As Hollywood deals with the fallout of the #MeToo movement, Snow White has become the latest target, amid claims that the Disney version of the fairy tale encourages men to kiss women without consent.
Kristen Bell, the actress who provided the voice of Princess Anna in another Disney blockbuster, Frozen, said the way the prince kisses Snow White while she is asleep is “weird,” and she had warned her young daughters about the male character’s behaviour.
Bell, 38, said she reads every night to daughters Lincoln, five, and Delta, three, but had to have a serious conversation with them about Snow White.
She told Parents magazine: “Don’t you think that it’s weird that the prince kisses Snow White without her permission? Because you cannot kiss someone if they’re sleeping!”
The actress also suggested that the Snow White storyline could encourage children to speak to strangers.
She said: “Every time we close Snow White I look at my girls and ask, ‘Don’t you think it’s weird that Snow White didn’t ask the old witch why she needed to eat the apple? Or where she got that apple?’
“I say, ‘I would never take food from a stranger, would you?’ And my kids are like, ‘No!’ And I’m like, ‘OK, I’m doing something right.’”
In Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Disney’s original 1937 animated film, which differs in part from the Brothers Grimm story of the 19th century, a prince kisses the unconscious Snow White and she wakes up.
It is not the first time the issue of consent has been raised in relation to the scene, which has been endlessly recreated in books.
Last year, Kazue Muta, a Japanese sociology professor and expert on workplace sexual harassment, accused Snow White of perpetuating “quasi-compulsive obscene sexual acts on an unconscious partner”.
The feminist academic said: “You might think I’m ruining the fantasy of it all, but these stories are promoting sexual violence, and I would like everyone to be aware of it.”
In April, Amnesty International Canada circulated an anti-sexual assault campaign video called No Consent, No fairy tale. It featured an animated version of the scene in which a prince kisses Snow White, and then gropes the sleeping princess.
James Woods, the conservative Hollywood actor, criticised Bell for her comments.
He asked if she was referring to “the Snow White in a coma, who can only be awakened by the kiss of her one true love? That Snow White? Or the loony feminist Snow White?”
Reaction on social media also appeared to side against Bell. One commentator on Twitter wrote: “Seriously? It’s a fairy tale. This is getting out of hand. I grew up watching Tom and Jerry but I didn’t run around trying to kill.”
Bell’s comments came after Keira Knightley, the British actress, said her three-year-old daughter Edie was “banned” from watching some Disney classics including Cinderella.
She said Cinderella was not allowed because “she waits around for a rich guy to rescue her”, and added: “Don’t! Rescue yourself.”
The Little Mermaid has also been outlawed in the Knightley household. Knightley explained her decision by saying: “The songs are great, but do not give your voice up for a man. Hello!”
The actress is herself starring as the Sugar Plum Fairy in a Disney film, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, which is out next month.
She also expressed enthusiasm for Frozen, saying that it was “huge” in her house.