As hard as this may be to believe, there was a time in American history where a studio could make a movie for the purpose of making money entertaining kids and we wouldn't go to war with each other over it. Unless I was totally oblivious to it, when my sister would take me to the Cameo in Weymouth to see Jungle Book or The Love Bug, there was no huge national debate about whether these films were cynical money grabs designed to indoctrinate my young mind into some warped ideology. We just recognized that it would keep me quiet for a couple of hours watching talking animals and a sentient VW Beetle.
Nor did anyone talk about whether or not the star respected the source material. If, say, Buddy Hackett gave interviews about how the Herbie character was going to be a representation of a strong, powerful, independent compact car made by the company that armed the Nazi war machine, I certainly missed them. But that wouldn't have ruined my experience watching a story about a man and his love for a shitbox.
But that was then. We don't live in that world any more. This whole saga about Rachel Zegler and the live action Snow White reboot is proof positive that there is literally nothing so mundane that we can't fight about it:
And make no mistake, these interviews she's been giving have been objectively awful.
I mean, it's a bold strategy to run around declaring you think the story you're about to reboot is just the worst. Especially when it's the landmark movie that essential built the entertainment empire that's paying you to star in it. The only way it would make sense is if you're intentionally trying to trash the project. Like the woman that owns the Indians in Major League or the one who hired Ted Lasso just to get back at her ex-husband.
But this particular movie has been cursed since long before its star started hating everything about it. Beginning with Peter Dinklage slamming the whole concept. As he said on Marc Maron's podcast, "You’re still making that fucking backwards story about seven dwarfs living in a cave together, what the fuck are you doing, man?”
I'll note that the dwarves live in a nice cottage in the forest. Sure, it's a bit dusty and unkempt, because they're bachelor dwarves. But definitely not a cave. But the larger issue is that real dwarf actors were understandably pissed about a guy who has truly made it in Hollywood trying to take good paying jobs away from seven of them. Most vocally, Hornswoggle from the WWE:
And Disney's compromise was to hire just one dwarf actor. While the rest of the seven was to be played by people who sell ayahuasca at Burning Man:
When those photos first leaked, Disney denied they were real. Then owned up to them. But claimed some of the actors were just stand ins, suggesting maybe in the finished product they won't look like Snow White and the Seven Baristas Who Play Cajon in the Ska Band You're Now Listening To. And thereby alienating everyone in every demographic, regardless of which one they were actually targeting.
So Zegler was by no means the first public relations disaster this little passion project suffered. But experts agree she might have been the one to sink it altogether:
Daily Mail - Rachel Zegler's comments about the upcoming live action Snow White remake could have 'a huge impact on ticket sales,' branding experts have warned.
The 22-year-old actress has received plenty of backlash after she admitted that she 'hated' the original 1937 movie and branded the storyline 'weird,' while referring to the Prince character as a 'stalker.'
The big budget Disney movie is scheduled for release in March 2024 and now it has been predicted that executives will be 'having crisis talks' in order to do some serious damage limitation following the negative response to Rachel's stance. …
As well as being labeled a 'fake feminist,' some critics accused Rachel of 'gaslighting' and one marketing consultant has warned that Disney will 'need to be careful with how they have portrayed Snow White.' …
Speaking to DailyMail.com, branding expert Carla Speight said: 'Whilst it's been clear that the original Disney Princess films hold old values, Disney have fallen for the trap of going to the opposite extreme to inflict strong and loaded messaging on the viewers - believing that's empowerment.
'[B]ut it seems with this total rewrite of Snow White, picturing her as a "boss girl" has gone to the heads of their stars. …
PR expert Nick Ede agrees and told DailyMail.com that perhaps Rachel 'isn't the best person to promote the film' - despite playing the main character. …
'I am sure Disney executives must be having crisis talks and thinking perhaps their new Snow White isn't the best person to promote the film and ensure it is a box office success,' Nick predicted.
Personally, I don't have a dog in this fight. At no point was I ever in the intended audience for this movie and it's doubtful I've ever seen it all the way through. But I get where the people who embrace it are coming from. I feel the same way about a lot of IPs mean a lot to me and I can't stand the thought of anyone co-opting them for their own agenda. Lord of the Rings, just to name one. My belief is that if you want to deliver some message about empowerment this or strong female that, just write your own unique story. Make it resonate with audiences. And keep your grubby paws off the universally admired properties that have stood the test of time since long before you were born and will be remembered long after you're gone. Simple.
That said, Disney ought to just take the L on this one and move on. Pull the plug on this whole misbegotten project that no one asked for in the first place. It was bad idea from its conception, and is only getting worse in its execution.
Besides, right from the start this never made a lick of sense. Rachel Zegler is a lovely woman and all. But how can you expect an audience to buy into a story where a magic mirror tells Gal Gadot there's someone in the kingdom hotter than she is?
You don't need branding experts to tell you how ridiculous that is.