Maleficent's message to girls: fit in or regret it


#1

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#2

We certainly love to scrutinize everything to death these days! But actually, Maleficient did something incredibly brave that too many people do not have the courage to do: admit a villainous tendency, own up to it and make amends.

No one seems to be wrong anymore. It wasn't her "differentness" or her "not fitting in," it was striking out at an innocent who didn't wrong her instead of directly confronting the one who did.

She could have justified her evil or made excuses citing her misunderstood fringe status, but the bottom line was she was no better than her tormentor at the beginning, but the difference is the fact that she faced her darkness and Stephan never faced his and that makes her stand out in the way that counts the most.

For that one point alone, I say the movie was worth being made...


#3

Another interesting change: In the original, the three fairies who cared for Aurora just magically knew how to cook/care for a baby/run a house - because obviously, any middle-aged (-looking) woman (fairy) knows how to do these things. In this version, they didn't.


#4

Man Rob. Isn't that the message of every Disney movie for the last 100 years? And not just for the girls.


#5

http://wondermark.com/1k33/


#6

Damn. I really should get around to parenting my kids myself, rather than relying on movies and TV shows to do it...


#7

This proves that Disney is hell and hell is Disney.


#8

"Not fitting in" only works if you've already discounted her entire kingdom as freaks and outcasts. If you consider them equals to the human kingdom, that doesn't play.

Stephan wasn't "vanquished" so much as self-destructed. Maleficent was done; the curse was broken, she had her wings back and she rejected vengeance. Stephan threw himself into one last foolish attack anyway.

It was a bit disappointing that Stephan didn't have any on-screen moments of regret for his own actions -- whether guilt over deceiving and maiming Maleficent, or for regret for not killing her like he'd claimed to -- nor questioning his obsession. Or he could have been doing the wrong things out of being overprotective, so we'd be a bit more sympathetic. Instead, he never even visited his daughter and showed little love for her when she arrived.

It was as if they purposely prevented Stephan from being a 3-dimensional character in order to make Maleficent shine more.

Overall I thought the movie was pretty good, and actually after thinking about it I have more respect for it, not less.


#9

So the completely reworked the "evil because this is a storybook and of course the bad guy is just evil evil" version of Maleficent, but did it by simply creating another storybook evil character in Stephan. Now we're going to need another film showing how he's merely misunderstood and not evil because he was abused by evil faeries as a kid or something. Then we need another movie about how the faeries were abused by a previous king...

Actually, as I type this out, this sounds less ridiculous than I first thought. There could be a real story about a viscous cycle a vengeance in a storybook world.


#10

I didn't really see him as evil, though - he was quite cruel in getting to be king (though he did leave her alive; most of the others would have killed her given the chance), but after that it seemed more like a mental breakdown than outright evil. Much the same end result, of course.

On the other hand, a vicious cycle - story would be interesting.


#11

I think that's academia bleeding into the real world, as so many academics with phds can't get academic jobs unless they come from Yale or Princeton. :wink:

But I think the article does make a point about just reaffirming particular ideas about conformity within a pretty narrow scope and it seems like it doesn't do a good job of revealing the "banality of evil", as Hannah Arendt would say.

Also, these movies have a tendency to glamorize elites, to normalize very top-down political structures, and particular forms of beauty, too. I think since young girls are watching and internalizing some of the messages, it's not necessarily a bad thing to think and have a discussion about what these movies are actually saying to them and reinforcing in their heads.

Of course, the best way to deal with this stuff is not to ban them from seeing it, but to have a conversation with your kids about what a particular film says or means. We like to watch lots of old school B films as a family and whenever it has problematic depictions of women or people of color (which happens a shit load and often together), we tend to use that as a teachable moment rather than stop the movie and say "you can't watch this". I think my daughter probably gets more out of it that way than if we had just not let her seen it in the first place. She's actually gotten to the point where she applies the Bechdel test to movies that she watches now, which is kind of neat to see.


#12

I think what makes it a subtle tour de force is the underlining struggle that many people have admitting wrong-doing: if you were being bad and something horribly traumatic happened to you before you went down the wrong path -- does admitting you were bad imply that you somehow deserved the trauma that befell you?

