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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Disney's Maleficent - a Metaphor for Rape

The witches and pagans I know enthusiastically endorse Maleficent, Disney's retelling of Sleeping Beauty from the "Bad" Fairy's perspective. So I took a break from writing the fourth book in the Teen Wytche Saga and headed for my local Regal Cinema to check it out.

Spoiler Alert
Since it had taken me awhile to see Maleficent, I entered the theater already knowing the plot's trajectory. What I didn't anticipate was Angelina Jolie's stunning portrayal of a victim's shock, agony, sense of betrayal, and anger in the aftermath of brutal, life-altering assault.

To fully understand the brilliance both in Linda Wolverton's screenplay and Jolie's acting, one must first trace Sleeping Beauty's literary roots. In the Brothers Grimm version of the fairytale - Little Briar Rose - a beautiful princess is placed under a sleeping enchantment by a fairy who was miffed because she was not invited to the christening.

The Grimm's tale was based on a 17th century French story, La Belle au Bois Dormant (The Beauty Sleeping in the Wood) by Charles Perrault. Follow the roots of the story further, and you discover an earlier 17th century tale, Sun, Moon, and Talia, by Giambattista Basile. In Basile's version, a king finds the enchanted girl (Talia) and rapes her. She later gives birth to twins, and the enchantment is broken when one of the babies sucks the splinter from Talia's finger.

Katy Rich, writing in Vanity Fair's Hollywood reports that Angelina Jolie, a vocal activist against the use of sexual violence in war, confirmed that the scene in which Maleficent was drugged then violated by a man she had trusted, "deliberately echoes the too-familiar beats of the date-rape narrative." During an interview with BBC Woman’s Hour, Jolie stated, “We were very conscious, the writer [Linda Woolverton] and I, that it was a metaphor for rape.”

Rape of the Divine Feminine
Most likely, the witches and pagans (a person can be a pagan but not a witch) who so solidly endorse Maleficent do so in part because the film touches on humankind's hegemony over magical folk, and particularly the disempowerment of  women with magic. (Flashback to the Burning Times.) Witches and Pagans are closely tied to Mother Earth. There is little doubt in Maleficent that if the king successfully invaded the moorlands, the attack would be not just on Maleficent and the magical realm. The Great Mother would be plundered.
Copyright 2014 by Ariella Moon

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