DID YOU READ

Tim Grierson on Hollywood’s Snow White Problem

Kristen Stewart in Snow White and the Huntsman

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In an era of reboots and prequels, Hollywood can’t just cart out its musty old franchises — they have to reinvent them. For instance, James Bond is no longer a swingin’ playboy bedding babes and delivering tart one-liners — now, he’s a brooding, grizzled killing machine haunted by the loss of his true love. So it wasn’t that surprising when not one but two studios decided to dust off Snow White for the modern age.

Made popular by the Disney film “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” which hit U.S. theaters in 1938, the Snow White character began life as a folktale approximately 200 years ago. This year’s two Snow White films, “Mirror Mirror” and “Snow White and the Huntsman,” aggressively try to reimagine one of the most famous heroines in fiction and, in the process, show us how we as a society still have a tough time dealing with assertive female main characters.

On one hand, this is a time in which we see more female leads in event movies than in the past. There’s Bella from “Twilight,” Katniss from “The Hunger Games,” Zoe Saldana in “Colombiana,” and Amanda Seyfried in “Red Riding Hood.” Plus, this summer’s “Brave” will be the first Pixar film to feature a female main character. And don’t forget the “Underworld” and “Resident Evil” series. But the two Snow White movies are particularly interesting because they grapple with a character who, as she’s envisioned in the Disney film, is a rather passive person. Yes, Snow White is beautiful and kindhearted — she’s always singing some song — but she’s not a very proactive or compelling individual. In truth, she represents exactly the sort of negative female stereotype that modern women don’t enjoy seeing: She’s pretty but meek, waiting for some Prince Charming to come rescue her. Naturally, “Mirror Mirror” and “Snow White and the Huntsman” want to bring her into the 21st century. But I’m not sure their revamped versions of Ms. White are any less irksome.

In “Mirror Mirror,” the Snow White story is treated with a sort of cheeky, snarky irreverence. Rather than unabashed sweetness, like in the Disney movie, the film (which stars Lily Collins as Snow White) is sarcastic, constantly elbowing us in the ribs to make sure that we know it’s sending up the familiar tale. Ironically, “Mirror Mirror” wants to mock the banality of fairy tales while at the same time being a fairy tale itself. (Love does conquer all in this film, and there’s a happy ending.) But as part of its attempt to revamp White’s story, the movie wants her to develop a little spine. And so we have Collins playing a cutie-pie princess who’s schooled on weapons thanks to her dwarf friends. But more importantly, she’s got some spunk to her now, a self-conscious response to the Disney version’s blissful blandness. If “Mirror Mirror” wants to show young women that they don’t have to grow up to be dainty princesses, then instead it seems like they’re just stuck being sassy. Not that the movie really cares about Snow White that much — the evil queen (played by Julia Roberts) gets the best lines and is way more fun. Of course, she’s also the villain: a bitchy, petty, vain, aging woman who’s supposed to be a hoot because she’s totally mean. In other words, the movie argues that being a proactive, weapon-wielding princess will land you Prince Charming, but the audience will always love you more if you’re simply evil.

“Snow White and the Huntsman” ups the ante by making Snow White not just resourceful but something of a warrior princess. Played by “Twilight’s” Kristen Stewart, Snow White has none of the gentility of the Disney film — barricaded in a tower and waiting to be killed by the evil queen (Charlize Theron), she has to fight for her life to escape, and the rest of the film is a further desperate battle to stay alive. There’s nothing demure about this Snow White or idyllic about her world. The film feels like a knee-jerk attempt to recapture the grimness of the original Brothers Grimm folk tale, but what this mostly translates into is a monotonously joyless film in which Snow White must eventually don a suit of armor and lead men into battle. If the Snow White of “Mirror Mirror” is a hip, cutesy young lady, then the one in “Snow White and the Huntsman” is an unsmiling pseudo-man who has to practically give up her femininity to be a generic action hero. What choices.

Of course, it’s dangerous to look to movies for role models — and it’s ridiculous to assume that young women are so impressionable that they’ll blindly accept portrayals of female characters as guides to living. But for all the criticism that so-called “princess culture” receives, I’m not sure if the responses to the phenomenon in “Mirror Mirror” and “Snow White and the Huntsman” are appreciably better. Sure, these Snow Whites aren’t helpless lasses, but they’re not smart or interesting either. Essentially, they have to become men, taking up arms to prove they’re valuable members of society. Perhaps it’s better than watching movies where the female characters are just wives or girlfriends of the hero. But it would be nice if the fairest of them all could have a few more options other than just being eye candy or an ass-kicker.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.