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Why Rachel Zegler is facing backlash (again) over the ‘Snow White’ remake

Zegler continues to be a topic of conversation on social media following recently resurfaced comments she made about the movie.
/ Source: TODAY

Rachel Zegler is under fire on social media for resurfaced comments she made last year about gender roles in the upcoming live-action remake of "Snow White," in which she plays the title character.

The film is scheduled to premiere March 2024. Edited clips of interviews Zegler gave at Disney Fan Club's D23 Expo last September have circulated online to criticize or defend the 22-year-old actor.

Representatives for Zegler and Disney didn’t respond to NBC News' requests for comment earlier this week.

What did Rachel Zegler say about the 'Snow White' remake?

The objections from some on social media are in regards to Zegler's response to a question from Variety at D23 about adding a "modern edge" to the movie.

“I just mean that it’s no longer 1937,” Zegler said in the interview. “We absolutely wrote a ‘Snow White’ that — she’s not going to be saved by the prince, and she’s not going to be dreaming about true love. She’s dreaming about becoming the leader she knows she can be and the leader that her late father told her that she could be if she was fearless, fair, brave and true.”

Other criticisms stem from her telling "Extra" at D23 that Snow White's focus on love in the original movie isn't something present in the remake.

“We have a different approach to what I’m sure a lot of people will assume is a love story just because we cast a guy in the movie,” she said, adding, "It's one of those things that I think everyone's going to have their assumptions about what it's actually going to be, but it’s really not about the love story at all, which is really, really wonderful.”

She joked that all the scenes featuring Prince Charming “could get cut."

“Who knows?" she added. "It’s Hollywood, baby.”

She was also critiqued for saying to Entertainment Weekly in September she only watched the original movie once as a child and "never picked it up again" because the film scared her.

“Rachel Zegler admitting she didn’t like Snow White growing up, saying she had only watched it ONCE before getting the role is so sad to me. Out of MILLIONS of women who loved the character, care about the story and yet this is who we get,” read a post on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

Some users on social media contend that Zegler's comments on gender roles in the film indicate she has a narrow view of feminism, while others defended her.

“Criticizing Disney princesses is not feminist. Not every woman is a leader. Not every woman wants to be a leader. Not every woman wants or craves power,” someone said in a TikTok video with 10 million views. “And that’s OK.”

"What doesn’t fit into my brain is why does a woman need to somehow be proactive, extraordinary, have this incredible successful career in order to be appreciated and in order to be considered a protagonist?” another TikToker asked in a video.

“I thought Rachel zegler ran over somebody grandma or sumn….. imagine my surprise,” an X post joked, poking fun at the attention Zegler has gotten over what she said. 

"Rachel Zegler did nothing wrong and all of you who bullied her off of social media are disgusting," read another X post.

Racist backlash to Rachel Zegler's casting as Snow White

The current controversy follows a previous debate of whether Zegler should've been cast in the role.

Photos from the film's production published by the Daily Mail in July showed a first look at the diverse actors portraying the seven dwarfs. Online criticisms followed over the dwarfs' casting, and Zegler's, who is Latina and is playing a historically white role.

A Disney spokesperson released a statement to The Daily Beast at the time that said “the photos are fake and not from our production.” The Daily Beast said that later, a rep from Disney’s “PR shop” confirmed the images were real but were not official “photos” from the set. 

Many fans supported the “West Side Story” actor online, calling her “the perfect Snow White.” 

Zegler expressed her gratitude to her fans, but she also said she no longer wants to engage with the “nonsensical discourse” surrounding her playing Snow White. 

She tweeted on July 15, “Extremely appreciative of the love i feel from those defending me online, but please don’t tag me in the nonsensical discourse about my casting.”

She added, “I really, truly do not want to see it.”

Instead, Zegler wanted to embrace positivity and spread a more accepting message. 

“So i leave you w these photos!” she wrote and included four childhood pictures of her dressing up as different Disney princesses, including Snow White.

The actor concluded, “I hope every child knows they can be a princess no matter what.” reached out to Disney at the time for response to Zegler's tweet but did not hear back.

Multiple Twitter users applauded Zegler, including Halle Bailey, who dealt with racist backlash for playing Ariel in “The Little Mermaid.” 

Bailey shared Zegler’s tweet and wrote, “We love you so much.”

The 23-year-old actor and musician added a red heart emoji and said Zegler was “truly the perfect princess.” 

Since Variety reported in June 2021 that Zegler would lead “Snow White,” the Golden Globe winner has had to address hateful comments about her portraying the fictional character. 

She told Andrew Garfield about the backlash during their “Actors on Actors” interview for Variety in January 2022. 

"Never in a million years did I imagine that this would be a possibility for me," she said. "You don’t normally see Snow Whites that are of Latin descent.”

She pointed out that Snow White, or Blanca Nieves, is also adored in Spanish-speaking countries. 

“But you don’t particularly see people who look like me or are me playing roles like that,” she continued. “When it was announced, it was a huge thing that was trending on Twitter for days, because all of the people were angry.”

Garfield replied that those people need to be educated and Zegler agreed. 

She said, “We need to love them in the right direction. At the end of the day, I have a job to do that I’m really excited to do. I get to be a Latina princess.”