April 9, 2012

"Mirror Mirror"

I went to Tarsem Singh's kid's movie "Mirror Mirror" with Julia Roberts as Snow White's wicked step mother, the queen who is the fairest of them all, to see if Tyler Cowen's interpretation of the movie as anti-Indira Gandhi Sikh propaganda makes sense. 

Lots of kids movies actually are political allegories because they generally don't give you a $100 million to make a movie until you are so old that you find politics interesting. So, middle aged people have to come up with something to flesh out 100 minutes of story-telling, so they put in their current obsessions. 

"Mirror Mirror" is certainly more fun to watch from a Cowenian perspective. The set decorating is gorgeously "Indo-European" in its eclecticism. Maybe three fourths of the look of the movie is European, but the rest is West Asian or South Asian. That part of the world, centering around Persia, has traditionally been obsessed with luxury, and Singh certainly loves fancy stuff. The late Edward Said might have clucked over Singh's Orientalist taste, or does Singh get a pass for being from the Punjab himself? It's so hard to keep this stuff straight. 

The castle over a frozen lake is likely modeled upon the Sikh separatist temple redoubt that Gandhi invaded in 1984, but could conceivably be Russian. (Many of the famous buildings in Russia were designed by Italians, but their onion domes look Western Asian.)  

Some of the movie is funnier when viewed through a Sikh lens. The movie is set in a snowy winter, but none of the characters ever seem to feel the slightest bit cold. People walk barefoot in the snow without any discomfort. My guess is that Singh remembers hearing the story of Snow White as a child before experiencing snow itself.

Other parts of the movie are only comprehensible via the Sikh subtext. For example, there is a bunch of hoopla about a dagger that Snow White's father, the late King, left his daughter. The American screenwriters seem pretty baffled at coming up with an explanation for the dagger, merely having Julia Roberts laugh off the reason it's in the movie at all during her voiceover narration. Now, I don't know much about Sikhs, but at least I do know they used to always get in trouble at airports trying to wear their sacred daggers onto the airplanes. So, I can write off the daggermania to the director being Sikh.

Is Julia Roberts' character really about Indira Gandhi like Cowen says? Are the seven dwarfs in the movie a reference to Bawana, the Sikh dwarf-avatar?

I dunno. I simply don't know as much stuff as Cowen does. And the movie, while not bad, isn't good enough to demand a lot of research from me. There is something off about the comic timing of everybody except Roberts, who is quite funny, as an Evil Queen who uses today's innocuous corporate vocabulary ("agree to disagree") for her malign purposes. The slapstick is particularly inept. 

But, it's definitely more interesting as possibly Sikh propaganda than as just another fairy tale movie. 


Anonymous said...

Also, the allegation of occluded symbolism in a book or movie is often the least important thing about it, since by definition it won't ever be picked up by many people.

Volksverhetzer said...

It you have started watching films because they give a view in to various cultures, you should see "Until the light takes us", a documentary about the early Black Metal scene.

It is also my claim that Breivik the terrorist, would not have existed, if he had not witnessed how black metal profited from being demonized in the media for all the church burnings and murders.

Anonymous said...

So I take it that this Julia Roberts Snow White vehicle is an entirely different film from the competing Charlize Theron Snow White vehicle?

'Cause in our market, we're only seeing the Theron trailers [in fact, I wasn't aware that the Roberts flick even existed].

BTW, if he hasn't done so already, then Steve might want to write a piece about how Hollyweird gets all hot & bothered about some particular subject, and then simultaneously funds multiple flicks with exactly the same premise [compare e.g. 1998's competing killer asteroid flicks, Deep Impact and Armaggedon].

Anonymous said...

Who cares about all this high culture shyte now that someone has poked Eric Holder in the eye?

Brian said...

Haha, I once watched an Indian movie where the characters walked calmly down a street in shirtsleeves while enormous "snowflakes" whirled around them. Hilarious! Apparently, something like a third of the world's population have never seen snow, so you can't blame them for not realizing how uncomfortable it is.

Duggan said...

