‘Snow White’ Replacement Jenna Ortega Hit With Controversy

in Disney, Entertainment

jenna ortega and rachel zegler

Credit: Edited by Inside the Magic

Lately, we have been used to seeing Rachel Zegler, Disney’s Snow White star, get dragged in the media following multiple interviews where she spoke out on her beliefs of the original character of Snow White, and the overall storyline of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Now, one of Zegler’s connections and allies in the Latinx community has been ridiculed online for actions during an event with Zegler.

Jenna Ortega as Wednesday Addams in Wednesday
Credit: MGM Television

For those who may not know, Rachel Zegler will star as Snow White in Disney’s live-action Snow White.

Starting nearly a decade ago, The Walt Disney Company embarked on a mission to remake all of its classic animated films, giving them a live-action spin. We’ve seen countless classic Disney films get remade, some with stunning visual effects and upgrades, like The Lion King (2019), The Jungle Book (2016), and Cinderella (2015), to name a few. Peter Pan & Wendy, the most recent “live-action” adaptation, was released earlier this year on Disney+. Disney also attempted to capitalize on its classic Haunted Mansion attraction for the second time with 2023’s Haunted Mansion.

We have also seen films like Beauty and the Beast, starring Harry Potter star Emma Watson, and Pirates of the Caribbean, starring Johnny Depp, break records at the box office and breathe new life into an old story.

Disney also released a reimagining of its iconic 1989 film The Little Mermaid, with Halle Bailey taking on the role of Ariel in The Little Mermaid (2023). This is when things took a turn for Disney.

Disney has been moving in a much more inclusive direction in all facets of the company –– some of which has been controversial to guests.

Many have accused Disney of becoming much more “woke”, which is something we saw come to life specifically with the Strange World controversy. As Disney has moved to be more diverse and inclusive, they have integrated characters from the LGBTQ community into their films.

As noted by Variety, Jenna Barbee, a fifth-grade Florida teacher, was under investigation by the Florida Department of Education after showing her class the animated Disney movie Strange World, which features an openly gay character.

The Clade family explore a strange new land in 'Strange World' (2022). Credit: Walt Disney Animation Studios
Credit: Walt Disney Animation Studios

In a video posted to TikTok, Barbee said that she was being investigated for indoctrination after showing the film. “Our students had standardized testing all morning,” Barbee said in the video. “I thought it would be a great time to give them a brain break by showing a movie that related to what we were learning about in school…I chose this movie because it relates to our curriculum.”

Prior to showing the film, Barbee acquired signed parent permission slips from students. She was then reported to the Florida Department of Education for indoctrination by Shannon Rodriguez, a board member of the Hernando County School District Board and parent of a student in Barbee’s class. The complaint related to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ “Don’t Say Gay” legislation that has limited conversations about sexual orientation and gender identity in schools.

The school district released a statement to parents saying, “Yesterday, the Disney movie Strange World was shown in your child’s classroom. While not the main plot of the movie, parts of the story involve a male character having and expressing feelings for another male character. In the future, this movie will not be shown. The school administration and the district’s Professional Standards Dept. is currently reviewing the matter to see if further corrective action is required.”

From this, it is easy to see how there are certain audiences who do not want to see any progression in films that reflect the world that we are living in today. So, saying that Snow White is not someone who needs her prince charming and criticizing her archetype role of the “housewife” did not go over well for all audiences.

Snow White looking scared
Credit: Disney

There are two main instances that caused fans outrage with the upcoming film. Firstly, there will be no dwarfs in the film, but seven magical creatures, which deviate from the iconic story that Walt Disney himself created on screen. Many have not understood why the characters were removed, with a point being made that this is depriving little people with dwarfism the opportunity to gain a role in a major feature film.

The second comes from an interview where Zegler and Gal Gadot say that Snow White will not have a prince charming (played by Andrew Burnap), and there is no one who needs to save her.

