Dear Snow White and the Huntsman: Kissing. You’re Doing it Wrong.Posted: July 9, 2012 | |
And I’m back online, everyone! Sorry for the two week hiatus – as mentioned in my last post, I
am the goddamn Feminist Batwoman was having some health issues, so I took a break from the internet to save the world while wearing an awesome cape while I got better at kicking bad guys.
And now that I’ve finally
defeated the forces of darkness gotten better, I will be posting more in an effort to keep up my cover identity as the billionaire college student and feminist blogger “Culturally Disoriented”
Ahem. Back on the internet! YAY!
everyone else: *crickets*
Gird your loins, everyone. We’re going to talk about kissing. Making out. Embracing. Frenching. Smooching. Swapping spit. Tonsil Tango (my favorite euphemism).
Sadly, we’re not going to talk about fun, consensual, awesome kissing. I’m all for fun, consensual, awesome kissing. But there was no fun, consensual, awesome kissing in Snow White and the Huntsman.
[Warning for MASSIVE SPOILERS]
No, there was only creepy kissing.
Let’s back up, shall we?
I recently saw Snow White and the Huntsman with my brother. And I’m not going to lie: I enjoyed it. Yes I did.
Well, okay. Let’s be a bit more precise about what “enjoyed” means in this context, shall we?
… I was not bored. I was moderately entertained. There were pretty colors. [I have no shame].
Were there lots of deeply problematic moments that made me want to throw my popcorn at the screen?
Was I particularly upset about those problems? As in “stay-up-until-three-in-the-morning-writing-a-blog-post” upset?
Not really. My brother and I had a good discussion afterwards where we unpacked the misogynistic elements of the movie, we both agreed that it wasn’t that great (but that the colors were pretty and Charlize Theron was awesome), I moved on. Frankly, so many movies are not-great and sexist that I don’t have time to get seriously “stay-up-until-three-in-the-morning-writing-a-blog-post” upset about all of them. Or I wouldn’t sleep.
A week after I saw the movie, however, I was reading Batwoman: Elegy (which HOLY SHIT IS INCREDIBLE) when I sat bolt-upright in my bed and exclaimed: “Whoa! There was technically a lesbian kiss in Snow White and the Huntsman!”
Which is when I realized that the technically-lesbian kiss was also the only consensual kiss in the movie. And that while this consensual kiss led to Snow White’s demise, the non-consensual kiss imposed on Snow by the Huntsman… ends up saving her life.
Are you *bleeping* kidding me?
And that, dear reader, is when I got angry enough to write a blog post.
Because Kissing: Snow White and the Huntsman is Doing. It. Wrong.
I’ll start by recapping all the kisses experienced by the protagonist, Snow White. I think you’ll see the creepiness emerging pretty quickly.
(it should be noted that Snow White’s name is never actually uttered in the movie, so for all I know, she’s called Porky McPorcupine. But Porky McPorcupine takes too long to type, so…]
1. Kiss #1: Snow White goes wandering the woods with her childhood friend, William. They’ve just reunited after a long separation. Snow White decides to kiss William because… he’s her childhood friend and he’s rather attractive? The movie never really makes it clear. But she decides to kiss him. Hurrah! Good for you, Snow White, for expressing desire and going after the things you want (in a safe/consensual manner)
No. Not good for you, Snow White. Don’t you know that a lady NEVER initiates a kiss? And that to do so is grounds for horrible punishment?
Because unfortunately for Snow White, William is actually NOT William, but Raveena (the Queen) in a very clever disguise. Which is why I consider this a lesbian kiss: it is, in fact, between two women (although only one of the women is aware of that fact). After Fake William and Snow White kiss, William continues the flirtation by offering Snow White an apple. Snow White, who has clearly never read a fairy tale in her life, takes a bite of the apple… and starts dying. Fake William taunts her, transforms back into Raveena, and tries to cut out her heart.
And that, Snow White, is why a lady NEVER initiates a kiss. [Who do you think you are, a man?]
2. Kiss #2: Fortunately for Snow White, the two ruggedly attractive gentlemen in her escort – the Huntsman and the Real William – burst out of the forest and chase off the Very Well Dressed Raveena. Unfortunately, Snow White is still dying, and has lost almost all consciousness.
Which, for some reason, prompts the Real William to kiss her.
I can’t even -
3. Kiss #3: Snow White is dead. She’s been placed on a bier in a church (because she’s pure) and dressed up in a white gown (because she’s pure). The Huntsman comes in, and explains to Snow White that he loves her because she reminds him so much of his dead wife.
Because that’s not creepy at all.
Then the Huntsman kisses the (dead) Snow White on the lips and leaves.
NOT CREEPY AT ALL.
A few minutes later, Snow White wakes up – presumably resurrected by the Huntsman’s kiss – and proceeds to defeat the Evil Queen.
