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Providing Student News to Old Dominion University Since 1930

Mace & Crown

One Snow Almost Killed Rachel Zegler’s Career, And The Other Saved it
Rachel Zegler as Lucy Gray Baird in “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes.” Via

Rachel Zegler is an American film and thespian actress, previously starring in “West Side Story”, and musicals such as “Shrek the Musical”, “Beauty and the Beast”, and “42nd Street.” As of late, she has been receiving more attention with her star role, Lucy Gray Baird, in “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes” which was released to theaters on Nov. 17, 2023. 


However, prior to this film, Zegler received a lot of hate for her lead role as Snow White in Disney’s new live adaptation of “Snow White.” The musical was originally supposed to premiere Mar. 22, 2024 but was pushed back to March 2025. This may have been strategic, allowing Zegler to rebuild her image after the criticism she received. 


At the announcement of Zegler playing Snow White, she received racist backlash. The half Colombian, half Polish actress apparently did not fit the description of being “the fairest of them all.” Shouldn’t the fairest of them all mean to be the most honorable and not merely the palest? Halle Bailey experienced similar backlash as she was announced to play the role of Ariel in “The Little Mermaid” live action adaptation. I wonder if these criticizers believe that mermaids, talking mirrors, and evil power-possessing queens actually exist. 


Zegler received criticism for more than just her race, as she went on to seemingly undermine the original movie in interviews. The film is supposed to have a new modern edge, one that clearly shows that “it’s no longer 1937.” At the Disney Fan Club’s D23 Expo, Zegler continued to explain that Snow White is “not going to be saved by the prince. She’s not going to be dreaming about true love, she’s dreaming about becoming the leader she knows she can be.” 


It has been made abundantly clear through multiple interviews that Prince Charming will not be saving Snow White in this film. Zegler goes as far to say that Prince Charming stalked Snow White in the original film and that won’t be occurring again. That leaves the question of what role will Prince Charming, played by Andrew Burnap, have in this upcoming film. Zegler left it at: “Maybe she finds love, maybe she finds friendship, but what’s really important is that she finds her own voice.” 


These interviews sparked a lot of controversy, and Zegler was called a pseudo-feminist. The truth is, feminism is not only supposed to support the modern woman, but all women regardless if they have traditional values and dreams. There is nothing wrong with women wanting to fall in love or find a “prince charming.” There is nothing wrong with women who do not want to be leaders and heroes, just as there is nothing wrong with women who do. 


This message seemed to get lost in the interviews and how they were received. Although Zegler had some poor word choices that disregarded the original tale of Snow White and did not help promote the film, she has gone on record about how grateful and excited she is for the role. This will no doubt be a new version of Snow White, but the message and quality of the film can still be powerful. In all honesty, I would rather watch a film about a woman saving herself and her kingdom than one where everything is magically saved because a prince kisses a sleeping girl. What is the lesson in that? 


Regardless of any opinions on Zegler, there is no argument against the fact that people fell back in love with her after seeing her performance as Lucy Gray. From what I have seen, the film was either admired or a disappointment. I think it is important to note that nothing in the Hunger Games universe will compare to Katniss Everdeen’s story and because of that, expectations should not be as high. 


From this point on, there will be spoilers about the “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.”


For those who are unfamiliar with “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes”, the film takes place around the time of the 10th Hunger Games. The first introduction of Coriolanus Snow, played by Tom Blyth, gave insight to the drastically different life Snow had as a young man compared to the President Snow the audience knows him as in the original Hunger Games series. 


In this film, Snow was going to school and dreaming of a bigger life, but working for a scholarship due to being secretly broke. As the 10th annual Hunger Games is approaching, it is revealed that viewers are no longer watching. To engage the audience, tributes from each district are given mentors. These mentors are the students who are fighting for the Plinth Prize — a prestigious scholarship. During the Reaping, the mentors were given their tributes, with the last tribute Lucy Gray from District 12 (Rachel Zegler), assigned to Coriolanus. The movie follows their progressing relationship. 


The film featured well known actors and actresses, such as Viola Davis and Hunter Schaffer. Viola Davis played the role of the game maker and her performance was as brilliant as expected. This was the first time I have seen her play a villain, and I want more of it. Davis was thrilling to watch, making me anticipate her every move. Hunter Schaffer on the other hand, left me wanting more. She played the role of Tigris, Coriolanus’ cousin. It was obvious that there was an attempt to give the cousins a strong connection, but they lacked chemistry. Schaffer was not in nearly as many scenes as audiences wanted and expected her to be in. Looking back, I don’t think that I missed much as all of her lines were whispered, making me wonder if she lost her voice during the filming. 


Schaffer’s was not nearly the most disappointing performance. The tribute Coral, played by Mackenzie Lansing, was cringe-worthy and laughable. During the games, Coral took the stereotypical role of ring leader in a self-formed team with four other tributes and demonstrated how truly annoying she was. The power dynamic did not make sense as she was clearly not the most strong or strategic, and the rest of her team was submissive with about zero dialogue. In general, almost every side character and the relationships between characters were undeveloped. 


On the other hand, my favorite performance was Rachel Zegler’s. Her character had depth, empathy, humor, and a good voice —with the exception of her unnatural country accent. Zegler and Blyth complemented each other with good on-screen chemistry. 


The film did a good job of showing the beginnings of the Hunger Games and how it progressed to include mentors, a host, the arena, sponsorships, and how the tributes were treated. The costume and sets were beautifully created and purposefully detailed. I was particularly a fan of Lucy Gray’s dress, which was painted with katniss and primrose flowers. 


That being said, this film doesn’t work standalone. Viewers have to watch it after the original Hunger Games series, which is a little disappointing for a prequel. In addition, for a movie that was almost three hours long, I expected more of an explanation of who Snow’s father really was, how the Capitol was built, how the war was won, the districts, and overall world building. 


Overall, the film was aesthetically pleasing with impressive cinematography, but the plot was lacking and felt rushed once the characters left the Capitol. There was about an hour of footage cut out and if a different approach on releasing the movie was taken, such as creating two separate films, maybe the pacing of the second half would’ve felt more natural. 


There was a lot of foreshadowing to the original Hunger Games series and Katniss Everdeen. In fact, Lucy Gray and Katniss had a lot of commonalities, making me wonder: did president Snow hate Katniss or the person and life she reminded him of? Both of the characters were sarcastic, from District 12, have humble beginnings, and were a representation of the Mockingjay. 


In a Reddit open forum, one user responded to the question “Is Rachel Zegler who you pictured for Lucy Gray,” with “I can’t see anyone but Rachel as Lucy Gray. Her expressions were perfect, especially the smile she gives in the end while she was leaving the hut.” 


The love for Zegler did not stop at her role as Lucy Gray but continued throughout her career. One Reddit user said that “I didn’t follow Rachel’s career before she got cast in [The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes] but now I will! I genuinely could not imagine anyone else playing Lucy Gray like Rachel did. She truly understood who Lucy Gray was and all her essence.” 


The entire debacle over Rachel Zegler goes to show how playing one role can almost kill your career, while another role can save it. In this case, while Snow White was almost the end of Zegler, her interactions with Coriolanus Snow as Lucy Gray gave glory to her name again. 

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About the Contributor
Reagan Williams
Reagan Williams, Assistant Arts & Entertainment Editor
Reagan Williams is the Arts and Entertainment assistant for the Mace and Crown. She is double majoring in Creative Writing and World Cultural Studies with a minor in Japanese. Reagan is passionate about traveling, literature, and cinema. She is excited to write and review the artistic events around ODU and Norfolk.

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