The inciteful remark came about three months ago, when we were whining yet again about Disney princess reputations, and a friend of ours, in a patient effort to explain, said, "Snow White is very much the 'someday my prince will come' girl of the song she sings." We chose not to argue that particular point (very much) at the time, because it would have taken us away from the main point of the conversation, but since we've been thinking about Snow White again recently, we've been thinking about that statement.
Let's analyze Snow White's story and see if she really is just a boy crazy airhead.
First, I guess we should note the context of the song, "Someday My Prince Will Come." She was asked to tell a story, and the first thing that came to mind was her encounter with the prince. Since the story didn't really have a conclusion, she sang a song about her hoped-for conclusion. Of course, that would be a strong indication of her priorities, so maybe she is a little boy crazy. But it might also be good to note that the dwarfs hadn't heard a thing about this until that night when they were partying. That might just be because it didn't fit into the story, but she could have said to the dwarfs, "Will you please let me stay here until my prince comes to rescue me?" She had no such delusions.
Let's go back to the beginning of the story. She's working as a cleaning lady in her own castle, because her stepmother is jealous of how pretty she is. On the one hand, you could say that at least she didn't have any problems with body image or anything like that, and so she should check her privilege. But on the other hand, she was forced to wear rags, and you can be pretty sure that a character known as The Evil Queen was probably giving her a fair amount of verbal abuse. And this was the one person left in her life who was supposed to be her family, someone that she can turn to for love and support. Instead she gets bullying.
Despite all that, she manages to stay cheerful by dreaming of the things that make her happy, and the life that she hopes to have one day. The song "I'm Wishing" is probably more of a hope for rescue than "Someday My Prince Will Come." I can see where it's not a very good, feminist message for a man to feature strongly in her wish. We can justify it by saying her family situation was terrible, and the obvious "better" thing would be to move on to the next step in family life, forming her own family.
Then the prince really shows up, and instead of running to him and saying, "Please, please, please take me away from this nightmare!" (by the way, we hated it when Cinderella did that to Stiltsy in Once Upon A Time), she runs and hides from him. ...I'm not sure if this helps or hinders my argument at all, so we'll just leave it here for a possible point of discussion. But our point is she didn't leap into his arms as if he was going to solve all her problems.
Now that she's in love for real (instead of just daydreaming), she's even prettier, so the queen wants to kill her. You could say that the Huntsman rescued her from that situation, but it's not like he killed the queen for her or anything. The only thing he did was not go through with killing her. You could say that she saved herself in that situation, by being so lovable.
Then she goes through a horrific experience in the woods, alone, with no one to help her, probably her first time that far in the forest, and at night and everything, and let's remember she's only about twelve or thirteen. (I know this creeps some people out, but remember, she didn't get married at the end, and besides, back in the middle ages, a girl got married as soon as she had her first period. That's why women were considered old maids if they were single at 21.) So yeah, she's scared. But when the sun rises and she sees that she's okay, she doesn't whine about how her life sucks. She apologizes to the woodland creatures for behaving so indecently!
Now, I'm starting to see where this might put some unfair expectations on girls to be dignified in any situation, or something, and nobody can be as brave as that and...wait, I thought princesses were supposedly weak.
Anyway, after that, she finds the dwarfs' house, and she doesn't demand or beg to be given free room and board. First, she sees a service that the dwarfs are in need of (housekeeping), and offers to provide it. Basically, she asked them for a job. She's a working woman! Sure, she's working in one of the jobs that are considered beneath...just about everybody, but she's providing for herself, in a sense. In fact, it's a lot like a certain other high-voiced heroine I can think of, goes by the name of Tohru. But unlike Tohru, Snow White started bossing the dwarfs around like she owns the place. She doesn't do whatever the menfolk say--they do whatever she says. She even threatens to starve them if they don't.
It's only after all that that the "Someday My Prince Will Come" song comes along...okay, I forgot about "Whistle While You Work," where Snow White reveals once again that she likes to dream about her shoujo manga hero ("as you sweep the room, imagine that the broom is someone that you love"), but that doesn't stop her from taking action herself. It's just a fun little thing to get her through the day, much like in Mulan, where the men sing about how it's a lot easier to make the long march through the mountains if they think of "a girl worth fighting for."
Anyway, after "Someday My Prince Will Come," the witch makes her move, and there's not a whole lot that can be said. Yes, Snow White eats a poisoned apple, and yes she needs the prince to rescue her from that. But it's not like she was sitting around waiting to be rescued for the whole movie. She found herself in multiple bad situations, and she got herself through most of them. So in conclusion, we can't really argue much in regard to her needing a man in the end, but she is definitely not a weakling.
Today I'm thankful for Fresh & Easy kettle corn, Akira Ishida's reading of the Disney Snow White story, male story readers with non-annoying "female" voices, our Disney movie order having shipped, and the ending sequence to Polar Bear Cafe.