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Snow White’s Modern Makeover: A PR Fiasco

Published on October 6, 2023, 2:56 p.m.
by Caroline Raley. 

The reimagined Snow White doesn’t come with seven dwarves, but she does come with a few public relations nightmares. Take, for example, one account on X, formerly known as Twitter, that is critical of the new Snow White movie to be released in 2024: At 19.2 million views, a tweet from the account expressed, “The new Snow White says that the Prince was a creepy stalker and suggests that all scenes of the Prince could be cut. She’s a walking PR disaster for Disney.”

The original dwarf is not the only one who’s Grumpy

Backlash on the live action remake began immediately when Rachel Zegler, a Latina actress, was cast as Snow White. According

Photo via @rachelzegler on Instagram

to an article by Movie Web, “The actress was chastised on social media for her skin tone not being ‘as white as snow’ as The Grimm Brothers’ book once described.” After the controversy surrounding a Black woman, Halle Bailey, being cast as the new Ariel, you would think Disney would do more research like focus groups or surveys on what people want to see from a classic Disney movie, and how to tackle racist comments.

The next “Snow White” controversy came after Peter Dinklage, an actor with dwarfism, spoke out on the remake. He began with praise for Disney using diversity by casting a Latina woman. However, he was unhappy about the representation of people with dwarfism. During a Marc Maron “WTF” podcast session, Dinklage said that Disney was progressive in one way but somehow still made a “backward story about dwarves living in a cave together.”

However, according to Movie Web, members of the little people community view the classic movie remake as an opportunity to star in a major motion picture. These differences in opinion have caused even more of a fiasco for Disney’s PR team, as they probably have begun to ask the question, “Which audience do we listen to?” Should Disney listen to Peter Dinklage’s impact or the backlash he received from his own community?

Did Disney lie?

Nevertheless, that’s not the only PR crises surrounding the casting of the seven dwarves. Disney responded to Dinklage by explaining, “To avoid reinforcing stereotypes from the original animated film, we are taking a different approach with these seven characters and have

been consulting with members of the dwarfism community. We look forward to sharing more as the film heads into production after a lengthy development period.”

Photo via Disney

Disney showed no public signs of consulting with members of the dwarfism community. Leaked images surfaced from the set of the new production showing only one “dwarf” of the seven actually having dwarfism and the remaining six being of different genders and race. Is this offensive to people with dwarfism? A quick backlash on X showed disdain from many different audiences. According to a USWeekly article, a Disney representative allegedly claimed the photo was fake, and then recounted that statement, ultimately admitting it was real.

Overall, there has been more backlash than praise for this new production, damaging Disney’s credibility.

It keeps getting worse

An online clip surfaced in July 2023 of Zegler stating, “It’s not 1937. She’s not gonna be saved by the prince and she’s not going to be dreaming about true love. She’s dreaming about becoming the leader she knows she can be.” Some people were absolutely devastated with this supposed plot change. A number of fans of the original Snow White story expressed that there was nothing wrong with a woman wanting true love.

Zegler was soon criticized again on social media when referring to the SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes. “If I am gonna stand there 18 hours in a dress of an iconic Disney princess, I deserve to be paid for every hour that it’s streamed online,” she stated. There were many mixed reactions to this statement, but most were of negative sentiment, calling the newly cast Disney princess a “brat” and “entitled.”

Disney and the new Snow White should figure out their strategic plan. The large production company needs to pick a path, and learn how to appeal to its target audience, not all audiences.

Listen up, PRincesses and PRinces

There are many notable takeaways from this PR catastrophe. Preparing for backlash and potential cancelation is fundamental to strategic planning in this era. Responses are crucial in the new cancel culture era. Peter Dinklage’s response resulted in backlash

Photo via Disney

from the little person community, Disney’s response showed a lack of care and knowledge, and Rachel Zegler’s response seemed to reek of privilege.

Insufficient research and a lack of media training were glaring issues in this scenario, underscoring the importance of PR professionals avoiding such approaches. Monitoring, listening, researching and overall understanding of your audience are keys to a successful campaign.

In the original Snow White movie, Grumpy once said, “Mark my words, there’s trouble a-brewin.”

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