‘Mirror, Mirror’ is not your average fairy tale – it has characters, situations and settings that are extremely unique. ‘Mirror, Mirror’ is very different to the original Grimm’s ‘Snow White’ tale it was based upon, and also greatly differs from the traditional fairy tale genre.
The King – in the original ‘Snow White’ fairy tale, the King weds the evil Queen and they live together in the grand palace taking care of Snow White. However, in the circumstances of ‘Mirror, Mirror’, the King ‘dies’ in a perilous journey through the woods, and leaves the little Snow White to the care of just the evil Queen. Snow White is distraught after she finds out her father has been struck down. However, the greatest mystery is not HOW the King ‘died’, or if he actually ‘died’ at all …
Towards the end of the film, the escalating tension surrounding the terrifying Beast is suddenly broken – when Snow White faces off with the purely mortifying creature, known to cause so much havoc and kill so many innocent souls, she notices that its whole existence requires the aid of a magical enchanted crescent necklace that it wears around its neck. Once that necklace is severed, the Beast erupts in flames and when the fire dies, there stands … the King. All those years he was under the spell of the evil Queen, and the transforming enchantment required the support of the necklace for it to stay in action. The King was returned to his people, and the Queen finally paid the price for using dark magic.
This is different to the traditional fairy tale genre because the King is usually the one who is constantly there, governing his kingdom and people, giving wise advice. Sure, he may, in some circumstances, be under a spell cast by an evil queen, but he usually isn’t turned into a monster and banished to the woods, forced to follow the evil Queen’s spiteful orders.
The Queen – even though she remains evil (as the original ‘Snow White’ tale dictates), the Queen is socially obsessed with her rich and glamorous status, pays all the prices to stay at the top rung of the kingdom’s ladder, and pays no affectionate attention to anybody other than herself and Prince Alcott, the handsome, strangely shirtless royal brought into the palace.
The Queen still is equipped with her glorious magic mirror in the film, but the twist is that rather than just being a flat plane of glass, the mirror is a portal into a dark and gloomy world where the Queen is the constant centre of it all. From this place she confers with her Reflection, who has forethought and power rivalled by nobody (and nothing) else. Not even the gluttonous Queen.
The evil Queen subverts the fairy tale genre because, both in the traditional fairy tale genre and the original Grimm ‘Snow White’ story, the evil Queen is not purely focused on her social status and/or how she looks in the eyes of others. Also, the magic mirror that she possesses is supposed to be, as implied by the traditional fairy tale genre, a pane of glass that tells her how fair she is. In ‘Mirror, Mirror’ the magic mirror is, in fact, a portal, and when the Queen chants “Mirror, Mirror on the Wall” it takes her to a dark and foreboding place where dark magic runs free and the Queen is the cause of it all.
Brighton – Brighton is the typical assistant – loyal, unwavering and … well … brave … ? He knows that it is his duty to serve the Queen, yet his emotions and reasonable outlooks often get in the way of carrying out a request. He secretly despises the Queen, and sincerely hates following her taxing orders. If he wasn’t so bumbling, timid and hilarious, Brighton would make the ultimate right-hand man.
Brighton, as a character, is different to the fairy tale genre because, in the traditional fairy tale genre, most servants of the evil Queen are evil as well, and would do anything and everything for her. Brighton, on the other hand, is more on the side of the people, though he would rather not show it (and try to avoid risking the dealing of the Queen’s wrath).
Prince Alcott – in every fairy tale, there is a prince. A hero. However, these gentlemen are very fearless, resistant to temptation, and usually wearing a shirt.
This is not always the case for Prince Alcott.
He knows that his heart lies with Snow White, but his inner resilience cannot stand the hexes that the evil Queen constantly puts him under – she knows that if she marries him, his wealth will flush through her economic drought. However, there is one constant barrier: the Queen loves Prince Alcott, and Prince Alcott does not love her in return. This wall provides a perfect opportunity for the Queen to unleash her primary weapon – love potion. But is there always a difference between real love and puppy love … ?
