats the devil bringing down the fair Eve through the forbidden fruit because stories repeat themselves and because we do according to what our masters do (a disciple of Christ lays down their life, a disciple of Satan takes life).
As the queen herself says, "What lies on the skin is, the symbol of what lies beneath."
The "sleeping death," like so many aspects of the spiritual life, is a dual symbol: it can mean the death from not being able to be awakened from your appetites to hear the Call of Christ, but it also means, as we shall see, that it's the final stage of spiritual perfection, the sleep of the soul before Christ calls it to awaken (the first 30 years of His life on earth was like the "sleep of death," death to the senses and appetites, but above all, death to your own will).
Walt Disney made this film in 1937; it's possible that a Clark Gable film from 1933 called The White Sister influenced this scene between Snow White and Dopey, where he pretends to be a prince. If you will notice, the beams form a cross in the upper, right-hand corner, because Snow White's true love is her True Lover, Christ, and she's still longing to be with him; an earthly lover would be as ridiculous to Snow White as Dopey dressed up trying to "measure up" to Christ's standard.
When we cut back to Snow White, they are doing as people should be doing: rejoicing in each other and taking a break from their labors, instead of nurturing wounds and fear like the queen does. When Happy sings, "I washed my feet today and I can't do nothing with them!" that's a reference to Happy's death of the will (his feet) because they have been cleansed of his own will to do God's will (that's why he can't do anything).
The clock in the dwarf's cottage signaling "the eleventh hour" as the queen prepares her final plans for Snow White's demise. Doc and the others letting Snow White sleep in their room shows how much good influence she has all ready had over them, from them going to letting her stay because she could make gooseberry pie, to making a genuine act of self-sacrifice for her (not sleeping in their beds).
It's funny to see how each of them sleep, because it's a spiritual state associated with aridity of the soul, when God lets everything the chosen soul tries to do fail so that their own will will fall asleep and they will slowly become separated from the world.; the dwarfs crazy sleeping arrangements once again shows how they are not able to partake of the sleep that Snow White has been prepared for (that part of the video was lost so it goes right back to the queen preparing the apple).
In the original Grimm Brothers version, the queen does present an apple to Snow White, but only after two previous attempts have failed. She first sells Snow White a body lace and straps her so tightly she cannot breathe; the dwarfs come home, unbind her and she can breathe again; then the queen tries a poisoned comb that the dwarfs find and remove so Snow White revives again. She presents Snow White an apple on the third time, half of the apple red, the other half white, but only the red part is poisoned. The queen eats some of the apple herself so Snow White also partakes and the piece of apple is lodged in her throat.
The bodice laces symbolize the attempt at killing Snow white through her vanity, making her so conscientious about her beauty and appearance that she stops being natural (being able to breathe) and worries only about how she will look (this device was used in Pirates of the Caribbean Curse of the Black Pearl with Elizabeth Swan). But Snow White not only recovers from this trial, she is stronger for it, as with all spiritual trials. Secondly, because a woman's crowning beauty is her hair, the queen tempts Snow White into vanity again with the poison of primping her hair; why does the queen chose to employ these devices? Being vain herself, these are traps that would work on the queen, so she thinks they will work on Snow White.
This apple is only half-poisoned, half being white, the other half being red, and the queen gives Snow White the red half and eating the white part herself. What is poison for one person isn't necessarily poison for another (for example, sleep can be a sin for some people if they willingly take too much to avoid doing other things, but avoiding sleeping can become a sin because not taking rest can become an act of pride). The queen's sins are so serious and numerous that eating the white apple (white as a corpse) is not deadly to her, but eating the red part (the appetites) is deadly to Snow White. Why? It blocks her windpipes so she can't breathe (this was used in Snow White: A Tale of Terror) and not being able to take in the breath of life (God created Adam by breathing Life into him) means you cannot receive life from God, you become a vegetable.
The queen's cackling about Snow White being buried alive is because, the queen herself is "buried alive" under all her sins. Not knowing anything about love (especially not Love) the queen has no idea how easy it will be for her plan to fail. When the queen is leaving the castle, there is a thick fog, and it looks like just in the day or so since Snow White has been gone from the castle, decay has all ready started to set in; this could be my imagination, but it certainly seems possible because fog is a great sign of confusion and not being able to "see" through fog indicates a lack of spiritual sight.