As of which point, there is no more kissing (thank Maud)
On the other hand, there’s also no moment when Snow White turns to the Huntsman and says “So, the kissing thing. I’m not necessarily opposed, but… that was creepy. Also: your dead wife? Really?”
I’m sure you’ve caught on to the basic problem, right? Yes?
There is exactly one consensual kiss in this movie, and that’s the one where Snow White kisses Fake William. She kisses him. She expresses desire. She is an active participant. The kiss is obviously consensual: both women are awake, alive and participating.
And as a result of this kiss – the one Snow White actually wants and consents to – Snow White dies.
The kiss is also proven meaningless when we realize that Fake William is actually Raveena, who only kissed Snow White in order to trick her into eating the apple.
Snow White neither consents nor participates in the two other kisses because she’s dead or dying.William actually kisses her as she’s dying, which is particularly horrifying.
Pro tip #1: If you’ve got an unrequited crush on someone, the moment of their death is not an appropriate time to tell them. And it’s especially not an appropriate time to kiss them. What if they don’t like you? What if they hate you? Then the last moment of their life is spent being kissed by someone they despise. What if they want to spend their dying moments thinking about their family? You’ve just coopted their death for your own purposes. And what if they DO return your affections? Then they die going “aww, shit, if I’d known earlier”…
Great job, Casanova. No, really.
Pro tip #2: If the person you are kissing is unconscious, asleep, dead or dying, you are doing it wrong.
This can all be summed up as: if the person you are kissing is incapable of saying “No” [or of using sign language to say "No," or of pushing you away, or of clonking you on the head with a baseball bat] to your advances, then you are doing it wrong.
In the movie world, however, kissing an unconscious woman who is completely and utterly unable to consent is romantic.
Neither William nor the Huntsman have any idea of whether Snow White has romantic (or sexual) feelings towards them. But remember, everyone. Snow White’s desires do not matter. Neither man gives them a moment’s thought. Only their desire – and their pain – is important.
Because William and the Huntsman love Snow White. So it’s fine for them to use her body in order to express their grief and thwarted love. It’s even romantic.
And hey! One of these non-consensual kisses saves Snow White from death. So it’s totally okay! Am I right?
Yeah, no. Not romantic. Creepy. And extraordinarily problematic
Pro-tip #3: If there is no way for someone to convey that they are interested in kissing you, do not kiss them. No matter how much you long/love/lust for them. If you kiss them anyways, you are doing it wrong.
[There is an exception to this: if you are in a long term romantic relationship with someone and they die. If your partner dies, and you two have talked about consent/negotiated your boundaries, and you thus have a fairly good idea of whether they would mind being kissed post-death... you're fine. However, this is not true of either William or the Huntsman. They have absolutely no idea how Snow White feels about them, or whether she would consent to being kissed. They are also not in a romantic relationship with her]
Pro-Tip #4: In the Real World, kissing someone who is unconscious (or otherwise unable to consent) is sexual assault. And in fact, many people in the Real World are raped or assaulted while they are asleep/unconscious. Now, I know that the Ruggedly Handsome William and the Huntsman are not rapists (of course not! They’re ruggedly handsome!). But if the way you’re kissing someone closely resembles rape/sexual assault, you’re doing it wrong.
Now, let’s be fair. There are certain moments of sexual assault in Snow White and the Huntsman that are NOT portrayed in a positive light.
Near the beginning of the movie, we find out that Queen Raveena’s brother Finn often visits Snow White in her cell and watches her while she sleeps. When he comes to take Snow White to Raveena, he sits next to her prone body and caresses her chest. We’re obviously meant to read him as a sexual predator. We’re also obviously meant to fear that he will assault or rape Snow White.
This scene is, in almost every way, a mirror to William and the Huntsman kissing Snow White.
Man’s desire for woman? Check. Lack of female consent? Check. Woman unconscious or otherwise unable to make an active choice? Check.
But unlike the Huntsman and William, Finn is neither young nor conventionally attractive. He is also evil (as evidenced by the fact that he is neither young nor conventionally attractive)
Obviously, since Finn is not a ruggedly handsome/good-hearted young man, his advances towards Snow White [who is unable to consent because she's in prison and he's her JAILER] are assault.
Pro-tip #5: If you assume that being conventionally attractive/young/not evil means that everyone automatically WANTS to kiss you, and so therefore they have obviously consented, and so therefore it is okay for you to kiss them when they are unconscious/dead, you are doing it wrong.
Even if you are Ruggedly Handsome, everyone does not automatically want you to kiss them. I know. This is a shock.
Pro-tip #6: Just because you are conventionally attractive and/or Young and/or Not Evil, does not mean you are unable to sexually assault someone. No. Really. I know this comes as a shock to you, but rapists/assaulters are not all Ugly/Old/Evil. In other words: even if you are conventionally attractive and/or young and/or a “Good Person,” kissing someone who cannot consent is not okay. And you are doing it wrong.
Let us recapsulate all of the Very Important Lessons the movie puts forward about kissing:
1. Female consent and female desire are deadly and disgusting. When Snow White shows real desire and real agency, it bites her in the ass.
