Friday, June 13, 2014

If 'Maleficent' Is About Rape, What Does It Mean?

This article contains major *spoilers* for the movie Maleficent!

How on earth was I going to justify that this woman would curse a baby?
  ~ Screenwriter Linda Woolverton in Huffington Post
The recent Disney movie Maleficent tries to provide a backstory to explain the eponymous villain's mean streak.  In the original movie Sleeping Beauty, the villain shows up at the christening of King Stephan's daughter because she feels sleighted for having not been invited (and she wasn't invited because, well, she's so villainous).

The movie centers around a past relationship between Maleficent and King Stephan.  And the foul deed that starts the cycle of revenge is that Stephan cuts off Maleficent's fairy wings (in case you wondered why Maleficent didn't have wings like the three good fairies).

Stephan is only able to do this because Maleficent trusts him implicitly for friendship's sake, and Stephan, for the sake of his courtly ambition, drugs her and then, with too much compunction to kill, decides to take her wings as trophies of the pretended kill.  People have since wondered of this violation of trust is a metaphor for rape, and Angelina Jolie has reportedly confirmed that this was an intentional metaphor.  As is commonly reported, rape is very often committed by someone the victim knows, and rape also often occurs with the help of a drugged beverage.

What might presume that Stephan's ambition is a metaphor for men not feeling manly without some conquests under their belt in this post-sexual revolution, enlightened age, in fact feeling like undesirable nobodies.  Stephan's conquest makes him a somebody, and in the place of the woman who loved him he instead chooses a trophy wife.  

But here's where it really gets interesting.  Because of this violation, instead of getting back at Stephan, Maleficent goes after the child made possible by the violation.

And as you've had ample warning about spoilers, Maleficent stops seeing her rapist in the child, and instead sees a soul much like herself; she emotionally adopts the child, becomes her guardian, and repents of her murderous rage.  In the end, she risks her life to save the child's.

In the last two years, there have been stories brought up about women who have killed their babies on sight immediately after birth because of their hate for the rapist, and how traumatic this is for the mothers (strangely without considering how awful this might be for the children killed), as though this sheds some special light on abortion as a medical and social (and spiritual!) remedy.  And in this same time period Disney has given us an intentional metaphor for rape that unintentionally argues that the child should not suffer for the sins of the rapist.  Maleficent even experiences something like abortion regret partway through the film.

Which reminds me of this much ignored half of a much reviled comment:
"I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child."

Why were these activists arrested when all they
  did was display an excised piece of tissue???

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