In Snow White and the Huntsman, the evil Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) is the ultimate bully. She sucks all beauty from the world around her, not just from the women whose youth she steals. The once-lush countryside withers, and under her rule, people forget what it means to be good and kind and happy.
She gets pleasure from seeing other people suffer. “Do you hear that?” she asks. “It’s the sound of battles fought and lives lost. It once pained me to know that I am the cause of such despair. But now their cries give me strength.”
One of the Duke’s resistance fighters returns to the Duke (the faithful friend of Snow White’s father, the king, when he was alive) with the tale of how the fighter’s son stabbed Queen Ravenna in the gut and she didn’t even bleed. She killed him with just a touch. No one can stop her. No one can beat her.
Or at least that’s what she wants everyone to think. It’s what all bullies want, because they know that bullies only win if we let them.
For all the one-dimensionality of the Snow White character, and despite Kristen Stewart’s acting, Snow White got that one thing right.
The evil Queen can be killed. She can be stopped. But they won’t do it by hiding from her.
And neither will we.
When my husband was in high school, he was the scrawny, nerdy kid. (He didn’t fill out until he was deployed to Iraq.) In high school, he weighed no more than 125 pounds, and was regularly shoved around and intimidated by a guy at least 30 pounds heavier and four inches taller. And he took it—until one day he didn’t.
One day, he punched his bully in the face. No one bullied him again.
I’m not saying the right solution is always to physically punch your bully any more than the right solution is for us to all draw swords and storm a castle, but there are many ways to stand up and say “Enough!”
Bullies lose when we don’t let them change us. Last week, August McLaughlin interviewed ESPN executive Keri Potts, who was brutally assaulted and nearly raped by a bully of the worst kind while traveling alone in Italy. After the attack, she thought she’d never enjoy traveling alone again. She did it anyway, and kept doing it until her joy came back. Her father said, “That’s my girl. Don’t ever let somebody change you. Because that’s what you love to do.”
Bullies lose when we refuse to let them hide their bullying. When you report your abuser, when you testify against the person who attacked you, when you tell your story about what happened behind closed doors or in the shadows, you’re helping to make sure they can’t hurt someone else in the future. You’re standing as a shield between the bully and their next victim. You’re giving someone else the courage to stand up and say, “No, that’s not alright.” You win, and the bully loses.
Bullies lose when we stop making excuses for them. “She had an unhappy childhood, so she doesn’t realize how much her words hurt other people.” “He hits me because I’m disrespectful.” “He bullies other children because his parents tell him he’s worthless and he needs to feel better about himself.” There might be good reasons why a person is a bully, and it’s important for us to try to understand those reasons.
Having a reason for something, though, doesn’t mean we excuse their actions. When we excuse them, we enable them to keep being a bully. Excusing their actions is the same as saying what they did isn’t wrong because of some other factor. Until we’re willing to say “This is wrong, regardless of the reason for it,” the bullying will never stop and the bully will never have to face the consequences of their actions.
Bullies never have to win. They only win when we stop fighting.
Have you faced a bully before? How did you handle it? Do you agree that bullies only win when we let them?
If you’re looking for a more traditional review of Snow White and the Huntsman, some of my blogger friends have done an amazing job:
Melinda VanLone (my opinion is closest to Melinda’s)
Jillian Dodd’s daughter, Kenzie Dodd
And my co-writer Lisa Hall-Wilson asks “Is Snow White a Leader or a Hero?”
Update: I had to add in this hilarious review by Kait Nolan on The 10 Most Mockable Moments in Snow White and the Huntsman.
If you enjoyed this post, please enter your email below to receive free updates next time I publish.