“Once upon a time there was a wonderful matriarchy where everything was just fine and dandy until a man came along and fucked everything up.” These should be the first words spoken in Disney’s latest feminist opus “Maleficent,” but such honesty would be too blunt even for the little girls for whom this revisionist piece is intended.
In this re-working of the tale of Sleeping Beauty, screenwriter Linda Woolverton gives us a tale as far removed from the original 1959 Disney version as a pool of vomit is from a plate of lobster. The lobster went something like this ; King and Queen have a baby girl and hold a big fancy christening party to which are invited several fairies. Maleficent, the bad fairy, is not invited but turns up anyway and in return for her snubbing gives the little girl a rather odd present, namely that on her sixteenth birthday she will prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and promptly drop dead! Sheeesh, no wonder they didn’t invite her! Another fairy softens the curse by turning “death” into an “eternal sleep” and making it reversible by a “true love’s kiss.” This fairy and some of her mates take the girl, Aurora, and hide her from Maleficent. Aurora meets some Prince called Phillip and they fall in luuurve. Maleficent eventually succeeds in getting Aurora to prick her finger, thereby placing her into the promised eternal sleep. Phil battles Maleficent, kills her good and dead, places a big smooch on Aurora and all is well. Or at least, all is well unless you are a feminist cow…
In Woolverton’s new version all this is turned on its head. True, Maleficent does place the curse on the child, but not because she is angry at not being invited to the King’s big house party but rather because a while back the King, whom she once loved, hacked off her wings as part of a successful bid for the throne. So you see, in typical feminist fashion, even though Maleficent has done something bad it is not actually her fault, it’s all because her man done her wrong. On top of this, she never threatens the kid with death, but only with eternal sleep, and she is the one responsible for making the curse subject to a “true love’s kiss,” both of which, you may recall, were previously thanks to one of the other fairies. Meanwhile the fairy kingdom, having been corrupted by the vile actions of Man, has grown dark and rather gross – kinda like all those feminist fantasies of idyllic, pre-historic matriarchies having been corrupted by the hordes of patriarchy!
And speaking of dads, the King gives Aurora over to be looked after by the good fairies, but apart from that doesn’t seem to give much of a damn about his baby girl – but guess who does? Come on, guess! Well, sir, you must be psychic! That’s right, Maleficent knows where the fairies are holding the girl, decides to keep an eye on her, and it isn’t long before she is doting on her victim by sending her pet raven to feed her milk from a magical flower, saving her from falling off a cliff and being turned into a baby slushie, etc. Eventually she becomes so fond of the child (being a woman, Maleficent is instinctively fond of all children) that she tries to undo the curse, but to no avail. Once in her teens, Aurora meets a young prince called Phillip and takes a fancy to him. Soon after that meeting she is stupid enough to end up in daddy’s castle where she is held for her own safety in one of the royal chamber pots. No, wait, that can’t be right. One of the royal bed-chambers seems more likely… Unfortunately this room has a secret passage which leads Aurora to a basement where, for some inexplicable reason, daddy had all the kingdom’s spinning wheels burnt but not actually destroyed! We know he has iron-workers, so you would think he would have had the things beaten into scrap iron, but no. Stupid daddy! Even more inexplicably, Aurora then deliberately pricks her finger on one of the spindles! Like father, like daughter, I suppose. Being a bit dim herself, Maleficent decides that the “true love’s kiss” needs to be administered by Phillip, despite his having only just met Aurora. She sneaks Phil into the castle, where he kisses the sleeping Aurora and everyone is surprised to find out that teenage hormones don’t actually add up to true love, for the princess continues to snore like an elephant. Maleficent then goes into a bit about how sorry she is that things went down this way, kisses Aurora on the forehead, and sure enough, it is this kiss that brings Aurora back from eternal night! That’s right, the “true love’s kiss” is now delivered by the character who is supposed to be the villain! Even for something conceived by a feminist mind, the sheer perversity of this twist, of literally turning the villainess of the story into its heroine, is astonishing. Maleficent then kills the king (in self-defense, of course) and Aurora is proclaimed queen of not only the human kingdom but also the fairy kingdom – there’s that inexplicability thing again – and all is well, with the matriarchy having once again been restored to its naturally utopian state. From an evil child-hater to benevolent matriarch in a few swoops of the pen! How easily the modern media can undo centuries of story telling, and unsurprising how shamelessly it is willing to promote its version as the “true” story, as if they had hired some historians to find the real roots of the tale!
