The music video for Rammstein’s “Sonne” is rife with symbols from multiple versions of the fairy tale, Snow White.
The first thing that really stood out to me is that the Snow White character in this video is dressed like Disney’s Snow White.
This is interesting because the original fairy tales never really describe Snow White’s clothes, so I’m assuming the video makers made this choice to make the references to the fairy tales more obvious to the audience. Snow White’s Disney apparel is quite recognizable in current culture, so it made the symbolism in this music video accessible.
This video has more footage of the dwarves than of Snow White, which is different from the stories, in which the dwarves are merely supporting characters. Some other differences include a lack of an evil stepmother queen, no huntsman, no talking mirror, and no prince at the end, which I found surprising until I started looking at what the video did include, and I realized that the fairy tale aspects incorporated within this video match with the psychological interpretation that Snow White is not only the protagonist, but also the antagonist. She is the evil queen.
The dwarves are miners. They work hard, sweating and getting dirty, doing a stereotypically male task. They use a lot of drills (phallic symbol? or unavoidable mining tool?) One of them finds something shiny, a piece of gold. Gold mining did not seem particularly strange at first, until Snow White barged into the Dwarves’ room while they were eating, and they handed it over to her. That’s different. In the tales, Snow White was a demure woman who offered her cleaning and homemaking skills in exchange for safety and a place to stay. In this situation, it seems as if she’s in control, especially when she punches the dwarf in the face.
Things get stranger from there. She spanks the dwarves, which could be sexual, but is at least definitely dominating, because they seem to be afraid of her. Some of them polish apples (fairy tale symbol!) while others groom her, and still others hold up a mirror (ah, so there’s the mirror). She admires herself in the mirror while posing seductively, admiring her beauty, perhaps, just like the evil stepmother in the fairy tales who wanted assurance that she was the most beautiful in the land. And indeed, Snow White is acting like their queen. They cluster around her, grabbing the fabric of her Disney dress, kneeling on the ground. Why are the dwarves her servants?
BECAUSE SNOW WHITE IS THEIR DRUG LORD!
The dwarves mine for her each day so she can get drugged out on gold, they fear her, they are submissive in her presence…
But then she overdoses. Suddenly, they no longer seem as afraid. They seem worried or sad. They encase her within a glass coffin and take it to the mountaintop, just like in the stories. One difference is that the coffin has apples in it (there’s random apples everywhere in this video, although they probably aren’t actually random- I just haven’t yet figured out their purpose). It is snowing, and the surrounding white is a sharp contrast with Snow White’s blood-red lips (another similarity to the text).
Then, an apple falls from the nearby tree, shattering the glass coffin and arousing Snow White from her death sleep. She catches the apple. At first, I thought this could represent a loss of virginity. If an apple is representative of a man (Adam’s apple), and it shatters her glass protection, it seems possible. Or it could be rape, because she didn’t look like she was expecting that to happen. I don’t think that’s what it means, though, and I know I’m missing something with these apples, because that’s the part I’m hung up on.
After she wakes up, the dwarves are back to mining, back to seeking gold. So, Snow White is still demanding drugs after her overdose…but what if she is the drug? A quick Google search told me that “snow white” is a slang term for cocaine, which can be both snorted and injected, as per the video. Maybe the dwarves feared her because they knew their lives had been taken over by this substance, and they were sad at her death because they were sad at what they had become. There’s a lot of different ways this could be interpreted- maybe her death is an attempt to detox and stop using, or maybe she actually died, or maybe it was just a drug hallucination. Google also told me that “snow lights” are visual hallucinations after cocaine use, featuring images of flashing bright lights.
This seems even more possible when you account for the lyrics of this song. I found a YouTube video of the song with English lyrics. Rammstein frequently sings “Here comes the sun,” and talks about the sun’s power, how it burns and never goes away- it won’t set tonight. Is Snow White the sun? It sounds that way to me, if Snow White is cocaine, because cocaine has those powers over addicts.
I think the possible interpretations of “Sonne” by Rammstein are far more fascinating than those of “Snow White,” because I’m so disenchanted with fairy tales at this point, with all of their sexism and patriarchy.
But if you want some more negative portrayals of female fairy tale characters, albeit in a more humorous way, check out this clip from SNL.