Thursday, 14 January 2010




World-famous and catchy like hell, the hymn of the dwarves is perhaps the most Marxist of the Disney songs – something which offsets it heavily against the later hyper-individualism of the Pixar movies. The dwarves, homogeneous in their handicap (of stature) and equal in their labour, patently represent the proletariat. The first strofa reveals this most explicitly – ‘To dig is what we like to do’ serves to assert the necessity of labour in a healthy lifestyle, and ‘it ain’t no trick to get rich quick’ to commend real labour as the source of honest remuneration.

The song is about the inherently communal nature of the proletariat, as they work, share and live together in equality – there is a parallel to be drawn with the representation of poor people sticking together in Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. The video closes with the dwarves marching together with a red sunset as a backdrop (note the choice of colour) and practically into an Edenic spring. The suggestion is that nature belongs to the proletariat and the song draws a link between the two, expanding the purely social register to a more spiritual one.

The irony of the later pun in the call ‘Hey ho’ (‘Hey whore’ in the lingo which itself belongs or belonged to a working class group) reiterates the power of this hymn: the proletariat is noble in its a priori ignoble condition. They are dignified in deprivation, legitimised in their vulgarity, golden in their dirt. The song is therefore fascinatingly ambivalent – ‘hey ho’ as an hymn and an insult at the same time. The existential note which vibrates in the middle of the lyrics – ‘But we don’t know what we dig ‘em for’ – further adds layers to a song of impressive and often understated richness.


Mory said...

Believe it or not, Disney doesn't own the rights to this song except for its use in the movie. That goes for all the other Snow White tunes, too.

John Silver said...

holy shite. I guess that explains why I never heard snowwhite songs when I was working in Disneyland. I'd never realised.