2. As a corollary, two women kissing is deadly and disgusting, and can only happen because one woman is trying to kill the other. Female desire, everyone. Have I mentioned how Deadly and Disgusting it is?
3. Only Evil and Not-Conventionally-Attractive Men can sexually assault someone.
4. It is impossible for Good and Ruggedly Handsome Men to sexually assault someone.
5. A Ruggedly Handsome Man’s Desire for a Woman, coupled with that same woman’s Lack of Consent is very romantic, and will bring around salvation/resurrection.
So ladies, remember. Don’t show desire. Don’t kiss people you’re interested in. Real love only comes when a (handsome) man expresses his desire for you (while also disregarding your agency).
If a not-handsome man kisses you while also disregarding your agency, on the other hand, that is ASSAULT, and it’s not okay.
This is not a mixed message AT ALL.
Pro-tip #I Can’t Even Count Anymore: Assault is not romantic. Assault is not attractive.
You know what’s romantic?
You know what’s attractive?
I’m going to say it again, because frankly, it bears repeating:
Loving someone does not give you permission to disregard their feelings, or their right to make a choice. If your beloved is, for some reason, unable to make a choice (because they’re asleep/unconscious/dead) well, that’s unfortunate. But you still don’t get to violate their consent. That the movie portrays male love as a blanket excuse for violating a woman’s right of consent is extraordinarily problematic.
Here’s what’s really ironic:
The movie proves the Evil Queen Raveena right.
Raveena, after all, becomes “evil” because she believes that men use women to serve their own desires while disregarding any desire the women may have.
Which is exactly what happens when the Huntsman and William use Snow White’s unconscious body to satisfy their own desires (thwarted love! grief! pain!), and then never bother to apologize when she wakes up, or to ask her how she feels about either of them. And which is exactly what the movie does to Snow White, when it refuses to allow her a reaction to William and the Huntsman’s actions.
In other words: men’s desires are still The Most Important Thing, women’s desires are Still Unimportant and Queen Raveena is Still Right.
Yes, Raveena’s whole “let’s-impoverish-the-people” thing is bad. And I’m not okay with Raveena murdering people.
But Raveena isn’t defeated because she’s wrong. She’s defeated because a more desirable woman appears. Snow White even tells her that she’s lost because she isn’t “the fairest” anymore.
Pro-tip #One Billion: If the movie is trying to prove that men don’t use women/disregard women’s desires, then it is doing it wrong.
Why does this bother me so much? I mean, besides the fact that I’m an angry feminist, and I must complain about all misogyny.
It bothers me because this movie’s portrayal of romance isn’t the exception. It’s the norm. Taken to an extreme, sure. But it’s still the norm.
If it wasn’t the norm, more reviewers would have remarked on it. More people would have pointed it out. But no mainstream reviewers did. Because that’s just the way things are.
It bothers me because, at a time when sex-education is terrible, people learn about desire, relationships and sex from movies (and assorted cultural narratives). And when, over and over again, cultural narratives show that assault is romantic, that female consent is irrelevant and female desire is dangerous… it has an effect.
It bothers me because every time I come out of a movie theater with my younger brother, we have to have a little chat where we deconstruct the Terrible Messages. Because even though I know my brother is smart, and respectful, and he cares about consent and about people’s boundaries…
It has an effect.
Hell, it had an effect on me.
In my admittedly VERY limited experience with relationships/sex/desire etc., the hardest question for me to ask is: What do I want?
And right here, right now, as a feminist who thinks female desire and consent are very important… I feel like a terrible person for even typing that question.
Because what does it matter what I want?
On the other hand, I’ve never had a problem considering what guys want. And I never had a problem putting men’s desires above my own.
Those pro-tips about consent and desire? I need to learn them too.
In fact, let’s have a review, shall we? Because I clearly need the review as much as anyone else.
1. If your partner is Awake, Conscious, Able to Consenting AND (obviously) Consenting
Congratulations! You are Doing It Right!
2. If your partner is Unconscious, Unresponsive, Or Otherwise Unable To Consent:
Sorry, my friend, but you are Doing It Wrong.
And you should stop Doing It Wrong.
This has been a lesson about how to Kiss Properly from Your Friendly Neighborhood Feminist
Batwoman Blogger. Pass it along.
Frankly, the movie would have been a lot better if, when Raveena and Snow White kissed (in a consensual manner), the two of them realized they were secretly attracted to each other.
Then they would hash out their differences over a marriage contract; we’d get a kingdom ruled by two badass queens in a lesbian relationship, and William and the Huntsman could go… take a hike.
Or, you know, engage in some Consensual Tonsil Tango of their own.
It would have been a much more interesting and nuanced movie.
And less rapey.
I would appreciate less rapey.
Maybe in 50 years, someone will remake the movie and use this scenario.* Now that’s a movie I’d pay to see!
*[I'm not holding my breath]