Prince Alcott and his circumstances differ from the traditional fairy tale genre because the average prince is immune to hexes and temptation, and he is usually the one doing all the rescuing when things, and people, start to go missing. Prince Alcott in ‘Mirror, Mirror’, as he subverts the fairy tale genre, is the one who needs to be rescued from the Queen’s lustful clutches – he needs true love’s first kiss to break his binding spell, rather than him bestowing the kiss on an enchanted princess.
The Magic Reflection – “Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?” Those famous words are usually directly associated with the Magic Mirror – but not in this case. The Mirror itself is a window into a dark world where black magic prevails, and the Reflection is the slightly more sensible and cautious clone of the Queen who administers her ‘darke’ requests (as the Queen herself does not personally possess any magical abilities). However, the Reflection is constantly warning the evil Queen about the ‘price’ associated with the use of magic, and how it will cause the Queen many inconveniences.
The Reflection subverts the fairy tale genre because it actually gives the Queen advice, and carries out her evil demands for her. The traditional fairy tale genre says that the magic mirror only tells the evil Queen how fair she is, and does not possess any magical abilities that can be called upon at the whim of the Queen. In ‘Mirror, Mirror’ the Reflection is like the Queen’s most loyal servant, but with a mind of its own and a knack to predicting when things might not go as planned …
Snow White – Most elements of Snow White support the fairy tale genre, however there is one main aspect of her that doesn’t: she learns to become a bandit.
When Snow White first meets the Seven Dwarves, she has managed to escape the Beast. Brighton was instructed, by the evil Queen, to take Snow White into the woods and feed her to the malicious Beast – the Queen fully intended to seduce Prince Alcott, and did not want Snow White to get in the way of her progress. However, Brighton could not carry out the heartless task – instead he let the petrified princess free, and went by the butchers on the way back to the palace, substituting Snow White’ s requested inner organs for a bag of steak and sausages.
Snow White fled through the woods, and during her frightened run she collided with a low-hanging tree limb, passing out. When she eventually comes to, she is staring into the rather squat faces of seven four-feet-tall men who take her in. In order for her to stay with them and escape the impending clutches of the Queen, she learns their thieving ways – she becomes a thief.
The seven dwarves teach Snow White the tricks of the trade, educating her on expert cunning, deception, fencing and man-to-man physical combat. After arduous training sessions and many failed attempts, she meets the criteria and is finally ready to engage in combat. But will it be exactly what she trained for?
Snow White subverts the fairy tale genre by learning to become a bandit. She also subverts it in another way – when Prince Alcott is put under the ‘love’ potion’s influence, all he can possibly think about is the Queen. He moans and whines and whimpers, “I yearn for the nectar of her skin!” But it isn’t just a pure change of heart – Snow White realises the hex, and does what has never been done before in the history of fairy tales: she delivers the magical first kiss. In this way Snow White subverts the fairy tale genre, as she essentially ‘took over’ the role of the hero … and she saved the day.
The Seven Dwarves – gone are the typical squat men with tall hats and cherry-red cheeks – the seven dwarves in ‘Mirror, Mirror’ are feisty, brave and … thieves. They make their living out of overturning royal carriages and stealing people’s clothing and turning it into cash. Whilst it may be untrue, they see it as their only way of survival – until they meet Snow White. She tells them of the status of the townspeople – they’re destitute, wearing rags and begging for scraps of food. Every time the dwarves pillage the royal carriages, the money they are stealing rightfully belongs to the people. One fair turn of events sees the dwarves in a positive spotlight.
However, the happiness is short-lived. When the Queen vows to murder their new-found companion, the beautiful princess Snow White, the dwarves swear they will protect her and teach her their ways. They’re just a bit nervous that, when it comes down to the most important moment of the fight, her feminine devotion to the Queen-bound Prince Alcott will prove a hurdle just a tad too high.
