“Leave Rachel Zegler Alone”: The Sexism & Racism Behind the ‘Snow White’ Backlash

in Disney, Movies

Rachel Zegler in three photos. In one, she mimics a painting of 'Snow White' looking scared. In the second, she carries a coffee cup and an iPhone while wearing a SAG on Strike shirt. In the last, she is on set of 'Snow White,' dressed in the iconic dress and wig.

Credit: Rachel Zegler / SAG-AFTRA / Splash News

An upcoming live-action Walt Disney Studios remake of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) is already stirring controversy online. It started with some resurfaced clips of Rachel Zegler, who stars in the titular role, discussing her complicated relationship with the original story. What followed was a viral harassment campaign against the future Disney Princess.

Related: Rachel Zegler, Disney’s New Snow White, Defends Halle Bailey From Racist Backlash to ‘The Little Mermaid’

Zegler will star alongside Gal Gadot (Evil Queen) and Andrew Burnap (Jonathon/Prince Charming). The West Side Story (2021) actress promised that the live-action film, directed by Marc Webb with a screenplay by Greta Gerwig and Erin Cressida Wilson, will focus on Snow White’s own abilities more than just “true love.”

Rachel Zegler wearing Minnie ears at Disneyland
Credit: Rachel Zegler via Twitter

Despite her now-infamous statements, Zegler has professed excitement about Snow White (2024) on multiple occasions, telling Variety that she cried the first time she saw herself on screen. So when did the alternative take on the conventional fairytale love story become so controversial?

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)

Directed by David Hand, the original Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs tells the story of the first Disney Princess and an Evil Queen. Inspired by a Brothers Grimm fairytale, this Disney classic was the first feature-length animated film in the United States. It was nominated for Best Original Score at the 1938 Academy Awards and later won a uniquely crafted Oscar statuette for its cultural significance.

Snow White holding bird in 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs'
Credit: Disney

Related: “Belligerently Drunk” Walt Disney World Guest Pretends to Be Snow White, Resists Arrest

“The beautiful and kindhearted princess Snow White charms every creature in the kingdom except one — her jealous stepmother, the Queen,” Walt Disney Animation Studios writes of the film. “When the Magic Mirror proclaims Snow White is the fairest one of all, she must flee into the forest, where she befriends the lovable seven dwarfs — Doc, Sneezy, Grumpy, Happy, Bashful, Sleepy and Dopey. But when the Queen tricks Snow White with an enchanted apple, only the magic of true love’s kiss can save her!”

What Did Rachel Zegler Say?

The Snow White remake doesn’t premiere until 2024. So why do Disney Princess fans hate it so much already?

Well, like anything online, it’s complicated. Before the Zegler controversy, fans were furious that Walt Disney Studios removed the seven dwarves from the live-action remake. Instead, Snow White will star seven diverse actors and actresses as Doc, Sleepy, Dopey, Happy, Grumpy, Bashful, and Sneezy.

Snow White in bed with the seven dwarves staring at her.
Credit: Disney

The first clip of Zegler to go viral came from her interview with Variety at D23 Expo 2022. Though she spoke positively of the film and the crew who worked on it, social media users focused on her description of Snow White’s “modern” plot.

“I just mean that it’s no longer 1937,” Zegler said. “We absolutely wrote a ‘Snow White’ that … she’s not going to be saved by the prince, and she’s not going to be dreaming about true love; she’s going to be dreaming about becoming the leader she knows she can be and that her late father told her that she could be if she was fearless, fair, brave and true.”

Another clip from the same weekend featured Zegler calling the original Prince Charming storyline “weird,” mentioning that Snow White’s true love is “a guy who literally stalks her.”

“We have a different approach to what I’m sure a lot of people will assume is a love story just because we cast a guy in the movie,” she explained. “It’s really not about the love story at all, which is really, really wonderful.”

Rachel Zegler posing with a golden apple bts at Shazam! 2
Credit: Rachel Zegler via Twitter

She also joked that all Prince Charming/Jonathon scenes “could get cut.”

“Who knows?” Zegler quipped. “It’s Hollywood, baby.”

Another controversial quote hails from an October 2022 interview with Entertainment WeeklyZegler recalled only watching Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs once as a child because it scared her. She later rode the now-defunct Snow White’s Scary Adventures ride in Magic Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World Resort, which cemented her fear of the film.

“I was scared of the original cartoon,” Zegler said. “I think I watched it once, and then I never picked it up again. I’m being so serious… Then I went on the ride in Disney World, which was called Snow White’s Scary Adventures – doesn’t sound like something a little kid would like – was terrified of it, never revisited Snow White again.”

As these clips resurfaced, Zegler spoke with Entertainment Tonight about the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strikes.

“If I’m gonna stand there 18 hours a day in the dress of an iconic Disney princess, I deserve to be paid for every hour that it’s streamed online,” she said.

Rachel Zegler in an alien hat, making a scared face.
Credit: Rachel Zegler via Twitter

This statement further infuriated fans, who felt she wasn’t grateful for the role.