This scene, when the queen kicks the pitcher towards the skeleton, illustrates her total lack of compassion; the spider crawling out of the pitcher once it is knocked over let's us know how, in addition to not being able to do anything nice, the queen deepens the wound by "spinning a web" of deception. The queen's plan only stays on course because of Snow White's own compassion that she will show to "the old peddler woman."
As Snow White gives the dwarfs kisses on their way to work, and Dopey keeps coming back, that reveals for us the child's appetites "If a little is good, a lot is better!" Grumpy, on the other hand, isn't able to take even a little of what he wants because he's so pessimistic; with Grumpy, however, a little goes a long ways and that one sweet kiss of good intention is sufficient to win his complete loyalty (the part of Snow White praying for Grumpy to like her didn't make it into the video I posted; sorry! Obviously, there are quite a few parts that I am skipping; they all have meaning but some parts are more important than others).
Evil always thinks of itself as having the upper hand and having the greatest power; this arrogance, so typical of the queen is literally going to be her downfall, and the vultures know it because they can smell death on her, not on the apple and the doom awaiting Snow White, but the queen herself, because someone that evil is on the brink of disaster.
As Snow White sings (a sign of her Hope that protects her) she is doing something for others: making the pie for the dwarfs and for their happiness is an act of love, countered against the queen being there to harm someone for her own "happiness." When the queen stands before Snow White, this is the first time we have seen them together. It could be said, why is Snow White so dumb? and that's not the right question (tempting as it is) it's because she herself is so innocent that she can only see others in the same innocent light as herself; this is the idea of the "lamb being led to slaughter," because she's so innocent, that's why she's so pure, but if she were any less so, she wouldn't be able to progress (to be slaughtered like a lamb) so she can be "resurrected."
The queen standing in the window frame again points to how she has failed to reflect and properly frame life in realistic concerns (that someone is bound to be fairer than herself, for example). The poisoned apple is the "fruit" of her failures as a human. The birds recognizing the vultures translates as the Holy Spirit (the little birds) knowing the face of evil (the vultures).
Is it wrong for Snow White to show compassion to "the old woman?"
This is the kind of question long nights of philosophy society meetings are made of, but my own answer is no; Snow White can only be accountable for her own actions and she cannot presume to know and thereby judge what is in someone else's heart, thereby, even though it brings harm to her, God brings a greater good from it than the evil that was done. We all have free will, to bring glory to God and eternal salvation to ourselves, or to take us along the path of damnation, and given that every single word, thought and act we made will be judged and either benefit us or condemn us, it's best to always uphold every virtue in every circumstance.
Snow White takes the apple in both hands as the queen had taken the magic potion in both hands. The Lord told St. Catherine of Sienna, that a person's actions are judged by the disposition o their heart at the moment when they are making the action, and given that Snow White looks up to heaven and asks for what her heart desires (she doesn't suddenly ask to win the mega-millions lottery, or never grow old or a new car, etc.) this is a wishing apple for her even though the queen doesn't intend it to be so, because Snow White's dreams will come true as a result.
As Snow White has taken the bite of the apple, the lightening immediately strikes and rain begins to pour as the queen then has to run from the little men who come to bring her to justice. In the Grimm Brothers' version, the queen gets back home safely and the Magic Mirror verifies that she is, again, the fairest in the land; the dwarfs put her in the glass coffin and the prince sees her for the first time in the coffin and wants to buy it from the dwarfs who refuse, until the prince promises that he will cherish her. When the servants of the prince are carrying the coffin back upon their shoulders, one of the servants stumbles, and that dislodges the apple from Snow White's throat so she can breathe again (after a couple of days).
Whereas water usually symbolizes grace so that we can grow in the love of God, in this instance, it shows us how the queen has refused the love of God; surrounded by stone, she is literally "trapped" by the path she herself has chosen to take in life. The lightening bolt coming down upon her severs the stone precipice upon which she stands and shows how, by her deeds, she has "cut herself off" from the rest of humanity (ex-communicated).
In this version from the Grimm Brothers, the servants carrying the coffin of Snow White probably refers to the Body of Christ, all the faithful, who--by their prayers and good deeds--"carry sinners" and the saints in the making by the work of their prayers; the servant who stumbled is the servant who grumbled about carrying another and didn't want to contribute to anyone else's salvation only his own. The apple coming dislodged at that moment means that was the moment that God chose to reveal the great beauty and work of His Divine Providence that had been at work in Snow White and not only finally reward Snow White for her faithfulness and loyalty, but chastise that grumbling servant as well.