The seven dwarves subvert the fairy tale genre because they are unruly, rebellious thieves, not cute little men who mine for gemstones and diamonds and sing in chorus the whole day through. The dwarves in ‘Mirror, Mirror’ – Half-Pint, Grub, Grimm, Wolf, Napoleon, Butcher and Chuckles – subvert the fairy tale genre because of their scheming attitudes, rough-and-tough natures and scandalous pasts (but don’t get me wrong, though, they’re still nice guys!).
In some instances, the situations in ‘Mirror, Mirror’ subverted the fairy tale genre. Some of them were:
In the woods – when Snow White ventured through the palace gates for the first time and made her journey to the neighbouring village, she passed through the woods whilst following her route. When she was travelling through the thick woodland area, she heard two voices yelling for help … well, more correctly, only one voice was intent on assistance, and the other scolded the first on their lack of logic – of course nobody would hear them there! Yet somebody did; and that somebody was Princess Snow White. She eventually located the voices and saw none other than … Prince Alcott and his royal assistant, hanging upside-down from a tree, tethered by their wrists and ankles, devoid of all of their outer clothing, and left in nothing but their mere undergarments!
This situation subverted the fairy tale genre because a Prince and his assistant are not usually captured in such a vulnerable position, and most certainly do not call on the help of a fair maiden! In the traditional fairy tale genre it is most likely that a princess would be caught up in this sort of tangle of events, and would require a prince to free her! However, in ‘Mirror, Mirror’, this is evidently not the case.
The encounter with the Beast – there is a section of ‘Mirror, Mirror’ in which Snow White finds herself facing the terrifying Beast, armed with a weapon, and fully intending to slay it. Firstly the mere idea of a princess slaying a monster subverts the fairy tale genre, but when the princess is intent on carrying out the deed, the traditional genre is strayed from even further! But that is not all – when Snow White is right in front of the Beast and close enough to drive her sword through it, she notices a tinkling crescent-moon necklace threaded around its neck. Once she cuts through the necklace, the Beast bursts into flames. Once the fire has receded, there stands her father: the King! The fact that he was under the evil Queen’s wicked enchantment for many years doesn’t subvert the fairy tale genre, but the fact that he was turned into a horrible, violent Beast and set to prey upon people does! This element of the enchantment – the transformation element – differs from the traditional fairy tale genre because the King is usually kept in his human state when (or if) he is enchanted, and not turned into another being (let alone a blood-thirsty monster!).
The poison apple – the circumstance of the poison apple in ‘Mirror, Mirror’ is different because when Snow White is presented with the apple by the evil Queen, she doesn’t immediately take a bite. She discovers that the incredibly old woman before her is, in fact, the Queen, and she cuts a slice of the apple using her father’s dagger. She then offers the slice to the Queen and says, “It’s important to know when you’ve been beaten” (repeating one of the evil Queen’s earlier lines in the film). The evil Queen then takes a bite of the fruit and promptly disintegrates, leaving no traces.
This situation regarding the poison apple subverts the fairy tale genre because the traditional Grimm ‘Snow White’ tale (and the fairy tale genre) says that Snow White eats the apple and is put under a spell by the evil Queen – a spell that only true love’s first kiss can break. In the case of ‘Mirror, Mirror’, Snow White doesn’t actually eat the apple at all – instead she uses it to defeat the Queen.
Wedding crash – as in most cases of a classic fairy tale, the Queen gets married. But this time, its to the Prince – Prince Alcott – and it is while the man is still under the influence of love potion. But the wedding doesn’t all go as planned – Snow White and the band of thieving dwarves ‘crash’ the wedding before the bride (the evil Queen) arrives by coach – they take everybody’s clothes and steal the prince to try and break his binding spell. When the Queen herself arrives, you can only imagine the shock …
This wedding situation subverts the traditional fairy tale genre because the wedding guests get their outer clothing garments taken and witness the kidnap of the prince. The traditional fairy tale genre, really, would never have seen this coming …
All of the settings in ‘Mirror, Mirror’ complied with the traditional fairy tale genre ‘requirements’.