People are completely overreacting to recent comments from actress Kristen Bell concerning the childhood fairy tale “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.”
In an interview with Parents Magazine, Bell said her favorite part of the day is reading to her two daughters: Lincoln, 5 and Delta, 3. However, Bell said she often sparks conversation with her girls after reading fairy tales such as “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.”
The classic tale involves Snow White taking an apple from an old witch, which was later discovered to be poisonous.
“Every time we close Snow White, I look at my girls and ask, ‘Don’t you think it’s weird that Snow White didn’t ask the old witch why she needed to eat the apple?” Bell said. “Or where she got the apple? I say, ‘I would never take food from a stranger, would you?’ And my kids are like, ‘No,’ and I’m like, ‘Okay, I’m doing something right.’”
While teaching children to not accept candy or other foods from strangers is recognized as a practically universal parental teaching, Bell takes her conversation further.
After eating the apple, the tale describes the dwarves believing Snow White is dead. They arrange a funeral for her, in which Prince Charming arrives and promptly kisses Snow White. The kiss wakens Snow White back to life, and thus there is a happily ever after.
Bell proceeds to ask her daughters: “Don’t you think that it’s weird that the prince kisses Snow White without her permission? Because you cannot kiss someone if they’re sleeping.”
Following the interview, Bell received waves of backlash from Twitter users.
Many users argue Bell is neglecting to teach her daughters about chivalry and romance. Media outlets used phrasing such as “Bell slams the Disney classic Snow White” as part of headlines to draw readership. Bell immediately struck back at the outlet’s “tacky clickbait” and defended the presence of chivalry in their home.
The heated overreaction of social media users shows complete ignorance for the statements Bell actually made in her initial interview. It is crucial to note Bell does not ban any fairy tale from her children, rather she is using the tales to instill critical thinking skills.
Yet, Bell’s comments do bring up an interesting question: do tales we love and cherish such as “Snow White” and even “Sleeping Beauty” give the wrong idea to impressionable children?
These tales were created to be romantic, sweet children’s stories and nothing more. I, for one, never grew up believing I could kiss someone who was sleeping, just like I never believed I could be a mermaid or marry a beast who turned into a prince.
Some scholars, activists and parents argue this Disney adaptation fosters negative ideas about sexual consent, and even go as far as to criticize other Disney tales such as “The Little Mermaid.”
Kazue Muta, a sociology professor at Osaka University in Japan, is one of the scholars trying to raise awareness of the potential misunderstanding these tales can create.
Muta wrote on Twitter, “When you rationally think about ‘Snow White’ and ‘Sleeping Beauty,’ that tell of a ‘princess being woken up by the kiss of a prince,’ they are describing sexual assault on an unconscious person. You might think I’m ruining the fantasy of it all, but these stories are promoting sexual violence, and I would like everyone to be aware of it.”
This perspective is just as outlandish and over-reactive as those who lashed out at Bell. The stories are fantasy. If we begin to believe children cannot separate fairy tale from reality, then we must begin raising awareness for the impossibility of fairy godmothers, wicked witches, fire-breathing dragons and talking mice to exist.
I can see where these scholars and parents are coming from, but they are blowing children’s stories completely out of proportion. Bell, on the other hand, is simply trying to teach her daughters critical thinking skills, nothing more.
These classic tales hold a special place in my heart, and if my son or daughter ever thinks it is okay to commit sexual assault on an unconscious person, as terrible as it is to consider, their crime cannot be blamed on a fairy tale. I doubt that defense will fly in court.
It is ultimately a parent’s duty to teach their children moral values, not a fairy tale.