Last week, Peter Dinklage guested on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast, and Disney’s upcoming live-action remake of Snow White came up. Of the film, set to star Rachel Zegler as Snow White and Gal Gadot as the Evil Queen, Dinklage had this to say: “Literally no offense to anyone, but I was a little taken aback when they were very proud to cast a Latina actress as Snow White — but you’re still telling the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Take a step back and look at what you’re doing there. It makes no sense to me. You’re progressive in one way, but then you’re still making that f-cking backward story about seven dwarfs living in a cave together? What the f-ck are you doing, man?”
Coming from Peter Dinklage, arguably the most high-profile little person in the world, this carries weight. Disney can’t blow this off. And they didn’t, responding the next day with a statement: “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…”
Making the whole thing worse is The Daily Mail—NATURALLY—running a piece in which other little person actors blast Dinklage for “cancelling” Snow White, which he absolutely did not do. The film is currently slated for a 2023 release, and Marc Webb, of The Amazing Spider-Man fame, is on board to direct. The current draft of the script is coming from Greta Gerwig. This is fully a movie that is happening. Three things in life are inevitable: death, taxes, and Disney live-action remakes.
But, actors from the dwarfism community might have a reason to be upset at a lost opportunity, because Disney might not be using “seven dwarfs” at all in the film. The Hollywood Reporter notes that Disney has been “reimagining the dwarf characters since the earliest stages and intended for the characters to be CG/animated”. The Wrap alleges that the characters have been revamped as “magical creatures” and Disney is currently casting voice actors. Oh gods, somehow, that’s WORSE. That’s admitting you couldn’t see a way through to positive representation and just gave up instead, LITERALLY dehumanizing the characters.
It's just baffling because you don’t really have to try to reframe the Seven Dwarfs as “positive” characters, they’re already positive—they’re the heroes of the damn story. Snow White is the story of a rich girl who gets lost in the woods and would absolutely die of exposure if not for the kind survivalists who take her in and give her room and board and show her how to hack it on her own. At no point do they ask her for rent, instead, the Seven Dwarfs seem to live in some kind of anarcho-syndicalist commune, and they welcome her into their autonomous collective willingly as their fellow comrade. And when Snow White does eventually succumb to terminal naivete, what do the Seven Dwarfs do? They build her a nice coffin and lay fresh flowers on her grave every day. Thoughtful! Just don’t make them the butt of every damn joke, and the Seven Dwarfs can be positive examples of representation for the dwarfism community.
But Peter Dinklage is going to get blamed for this, isn’t he? Everyone’s just going to assume Disney chickened out after Dinklage called them out, and no one is going to read the fine print that Disney was ALREADY “reimagining” the characters as animated birds or whatever. Let’s be clear, if Disney does remake these characters as computer creatures, it is 100% NOT Peter Dinklage’s fault, he has every right to be critical of media that is stereotypical and harmful in its representation of his community. The onus is on Disney and the filmmakers to do better, and it’s not Peter Dinklage’s fault if they’re so incapable of that all they can do is turn these characters into talking chipmunks. That’s a failure of THEIR imagination, not his.
You can listen to the full WTF episode here.