Disney's live action remake of the 1937 cartoon "Snow White" isn't scheduled for release until March. But its lead actress, Rachel Zegler, is already at the heart of a social media controversy over comments she made last year.
Interview clips of Zegler from September have resurfaced on social media, where people are criticizing her comments about the film, the title princess and the Prince Charming character.
In a sound bite that has gone viral, Zegler suggested scenes featuring her co-star Andrew Burnap, who plays Prince Charming, could be cut from the film. In another sound bite that has become the center of discourse, Zegler described her version of Snow White as a leader who doesn’t need a prince to save her. She also told an interviewer that she saw the original film only once before she was cast because she found the film scary as a child.
On TikTok, some users said they think that in an effort to make Snow White more feminist, Zegler inadvertently assigned antifeminist sentiment to the character. Others used the viral discourse to bash Zegler, a Latina actor who has already faced racist backlash to her casting in the live action remake.
Representatives for Zegler and Disney didn’t respond to requests for comment Monday.
What exactly did Zegler say in the interviews?
The clips that have been shared to social media show tightly edited segments of Zegler’s interviews, which don’t always include all of her thoughts about the film.
In an interview with Variety in September at the Disney Fan Club’s D23 Expo, where fans got a first glimpse of the new “Snow White,” Zegler said she cried and was overwhelmed when she saw herself on the screen as Snow White. She then praised crew members who helped make the film possible.
But on social media, people zeroed in on her response to being asked about bringing a “modern edge” to the story of “Snow White."
“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 interview at the D23 Expo was also scrutinized on social media. In the sound bite, Zegler told Extra TV that there’s a big focus on Snow White’s love story in the original film “with a guy who literally stalks her.” She called that part of the story “weird” and said they “didn’t do that this time.”
"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 said. "It's really not about the love story at all, which is really, really wonderful."
She joked that all the scenes featuring Prince Charming “could get cut,” adding: “Who knows? It’s Hollywood, baby.”
In a third interview, which Entertainment Weekly published in September, Zegler said she was frightened by the original 1937 film and didn’t revisit it until she was cast as Snow White.
“I think I watched it once and never picked it up again. I’m being so serious,” she said.
Why are people saying Zegler's comments aren’t feminist?
In a TikTok video that has been viewed 9.5 million times, a user said criticizing Disney princesses is “pseudo-feminism.”
“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 the user, who goes by the handle @CosyWithAngie. “And that’s OK.”
She didn’t respond to a request for comment. In her video, she said she believes it isn’t antifeminist for a woman, fictitious or real, to want to fall in love, get married, stay at home or be soft.
Another user's video got almost 3 million likes. The user, who goes by the handle @ShikaLord, argued that Disney princesses don’t have to be turned into "girl bosses" and that their original stories didn’t intend them to be.
She didn’t respond to a request for comment. In her video, she said she believes that "the whole thing with art and artistic expression is that there should be diverse characters, and when every female character has a feminist icon stamp on her, the whole movie industry becomes boring."
“What doesn’t fit in to my brain is why does a woman need to somehow be proactive, extraordinary, have this incredible successful career in order to be appreciated and in order to be considered a protagonist?” she asked.
Some people took issue with Zegler's comments about her first experience watching the original "Snow White" film.
"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. Out of MILLIONS of women who loved the character, care about the story and yet this is who we get," a user wrote on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.
Some called out the backlash as unjustified
Ashten Stein, a brand strategist and TikToker, said Zegler’s comments make it appear as though she hasn’t had proper media training for “Snow White.”
“Clearly, Rachel has not been prepped properly, and there hasn’t been a proper foundation set for her to be marketing this movie,” said Stein, who also made a TikTok video weighing in on Zegler’s viral interviews. “And that shows in what she’s saying.”
However, she said, some of the discourse has gone too far.
“There’s one thing to critique someone’s actions, and it’s another to start bullying or feeding into canceled culture,” Stein said. “Because I think Rachel’s a smart, beautiful, talented woman. I think she could go very, very far if she listened to the criticism, not the hate.”
Others online came to Zegler’s defense, saying the growing backlash is unjustified.
“She’s very talented, and she got the role, and your little Tiky-Toky with millions of views is not going to take that away from her,” writer, actor and content creator Franchesca Ramsey said in a TikTok video.
A user joked on X that Zegler did something more heinous than give remarks in the months-old interviews.
“I thought Rachel zegler ran over somebody grandma or sumn….. imagine my surprise,” the user wrote.
Another posted: “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.”
A person on X shared two videos of Zegler appearing to wave to a person dressed as Snow White and screaming enthusiastically "I'm Snow White" while on a ride.
The user wrote, "- i dont know how her being afraid of it as a child is bad."
The user added that Zegler "has never called snow white weak, she just said her version was proactive."
"the opposite of ‘proactive’ is passive (which snow white is), and passive ≠ weak."