Julia Roberts is a Hindu convert... I don't know how that would fit into this theory. Perhaps the director was using her religion to associate it with evil.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if "Mirror, Mirror" would have been green lighted had Relativity Media known about "Snow White and the Huntsman" which debuts this summer. Why watch a lame Bollywood adaptation by some green card director when you can see a prostitute serial killer play the wicked stepmother trying to kill her Navy Seal stepdaughter?

Ed said...

What's with the sudden flurry of posts?

(and over 400 comments in two days. Weren't there a bunch of religious holidays this weekend?)

rec1man said...

Steve, bawana- vamana is a Hindu dwarf avatar

Sikhs dont believe in Hindu avatars

Not all Sikhs were involved with Indira Gandhi

There are 3 main castes of Sikhs

1. Khatri merchants, all the Sikh Gurus were Khatri merchants, these are 20%

2. Untouchable Mazbhi Sikhs, these are 20%

3. Jat Peasant sikhs, these are 60%

Only a 'section' of Jat Sikhs were pro-Khalistan

Untouchable Mazbhi Sikhs were pro-Union, since they feared oppression by Jat Sikhs

The Union govt crushed the Jat Sikh revolt by arming thousands of Untouchable Mazbhi Sikhs and letting them loose on the Jat Sikhs

Even in the Canadian and UK diaspora, there is a strong split between untouchable Sikhs who are pro-Union and Jat Sikhs who were pro-Khalistan.

Despite all the anti-caste propaganda, in every State, Untouchables prefer the Union and the Central govt brahmins over their local peasant landlord co-ethnics ( who are their main oppressors )

It is also unfair to describe Indira Gandhi as anti-Sikh.

Her son Sanjay Gandhi, married a Khatri Sikh, Menaka Anand ( a towel model ), with the full approval of Indira Gandhi.

As recently as 1972, Indira Gandhi was wildly popular among Sikhs for defeating Pakistan in 1971 war.

Indira Gandhi's Sikh assassins were her personal body guards for 20 years, and definitely not oppressed

snow gum said...

It's really about Hillary Clinton the wicked queen getting all angry about Snow Mulatto Obama getting all the attention.

dreams from gum said...

Though Obama is called 'black', is he more like his mother or his father? I think we tend to link him with his father cuz of his book DREAMS FROM FATHER and cuz he's a male. But maybe psychologically and physically, he's closer to his mother. So, maybe what we have is a white woman as a black man in the Oval Office. Maybe this is what feminists secretly or subconsciously picked up.
If some people saw Obama as stealth radical pretending to be a centrist in the White House, maybe some feminists saw him as a secret white woman pretending to be a black man in the white house.
So, maybe there is a white-woman-ishness about him that subliminally attracts white female voters to him as 'one of us'.
He is kinda gayish.

Paul Mendez said...

So, maybe what we have is a white woman as a black man in the Oval Office.

I have a friend who I swear is married to a gay man trapped in a straight woman's body.

Anonymous said...

Maybe it's about a drag-queen's envy of a cutie-pie.

Anonymous said...

"Weren't there a bunch of religious holidays this weekend"

I dunno about the proprietor but stick around and you may have a better feel for the commenting subset of the audience. i.e. they're not well disposed to holy rollers and often profess a certain Rockefeller/Bill Thomas patrician contempt for that demographic (confusingly, however, the evangelical crowd is repeatedly described as Jewish for some hopelessly obscure reason)

Anonymous said...

I dunno about the proprietor...

Rumor has it that the Sailers are papists out of the old Austrian/Hapsburgian tradition.

Anonymous said...

I also went to the movie because of Tyler Cowen's post relating Snow White to Indira Ghandi. It seemed to me that the best match was that Snow White was a young Indira Ghandi rather than the wicked queen being an old Indira Ghandi. Indira's father, Nehru, died when she was a young woman and she was shunted away from power, but she fought her way back to power to restore the "Nehru dynasty". If my Snow-White-is-Indira-Ghandi allegory is correct, then the movie is not anti-Hindu at all. If Julia Roberts really has coverted to Hinduism, I doubt that she would be involved with a movie that supported Indira's Sikh assissins.