Political reactionaries, overzealous Disney Adults, and TikTok mean girls are all in agreement: They really, really hate actress Rachel Zegler, for very elusive reasons.
We’re all used to the frequent occurrence in popular culture when a prominent actress, a few years into her career, suddenly runs into a nasty and inexplicable fan backlash.
Anne Hathaway is the most prominent example; I’m still not exactly sure what it is that she did that was wrong. More recently, the same thing has happened to Jennifer Lawrence, Brie Larsen, and others. What are their sins? It’s often something phrased incorrectly in an interview, or perhaps some other choice done to upset one fanboy community or another. However, it wouldn’t be fair to say these backlashes come entirely from men; plenty of women, it’s clear, hate these actresses too.
With Rachel Zegler, it’s a bit different: The backlash is coming right at the very beginning of her career.
Zegler is a talented young actress whose breakthrough performance came in 2021’s West Side Story remake. As I wrote about at the time, the backlash against her started very early, and for unbelievably stupid reasons.
ADaily Beast story laid it out at the time: There was resentment directed at Zegler for having “theater kid” energy, and that “people” were unhappy with this actress, new on the scene, attaining such success so quickly.
There was some pushback at Zegler for not denouncing her co-star, Ansel Elgort when he was accused of bad things at the time, as if it were fair to put her in that position or to vilify her more than Elgort. More than anything else, the backlash seemed to emerge against Zegler because she reminded certain people of high school classmates (or co-stars) who they disliked.
In the nearly two years since then, Zegler has been in exactly one more movie, Shazam: Fury of the Gods, which was terrible, although she wasn’t the reason why. And now there’s another round of backlash against this particular actress that doesn’t make any more sense.
Snow White Comments
In August, for some reason, there was a sudden freakout about some comments Zegler had made about her next movie, a Snow White remake that was filmed last year and is scheduled for release next March.
Based on comments made by Zegler, who called the original 1937 remake “dated” and questioned its tropes about the “damsel in distress.” Other unforgivable sins appear to include that Zegler has been inconsistent about how many times she has ridden the Snow White ride at Disney World, which occasioned an angry six-minute rant:
I was wondering why this anti-Rachel Zegler pile-on was taking place in the middle of August. Did she make those comments recently?
The Screen Actors Guild is on strike. Actors aren’t out promoting projects or going on Jimmy Kimmel Live (with the writers on strike as well, there is no Jimmy Kimmel Live.) The offending interviews are all from, it appears, nearly a year ago, in a pair of interviews; I’m not exactly sure why it took this long for them to go viral in a negative way.
But the anti-Zegler backlash isn’t just coming from Disney obsessives who consider insufficient fealty to specific theme park rides an attack on their identity. The Anti-Woke Police have gotten in the act too.
Zegler has been the subject of quite a few witless YouTube videos with thumbnails that look like this:
The latest voice to weigh in is a surprising one: David Hand. Who is David Hand? He’s the son of David Hand, Sr., who directed the original animated Snow White film in 1937. The younger David Hand, who is 91 years old, believes that the remake is “insulting” and “woke,” and that both his father and Walt Disney himself would be ‘turning in their graves” if they knew what the Disney company was up to. Hand said all this in an interview with The Daily Mail (for some reason, with these pile-ons, it’s always The Daily Mail.)
The original Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs came out in 1937, which will be 87 years before the new one arrives. Every single person who worked on the original movie is long dead, and the son of the original director, the guy who complained, is in his 90s. I don’t know that Snow White has a hardcore fandom the way that, say, Star Wars does, but it seems a disproportionate number of people most attached to it, and angry about Zegler, are on the older side. And this movie appears to have as its target audience young girls, not 91-year-old men.
As for Walt Disney, considering that he was a huge racist and antisemite, as well as an enthusiastic participant in the blacklist, there’s probably a lot about today that would have him rolling over in his grave. And who said modern filmmakers should have to live by the standards and values of the moguls of the 1930s and ’40s? Have you read any Hollywood history? Those guys were a bunch of monsters.
[Not] In Defense of Disney
Now, I’m not especially interested in defending Disney as a corporation, and especially not its practice of nearly constantly remaking its older movies, most of which haven’t been especially good.
For all I know, the new Snow White will be absolutely terrible. And besides, the idea of casting non-little people as the 7 dwarves strikes me as not particularly wise, something Peter Dinklage pointed out back when the film was first announced, which drew its own backlash.
But the Snow White film doesn’t come out for another eight months. And I think the time to judge it is when we see it, and not before.
And speaking of anti-wokeness, and what it ultimately leads, some of this seems to be about Rachel Zegler being half-Colombian. But guess what: If you’re mad that Snow White isn’t white, then you’re not defending precious intellectual property; you’re being racist.
One media company, it appears, has apologized to the actress:
Zegler is 22 years old, so young that she was actually named after Jennifer Aniston’s character on Friends. She has been in a grand total of two movies so far in her career. Has she sometimes said the wrong thing in interviews? Perhaps. But she’s said or done nothing that should be considered career-ending, especially considering the various misdeeds by different Hollywood types that haven’t been. The reaction has been ridiculously, laughably, out of proportion.
CULTURE (counter, pop, and otherwise) and the people who shape it.