Maleficent's Metaphor For Rape
Ron Seifried | On 12, Jun 2014
“We were very conscious, the writer and I, that it was a metaphor for rape. This would be the thing that would make her lose sight. … The core of [the film] is abuse, and how the abused have a choice of abusing others or overcoming and remaining loving, open people. The question was asked, ‘What could make a woman become so dark? To lose all sense of her maternity, her womanhood, and her softness?’”
These are words Angelina Jolie recently stated on BBC Radio about her most recent role. The writer Jolie is referring to is Linda Woolverton. The film is Maleficent and the studio is Walt Disney.
Woolverton was the first woman to write an animated Disney feature, with Beauty and the Beast a Disney writing career that includes credits on The Lion King, Alladin, Mulan and Alice in Wonderland. The fairytale expert has also completed the Alice sequel, Through the Looking Glass, scheduled to be released in 2016.
But it is her reinvention of 1959’s Sleeping Beauty that may invite the most analysis.
The scene Jolie is referring to takes place between Maleficent (Jolie) and her once trusted ally King Stefan (Sharlto Copley), who drugs and removes her wings while she sleeps and later in a disturbing act of violence that has many comparing to rape. Jolie all but confirms this theory in her recent interview, and perplexing some how a rape metaphor manages land in a commercially successful Disney franchise. The box office does not meet the critical response, which was mixed. with Jolie’s performance standing out.
Kids watching the scene will most likely be ignorant to what the violent attack portrays, but parents and some older teenage siblings may recognize what is being played out on screen. The creative team (and their Disney overlords) decided to address themes and reality that is playing out on kids tablets and mobile devices via social networking sites by incorporating an old storytelling method into a blockbuster film. Angelina Jolie’s powerful performance added a realistic physical and emotional pain that made enough people uncomfortable about the attack, to the point where the subject of rape is being widely discussed in a Disney film.
In an era of comic book films filled with violent fist fights, gun battles and apocalyptic annihilation, it is revealing that a cinematic violent act on a woman is taking center stage in today’s conversation. Some were actually appalled that the film took a dark turn in a “kid-friendly” film, forgetting the animated classics of yesteryear filled with abandoned children, dead parents, poisoned fruit and evil stepmothers. The main character recovered from the attack with her restored wings and eventually gets her revenge on Stefan, a message to women that is possible to recover and reclaim a life.
The themes told in Maleficent is a product of our times, and despite the mediocrity of the final film (mostly from adults), Jolie, Woolverton and Disney deserves credit for tacking such a taboo subject in a subversive way.