Ravenna was her own undoing.
“Beauty is my power,” she says in the film.
We can blame her mother for errant teaching on what could save them from the attacking armies, but Ravenna is the only one to blame for her errant pursuit of power. She decided that power was her life’s goal. She chose beauty as the method of obtaining power, and that errant pursuit made her too blind to see the source of Snow White’s real power, ultimately leading to her demise.
I think the casting was spot on in supporting this point. Charlize Theron is a more physically beautiful person than Kristen Stewart, which underscores that the kind of beauty that has power to make one immortal is not physical. What did Snow’s mother tell her just before her death?
“You posses a rare beauty, my love, in here [touching her chest, above her heart]. Never lose it. It will serve you well when you are queen.”
And at the very end (maybe earlier as well), even Ravenna recognized it.
“You were the only one who could break the spell and destroy me, and the only one pure enough to save me,“ she utters just before dying.
It was Snow White’s goodness and purity that made her so powerful, truly beautiful. That’s why she could charm the bridge troll when he was ready to eat her and the Huntsman. That’s why she could rally a far smaller army and lead them to victory. And that’s why she could ultimately conquer the queen.
I think it’s interesting that there was an option. Ravenna makes it seem like her destruction or her salvation were both equal options for how the story could end. Maybe if Ravenna would have found a way to stop resisting goodness and could have learned to embrace it, she could have been spared from the misery of being the slave of beauty and power.
So what does all of that have to do with us? Again, I do not think I have the answer. I do not think there is just one. But I will leave you with what I am going to do and what I hope you do as well.
If we want to be beautiful in a real way, we must recognize that we have a lot of power in this situation. We need to take responsibility for fostering real beauty in ourselves and in our culture. It will not exclude what we look like physically. How could it? There is beauty to be found in our facades. No, physical beauty is not the villain here. It’s just not the heroine either.
We must each make a habit of fostering our own good character and helping to create a culture where having good character is prized. I wanted to say “prized above physical beauty,” but let’s keep it real. We would do ourselves a world of good if we made the habit of looking inside for ways to foster virtue. That could be ANYTHING! From being kind to strangers to always telling the truth to being hospitable to being a peace maker. The possibilities for the good we can bring to the world are endless. And I hope we make them more of our practical, daily focus.