Disney's seven dwarfs, created from whole cloth for the movie, have passed into pop culture immortality for many reasons. The foremost of these is that almost no one can ever name all of them at the same time. It usually goes something like this: "Doc... Sleepy... Stinky... no... Saddy? Happy? Was there even a Happy? Now I'm just making shit up. Bashful... um... BigNosey.... the short one.... Screw it. I'm going to go daylog."

Accordingly, here is the short and exhaustive list thereof:

  • Doc: The leader of the dwarfs, and a prime example of the "glasses mean you're smart" method of symbolism.
  • Dopey: One-third of the comic relief for the group. One poster at The Brunching Shuttlecocks compared Dopey to Jar Jar Binks for his one-note "'holy fool' routine."
  • Bashful: "The cute dwarf," who combines a sweetly childlike demeanor with an eerily sexualized, or at least romanticized, way of flirting with Snow White.
  • Grumpy: Something of an early Oscar the Grouch, Grumpy is loved for his humorous non-threatening but eternally cranky antics.
  • Happy: Perhaps an ill-advised choice for the group; Happy somewhat monotonously beams and chirps his way through the movie as if he's on some wonderful, brain-destroying drug.
  • Sleepy: Another particularly one-dimensional character in this collection of one-dimensional characters. Sleepy sneaks naps and flat-out drops off to sleep whenever possible.
  • Sneezy: The other third of the comic relief, providing slapstick humor with his tornado-like sneezes.

    Much has been made of the seemingly random collection of personal traits personified by the dwarfs. There is, for example, and oddly enough, a Snow White Theory in business literature. It comes in handy CD-ROM form, and offers "Seven solutions for running cooperative, productive meetings" focusing on "how to diagnose and manage the seven personality types most often observed in a group environment - Dopey, Doc, Happy, Sneezy, Grumpy, Bashful, & Sleepy!"

    I can't make this shit up.

    This seven-dwarf-ism is a popular way to go. Charles Glass wrote an article for open Democracy.net expostulating about how "They used to call (Tony Blair) Bambi, but I see him as the Snow White of British politics, bringing out the seven dwarves (sic) in all of us. I’ve become Sleepy listening to his radio broadcasts, and most of my friends are Grumpy. A few Dopeys are voting Labor, and nobody is Happy. There may not be a Sneezy, but both Labor and the Conservatives are oversubscribed with Sleazies. And Doc can’t do a damn thing to fix it." For that matter, Ronald T. Azuma wrote that "Being a graduate student is like becoming all of the Seven Dwarves. In the beginning you're Dopey and Bashful. In the middle, you are usually sick (Sneezy), tired (Sleepy), and irritable (Grumpy). But at the end, they call you Doc, and then you're Happy."

    The idea behind the business-meeting theory, apparently, is that those seven traits and behaviors "can be thought of as primitive defenses against expressing truly individual thoughts and behaviors, in favor of ‘belonging’ to the group." It's a theory worthy of an English major - or perhaps of Carl Jung, who somewhere implies that the dwarves represent the seven chakras as well as the Snow White's relationship with her father.

    Alternatively, and perhaps more solidly, Gerald Massey has studied and written about the Egyptian roots of many now-British and American cultural phenomena: "For instance, the tale of Snow White can be traced to the African fable of Ptah, the Great Mother, and her seven children. These children are pygmies, who are said to be the first culture to mine the Earth, hence the representation of the seven dwarves (sic) as miners."

    This is not by any means the full extent to which these rather flat (or Disneyfied) characters have been used. It seems they have been turned into metaphors and frameworks for almost everything imaginable. Should you wish to pursue this vein further....

    Resources and References

  • Meeting-Mentor discusses the Snow White Theory as it applies to online discussions:
    http://www.meeting-mentor.com/discover/
  • A review of each dwarf:
    http://www.brunchma.com/archives/Forum2/HTML/000152.html
  • OpenDemocracy article:
    http://www.opendemocracy.net/themes/article-3-623.jsp
  • Massey's and related work:
    http://www.lcob.net/feat2.html
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