As a movie, divorced from its political messages, Maleficent is quite wonderful. Great visuals, a fast pace, some amusing moments, a strong message that “romantic love” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and a likable and charismatic title character with whom it is impossible to not sympathize, especially when she wakes up to find her beloved wings have been cut from her. Unfortunately, to the intelligent mind, it is also impossible to not notice how politically vile this film is. The lesser of its two vilenesses comes in the form of the classism so inherent in most of these movies about princesses. Why, at the end, does Aurora become queen of not only the humans but also the fairies? This makes no sense at all until one looks at it in a political context. Maleficent became queen by earning her status and power. She was the most powerful of the fairies, she was their protector, so she ended up in charge. What the fuck did Aurora do to earn her position in life? Nothing – except being born to rule. Maleficent rules by actual virtue, by having earned her place in fairy society, and this makes her not real royalty but just some pleb who is filling the wrong pair of shoes. Aurora, on the other hand, rules thanks to God’s will, she rules by the Divine Right Of Kings, and hence she is real royalty and must be ruler of both kingdoms. The class message of this piece is a simple one – power achieved through merit is not legitimate, whereas power achieved through privilege such as being born into a royal family or a modern dynasty such as the Kennedies or the Bushes is perfectly cool. Or, to put it into terms the film’s demographic might understand – Privilege Rules, Hard Work Drools.
But where the movie is at its vilest is in the way it re-writes one of the few great villainesses of popular culture to be a victim, a hero, and a quasi-villain rather than the full-fledged thing. Female evil is already grossly under-represented in western popular culture, but even that is not good enough for feminists and their lackeys – if they had their way it would not be represented at all. What to do then? You can’t really get away with re-writing real-life figures like Aileen Wuornos to any great extent, but fictional figures are up for grabs and so one of pop culture’s few icons of female evil is rebooted as a victim of the patriarchy who, were it not for the corrupting influence that men have on the entire cosmos, would have grown up to be just as cute and harmless as Tinker Bell!
This doing away with representations of female evil is pernicious for two reasons. First, since there are only two sexes, under-representing female evil automatically over-represents male evil – unless you start whittling away at the male representations, and I see no sign of that happening. If you re-write Maleficent, Basic Instinct’s Catherine Tramell, and the chick from Fatal Attraction to be heroes while keeping all the Freddy Kruegers and Hannibal Lecters as they are, you will end up with a popular culture that represents evil as an exclusively male phenomenon. This gives people the impression that there are a lot more evil men than is actually the case, that women are largely blameless, and this in turn leads to the idea that women are better people than men and should therefore be treated better. And don’t go thinking this applies only to dumbasses who can’t tell the difference between movies and reality. Filmic representations get into our heads while we are highly suggestible, sitting in a darkened room being lulled into something approaching an hypnotic state, and that’s a matter of psychology, not intellect – a high IQ won’t save you from even most of this crap, much less all of it. Feminists like Woolverton know that movies have power over the way people perceive reality, and this is why you can bet that the sisterhood would be crying foul if Disney were to re-write Captain Hook to be evil because some mean woman he once loved cut his hand off!
The other reason such under-representation is so harmful is because many people take their cues from the media as to who is and is not a potential threat. Portray black men as especially dangerous and soon you will find that even the sight of a sixty year old professor in an expensive suit makes women clutch their purses – simply because he is black. Portray men in general as dangerous and women as mostly harmless, and everyone starts keeping an eye on the men and ignoring the women. This in turn leads to situations in which a man is too busy keeping an eye on his sister’s boyfriend to notice that his own girlfriend is about to brain him with a baseball bat! Or, to take some well-verified, real-life examples, he may end up being one of the parents who thought letting Helen Patricia Moore baby-sit their kid was a good idea even though one of her previous charges had died mysteriously. Had Moore been a man, chances are the cops would have been on him after the first victim, but a girl? Nah, mate, women don’t do stuff like that. An even more notorious case is that of Nannie Doss, who got away with murdering most of her family over a period of thirty years while arousing suspicion from nobody. Why? At least in part because she was a woman and women just don’t do stuff like that. Had Doss been a man, as soon as the first couple of victims hit the floor the smurfs would have launched an investigation.
The classist and misandrist propaganda littering this otherwise fine film would be vile enough in a movie aimed at adults, but in a children’s movie it is truly disgusting. It’s almost as if the bastards and bitches responsible for this thing want little girls to walk out of the movie thinking they are superior to little boys, that power should be dropped in their laps rather than earned, and that there ain’t a mean woman in the world! My advice to anyone considering this film as their next family outing? Don’t take your daughter to see it – not unless you want her to grow up to be an asshole.