In the Grim Brothers' tale, Snow White and the prince get married, and invite the stepmother to the wedding: After putting on her beautiful clothes she (the queen) stepped before her mirror and said: Mirror, mirror, on the wall, Who in this land is fairest of all? The mirror answered:You, my queen, are fair; it is true. But the young queen is a thousand times fairer than you. The wicked woman uttered a curse, and she became so frightened, that she did not know what to do. At first she did not want to go to the wedding, but she found no peace. She had to go and see the young queen. When she arrived she recognized Snow-White, and terrorized, she could only stand there without moving. Then they put a pair of iron shoes into burning coals. They were brought forth with tongs and placed before her. She was forced to step into the red-hot shoes and dance until she fell down dead.
The queen's climb up this rocky cliff shows how, as in the beginning between the difference in the two staircases, the queen spent her life climbing higher and higher above everyone else until she finally had no further place to go. That the dwarfs are, to some degree, not very spiritually advanced, but able to frighten and overcome the queen (who has black magic) demonstrates how much more powerful good is than evil (in the battle of Satan with St. Michael, St. Michael is only an archangel, but easily able to overcome Satan, and the same is true of the dwarfs).
The differences in ending shows how, with the iron shoes put in burning coals, and being forced to dance, the queen's will (her feet) had to be corrected, and that was the debt of justice to be paid for what she did to Snow White. In Disney's version, there is no paying of the debt for the queen, there is the poetic justice of "What goes around, comes around."
Just looking at her makes the case to embark on the difficulties of the spiritual journey so you don't end up like her.
In both versions, the dwarfs cannot bury her, so she is put in a glass and gold coffin with her name on it. This is the final stage of the spiritual journey, the last accomplishment which must be achieved by the soul destined for spiritual perfection: pure contemplation. The coffin, of course, is death, and that is the inner-most death of the soul, the complete death of the will which is laboriously arrived at by continual contemplation (the glass as an image of reflection) and her sleep is the sing of the working of the soul rather than the working of the physical body. That her name is upon the coffin assures us that this is the final stage of Snow White's individuation for the fulfillment of her destiny, the purification of her being that she and she alone can achieve.
Please note the way the light falls; even though she's in a state of death, she is in the light, which means that her "death" is giving not only her, but all who love her, the light of salvation by participating, each in their own way, what she endures by exercising faith.
Earlier, when Snow White had been singing to the dwarfs about her love for the prince, she said, "Someday, when spring is here." It must be at least spring/summer when the story is taking place (when she meets the dwarfs and bites into the apple, then there is the passing of time), so it really refers to the season of resurrection, spring, when all things are resurrected, and Snow White knows this is the time when she herself will finally be with her prince, although she doesn't realize the path she will have to take to get there, but she is lead by the spirit, unlike the queen.
The vigil and devotion of the dwarfs serves to remind us how the holy people we know inspire us and aid us in our own journeys with remembering their acts of virtue, courage and love while helping us to become better ourselves (the bouquets of flowers the dwarfs place by her are their own good deeds she has inspired them to, forgetting about themselves and remembering the one they love).
The scene of the prince kissing Snow White is the purpose of every kiss: to instill the breath of life in them. Only the soul who  has progressed through the trails and fire of the Spirit is pure enough to receive the breath of life and Snow White has proven that she is (it's also like Mark 5:40-41, when Jesus says, "Talitha, cumi," or "Little girl, rise," because she is now completely healed). We can be confident this is accurate because where is the castle the prince carries her off to? In the clouds, in the sky, where God alone reigns.
In conclusion, Walt Disney's 1937 version gave audiences a choice regarding how to understand the Great Depression and their own place within it: the United States had become an old hag, no longer the fairest government and country in all the world, but poor and dying, or the Depression could be understood as the time of sleep and rejuvenation, like Snow White's contemplation in the glass coffin, and America was a young country, it just needed some time to advance in virtues, and then the kiss of life would restore us to the destiny to which we have been called. Without a doubt, both Mirror, Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman  (June 1 release date) will encode commentary about the government and economy today; what they will say exactly, we can't know until we've seen them, but knowing what has been said before, will deepen our participation in the conversation and help us to decide who is the fairest in all the land.