Snow White with the Red Hair
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 22 of
Snow White with the Red Hair (TV 2) ?
There's no clear answer when it comes to what makes a “strong female character.” By some definitions, she eschews romance entirely, becoming a tough figure who doesn't need any help, doesn't need to be rescued, and will do all the saving herself, thank you very much. Another view has it that the strong female character doesn't need to embrace any traditionally masculine qualities and can show her strength through more “feminine” attributes, whether that is kindness and a loving heart or sneakily manipulating matters behind the scenes. These conflicting definitions have been brewing in the background of Snow White with the Red Hair, albeit not overtly, with Shirayuki exhibiting aspects of both; in these later episodes of season two, there are also problems that arise with both. In season one, she did most of the self-saving, and that was great to see; in season two she needed to be rescued, which made sense given the drastic difference in circumstances. (Prince wants to marry her/man locks her in tower over lake/psycho pirate queen and her heavily armed crew kidnap her.) Now in this episode, we see the pitfall of more traditionally feminine strengths coming back to bite her, though once again in a way that doesn't actually detract from her character.
I've mentioned several times that Snow White with the Red Hair owes more to other fairy tales than the actual Snow White story, and this episode draws from the truly horrible story of Patient Griselda. As we were warned last week, people are getting antsy about Zen's lack of a fiancée, and Lord Haruka (at Izana's behest) tells Zen that he has to at least hold one marriage interview. The reluctant Zen does find a way around it, but he doesn't tell Shirayuki immediately, apparently forgetting about a wonderful little thing called “gossip.” While the audience is reassured relatively quickly that this meeting holds no danger – my guess was Raj's little sister, but the truth is actually much better – Shirayuki has no idea what's going on except that Zen may be getting engaged to someone who is not her. Rather than outwardly fuss, she tries to carry on, Griselda-like in her trust and love for her prince.
Patience, the Griselda story preaches, is a Womanly Virtue of the highest order. In Shirayuki's case, it's probably more that she has difficulties expressing her true emotions, but what makes this a particularly Griselda-like situation is the fact that just last week Zen was professing his love for her, and now she has to trust that he meant it despite these new circumstances. For someone not great at emotions in the first place, this is a double hit, and those close to Shirayuki can see her slowly self-destructing. She won't say anything though, not even to Ryu or Obi – in another reference to Griselda, she tries not to bother other people with her own pesky feelings. (Zen, meanwhile, is utterly oblivious.)
Seen in one light, this could be “strong” behavior – she's not going to get in the way of Clarines's civic matters, so she has to put the kingdom's (and Zen's) well-being first. If she'd cried and screamed, she'd be seen as somehow lesser, a thought borne out by her reaction when Zen finally talks to her at the end of the episode. But this emotional forbearance really takes a toll on Shirayuki: we can see it in her stiff movements, her clumsier-than-usual planting, and the forced tone in her voice. When she finally learns what's really going on, it looks like the strings holding her up have been cut. In letting go of that particular method of being strong, Shirayuki becomes human, because let's be honest, Griselda is an archetype, not a person, and no one could be expected to hold it together in Shirayuki's situation this week. She comes off as a stronger character when she admits her weakness.
On a less analytical note, Izana proves a pleasant surprise this week by proving that he cares about his brother more than protocol, at least to a degree, and we learn that Zen's not the only noble to go off the beaten track in terms of doing what he really wants to. (Also, what was that about Zen possibly being illegitimate? There was a comment about people not really seeing him as a prince.) Things are definitely looking up in terms of getting a decent ending – both happy and conclusive – when this season is over.
Snow White with the Red Hair is currently streaming on Funimation.
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