But things weren’t perfect for Zegler before this month’s frenzy. Much like Halle Bailey in The Little Mermaid (2023), the Shazam! Fury of the Gods (2023) star was hit with racist backlash as a woman of Colombian-Polish descent portraying a white animated Disney Princess.

Some fans feel the current uprising against Zegler is rooted in that racism, with social media haters clinging to anything remotely negative about the actress as a reason to knock her down.

Social Media Backlash

Rachel Zegler sitting on a wishing well at Disneyland.
Credit: Rachel Zegler via Twitter

As it often does, social media reacted quickly to Zegler’s take on the original Snow White and the upcoming live-action remake. Infuriated at her comments on Prince Charming and streaming residual pay, many called her entitled and disrespectful.

Related: “What Are You Doing?,” Peter Dinklage Slams Disney’s Live-Action ‘Snow White’

Rachel Zegler admitting she didn’t like Snow White growing up, saying she had only watched it ONCE before getting the role is so sad to me,” said @Vara_Dark. “Out of MILLIONS of women who loved the character, care about the story and yet this is who we get. 🤡🤢 She could at least ACT like she cares about the material and the legacy. That is her job, after all.”

“Criticizing Disney princesses is not feminist. Not every woman is a leader. Not every woman wants to be a leader. Not every woman wants or craves power,” said TikTok user @CosyWithAngie. “And that’s OK.”

Related: Video Shows Child Transition From Princess to Prince Charming

One of the thing that really irritates me about Rachel Zegler’s comments on Snow White is that this isn’t just some random outdated movie this was the first ever hand-drawn animated movie in history and animation and film would never be what it is today without it,” @TimTam91924344 wrote. 

Even right-wing influencer The Quartering got in on the backlash.

I just cannot figure out why everyone hates Rachel Zegler,” he quipped sarcastically. “Disney should just cut their losses and bail on this movie now.” 

In Defense of Rachel Zegler

Though Zegler was initially criticized for being a Snow White of Latin descent, this month’s social media storm saw some of the strongest hatred toward the 22-year-old actress. Some online even begged Walt Disney Studios to “make a new film.”

Related: ALL-NEW Details About ‘Snow White’ Live-Action Remake Revealed at D23 Expo 2022

Zegler’s haters are loud, but her supporters aren’t backing down. They defended her remarks about the iconic Disney Princess, calling her opinions tame compared to male actors’ negativity about their acting careers.

“I don’t give a sh*t about the new Snow White, but Rachel Zegler is not your damn punching bag,” @JeffMovieMan wrote. “‘Oh she’s desecrating Snow White with her wokeness-“‘YOU DON’T CARE ABOUT SNOW WHITE! YOU NEVER CARED! You only started pretending to care once you had an excuse to be a d*ck.”

“Leave Rachel Zegler alone you freaks and go touch some grass,” said @cjcreggswife.

Many called out the thinly-veiled hypocrisy and sexism behind the backlash.

“I thought Rachel Zegler had murdered someone based on how mad people are but as it turns out she’s just done the same thing a million male actors have done before and nobody cared,” read a viral post from @mattxiv.

“Harrison Ford and Robert Pattinson actively hate Star Wars and Twilight and yet it’s hehe funny and all Rachel Zegler did was say Snow White scared her as kid,” @blueromanticss wrote.

“Yeah, it’s pretty much: Robert Pattinson: I hated playing Edward. Incels: Based! Rachel Zegler: I was scared of snow white Incels: To the pyre!” @FactoryReeset replied.

Both Pattinson and Ford actively spoke negatively of their respective film franchises on multiple occasions, even during promotional press tours.

Robert Pattinson in Twilight
Credit: Lionsgate

The Twilight (2008) star walked out of the movie premiere because he “couldn’t handle” it. The Star Wars legend proudly proclaimed that he didn’t care about the details of his films.

“I have no f**king idea what a Force Ghost is, and I don’t care,” Ford said in an iconic interview.

Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill as Han Solo, Leia Organa, and Luke Skywalker in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi
Credit: Lucasfilm

Nevertheless, both actors remained employed, returning to act in multiple Twilight and Star Wars movies. The comments certainly didn’t kill their careers.

As for Zegler, she told fans she was grateful for her social media defenders but avoided most of the “nonsensical discourse” about Snow White: 

extremely appreciative of the love i feel from those defending me online, but please don’t tag me in the nonsensical discourse about my casting. i really, truly do not want to see it. so i leave you w these photos! i hope every child knows they can be a princess no matter what

Though some have claimed Zegler’s remarks will kill her career, the actress has prominent roles in multiple upcoming films, including The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes (2023) and Spellbound (2024).

At the end of the day, The Walt Disney Company believes Zegler is the best person for Snow White. Fans can judge for themselves on March 22, 2024!

What do you make of Rachel Zegler’s Snow White comments? Share your thoughts with Inside the Magic in the comments. 

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