This satire on political correctness may not be everyone’s cup of tea (or piece of apple).
A motley mix of humour and derision, Author James Finn Garner’s Snow White, a take on the classic children’s bedtime tale, spins a web of political correctness stretched to the seam and illustrates how the concept can, and often does, defeat reasonableness.
It is a valiant effort, but in taking the ethics so far, does the author forget that political correctness can be a double-edged sword?
The plot remains the same for a good half the story, and so does the setting. It is in character development that Garner displays his flair as an author; despite being written 25 years ago, the characters are wholly believable and fit well into the today’s cultural climate. Garner brings to us a believable Queen on politically correct terms, lending extensive character development to what was originally a one-dimensional character.
In doing this, he is able to take the story from toxic femininity to sisterhood. Alas, if only it was not for the sake of a joke.
The story is verbose, almost as much as the Bible. Sentences packed with a barrage of words depict how senseless political correctness can become. By replacing layman terms such as death with “nonviability” and stepmother with “mother-of-step”, the author recurrently brings out this bothersome dimension- in discovering political correctness, one can lose meaning and connection.
The rabble towards the end is especially funny, more so because it enunciates how political correctness can give just about anybody a reason to cry foul, forcing us to ask- to what extent is political correctness okay?
The author brings up various forms of oppression in politically correct terms to show that multiple identities can be perceived in multiple ways. He highlights patriarchal tropes, rape culture and systemic oppression of marginalised communities, and then proceeds to turn them on their head to make this point.
Take for example his introduction of Snow White as a victim of “colorist thinking”- for the body image activist, this may sound accurate until mid-way in the story where the author suggestively mentions her “fine complexion and slim, taut body”. The switch from referring to the seven dwarves as “vertically challenged” to “Towering Giants” is another representative instance.
Unfortunately, the writing comes off more as a critique of the issues themselves rather than that of political correctness.
So, is political correctness correct at all, considering that multiple understandings of identities exist? Garner is successful in proving that the contrary is true. However, the merit of the piece is restrained to just that. In a time where emotions run high and outrage is trending, a piece like this is sure to raise a few eyebrows.
Our world’s understanding of dominant issues is marred by an inability to look at people’s identities as a mix of parts; the sum is, after all, greater than the whole.
Further, these issues are not only sensitised but also sensationalised. Outrage spreads like a forest fire, and it is becoming increasingly important for one’s communication to be relative to the setting. This is especially the case with political correctness, where perception dictates the result of the communication.
In this context, Garner’s Snow White comes off as an author’s rant against political correctness; the message is clear, but not to be taken seriously. He almost seems to approach the topic of political correctness in reckless jest, pursuing it to the nth limit.
Perhaps 25 years ago, this would be okay. But in today’s time and context, “a rape of the planet” is not a phrase to laugh about.