At this point, fans accused Disney of creating a totally different film, and creating a pseudo-feminist film that makes Snow White’s ideals and behavior be seen as wrong, creating a corrupt narrative for females who may dream of finding their “prince charming”, or behaving as more of a softer character, than someone who is constantly trying to be the leader, as Zegler said Snow White will now be. With this, fans have been outraged at Disney pushing their “woke” agenda. The film no longer resembles any of the same storylines, according to fans, and many do not understand why such major changes were made to a historical film.

Rachel Zegler fired 'Snow White'
Credit: Edited by Inside the Magic

Zegler has made it clear that she thinks the original character of Snow White was a helpless damsel in distress who was only able to be rescued by a prince. While this trope is true for certain Disney films, to many people, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was all about Snow White’s journey. This fact is only proven further by the fact that the prince has about five minutes of screen time in the original movie.

Rachel Zegler’s meteoric rise to stardom began with a viral video audition in 2017, when she vied for the role of Maria in Steven Spielberg’s modern rendition of the timeless musical, West Side Story. Zegler’s portrayal of Maria in the film left an indelible mark, characterized by her mesmerizing singing prowess and undeniable on-screen chemistry. Her performance earned her widespread acclaim from both critics and audiences, solidifying her status as a formidable talent in the world of cinema.

Because of Zegler’s comments, there have been numerous rumors suggesting her departure from the film. Recently, reports confirmed that she would no longer be starring in Paddington 3. Of course, these reports went viral because fans mistakenly believed that the actress had been officially cut from Snow White rather than Paddington. In response to these rumors, Zegler continues to post on social media and poke fun at the rumors that have made their way across the internet.

rachel-zegler
Credit: Dave J. Hogan

Recently, we have shared that Beetlejuice 2, starring Jenna Ortega from Netflix’s Wednesday is the more popular film to come out of 2024, according to IMDB. As Ortega has been on the rise, her Latinx Hollywood counter Rachel Zegler, has been falling — that is, until now.

In an interview with Deadline, Ortega discussed her heritage and what that has meant for her career. “Being Latina has always been really, really lovely for me,” she said. “It’s something that I’m very proud of. I grew up in a community [Coachella Valley, California] surrounded by all kinds of Hispanics, which was really wonderful because I never grew up with any sort of shame or any sort of fear of my culture.”

When discussing representation onscreen, Ortega mentioned how important it was early on in her career for her to get parts that show Latinos in roles that lean away from stereotypes. “I always got really excited when I got those jobs that were open ethnicity or maybe initially meant for a Caucasian actor… I do want to open the doors for as many Latin people as possible, just because we’re a beautiful community and we should be celebrated. The Latin community only take up three percent of all representation shown across television and film media. The TV world, the film world, should reflect what the real world looks like.”

Jenna Ortega dancing as Wednesday Addams in 'Wednesday'
Credit: Netflix

That being said, the actress does not speak Spanish, which is where the recent outrage has come from.

Vogue shared earlier this week in Paris at Dior’s fashion show, a stunning group of actors was seated together like the Latina Avengers: Anya Taylor-Joy, Jenna Ortega, and Rachel Zegler. Yet within hours, they were at the center of a heated debate on social media.

A 12-second clip from the evening shows Taylor-Joy introducing her husband to Rosalía and Ortega in Spanish. Ortega, who is not a Spanish speaker, kindly greets him in English. That was all it took: Before long, Taylor-Joy’s fluency and Ortega’s mono-lingualism had sparked a discourse about what truly defines Latinx identity.

Jenna Ortega as Wednesday Addams in Wednesday
Credit: MGM Television

While many thought that Ortega’s heritage was not as strong as she has claimed in the past, others fiercely defended the California-born Ortega, arguing that language does not dictate a person’s heritage or connection to it.

Zegler was also at the same event, as mentioned, however, she received a ton of positive PR, as she was talking with fellow Hunger Games alum, Jennifer Lawrence. 

Jennifer Lawrence famously played the leading role of Katniss Everdeen in the original Hunger Games film franchise, which spanned four movies from 2012 to 2015. Rachel Zegler, on the other hand, stars in the franchise’s next leading role as Lucy Gray Baird in the upcoming prequel film The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes, based on Suzanne Collins’s 2020 controversial novel.

Are you a fan of Jenna Ortega? Do you think language defines a person’s ethnicity? 

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