Absolutely not. What happened to Maleficent was true cruelty and when she could face her own demons, it proved she could rise above it all. She took control and moved on.

Disney could do a Rashamon having sequels telling the same story from different points of view!


#13

But only if you look at characters as people and not as symbols of concepts. Elites in stories represent our ideals or qualities we aspire to achieve in their purest form. Stories are emotional equations about love, truth, bravery, etc. They are maps to psyches showing us how to face different parts of ourselves from our inner hero to our inner villain.

Story-telling is a form of emotional and philosophical mathematics and why so many alchemists delved into writing fables to cloak their equations...


#14

Huh? In the original, the fairies say they ought to do everything the human way but constantly mess up. They try to make a cake, clean and sew without magic and they are incapable. They give up and simply ask the brooms to clean and the cake ingredients to "follow what's in the cookbook". It didn't strike me like women instantly knowing how to do these things but merely pixies who just wish it all done with magic wands. Main difference with the new version is that they're not outright neglectful.


#15

I wouldn't dispute that, actually. I just don't think that it is mutually exclusive from what I said. Fairy tales and the like were also intended to be life lessons on proper behavior and I don't think that your reading negates that.

Especially now that storytelling through film (especially in this case, disney) is done through large corporations who a profit motive in mind. When you have large-scale, institutionalized entrenched interests involved, I think you have to look at this more prosaic, people driven view of cultural expressions and take what Gramsci said about culture seriously. I do think it matters who creates culture and how it shapes our values. Who gets to decide what the ideals or the qualities we aspire to matter? At least in culture as it is created by these large scale institutions who have particular interests? Sure, it's still some kind of emotional alchemy, as you say, but that doesn't mean it's not part of the hegemonic power structure. But then again, whatever the "master" narrative is isn't always read in that way by those who consume that culture. So there is that aspect, too.

I don't know... the political economy of culture, which we invest so much of our energy into, isn't so simple and can be read lots of different ways. I don't think you're wrong, but I just think there is multiple ways of thinking about this stuff.


#16

They did manage to come up with Lilo and Stitch (it's probably the most Miyazaki of all Disney animated films). It really stands out in the way it doesn't have any real villains (perhaps Captain Gantu but it could be argued he's overzealous and reckless in his execution of orders rather than wantonly evil), it doesn't revolve around romance and the characters don't utterly change themselves as much as finding a common ground and acceptance with each other. Also, Lilo was a great representation of a child; not merely 'plucky' in the very calculated way we usually see 'plucky' in films, but with some of the dysfunction and weirdness that kids can display (and be so stressful or confusing for a parent, as big sister Nani aptly displays).

I just wish whatever magic happened there could be repeated again as perfectly.


#17

From the artilce;
"the stories they’re absorbing haven’t really evolved at all."
Only the stories from the megacorps. Cast your eyes away from the cineplexes and you'll see an entire planet covered in amazing stories.


#18

Except that story-telling is an innate process that spans times, places, ages, gender, culture, norms, religions and education and overrides all academic or intellectual training. Children tell stories as did the Neanderthals who told theirs without words on the cave walls making them the first comic artists as far as we know.

Because storytelling is innate and interpretation is learned, the tenets of story-telling take precedence over everything else. Stories are raw, feral equations. They are emotional mathematics that show us how to look within ourselves so we can ultimately deal with the world around us.


#19

Right, that's what I get for commenting on a movie I haven't seen in decades. smile


#20

How is it innate? Isn't it cultural and a construct? Does it have to be either/or? What if it's both? If we are driven to tell stories, the kind of stories we tell are in part taken from the culture in which we live--I don't see a way to transcend that, really. Even if we can see the stories the Neanderthals told, we have no context for them. We don't know what they meant to them. we can look and them and derive meaning, but how can we know what the meaning was for them? They aren't around to tell us and the past really is a foreign country, especially when you are dealing with pre-history. Our context has changed so much, that I'm not sure how we can cut through it all and understand something so distant and foreign.

Even if that's true--the innateness of story telling, and I'm not disagreeing on that point necessarily--I think you still have to take into about the work stories do in our culture and try and understand what that is, especially when it is tied to corporate interests.

I'm not a lit guy, but I'd suspect that this is a point of contention among people who work in that field, innateness vs. cultural constructs.