I had wings once…

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Maleficent is a 201 4 adaption of Disney’s most favorite movie Sleeping Beauty. Contrary to the original version this film is a dark fantasy portraying the evil queen Maleficent’s perspective and her relationship with Aurora and her father. It is directed by Robert Stromberg and stars Angelina Jolie as Maleficent. Disney has used the imagery of a broken, mutilated female body, where a fairy’s greatest strength is taken from her out of fear and greed in order to crush her rule. In the beginning of the film we are introduced with Maleficent as an innocent fairy girl with a very kind heart. She befriends a human boy despite the rift between the two worlds of fairies and humans. The story-line is the familiar cliche of how a woman trusts a wrong man and eventually suffers due to her decision. Betrayal harms her emotionally as well as physically. Maleficent goes through the same kind of agony before turning into an evil fairy. Her body is mutilated by her human lover who cuts off her wings with which she used to soar high up in the sky. We witness the patriarchal dominance of how men cannot bear women’s rule and if she posits any threat to them, she is crushed and chained against her will. Maleficent is left wretched and her body is agonized and weakened by the man she loved. We see a shift in her personality as a result of trauma. Through this journey of violence and trauma, the film is able to construct a complex character, rising from her miseries. Maleficent the movie is a narrative of an abused woman and her strength that enables her to emerge as a triumphant woman in order to take her revenge.

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Patriarchy is a belief system which creates binary oppositions between men and women, thus claiming that women are the inferior lot. Women’s freedom is snatched from them by men. The society portrayed in the movie is a sexist society where men cannot bear women’s dominance over them. They don’t want women to be empowered no matter how capable she is. She is just an object, someone inferior, someone weak who can be crumpled easily. The imagery of rape is significant in the movie. Maleficent’s body is violated by her lover Stephan in order to gain power. He puts her to sleep and then cuts off her wings. When she wakes up in the morning the whole land is echoed with her agonizing shrieks.  The film is a depiction of gender stereotyping as well as violence which is viewed through the destruction of a woman’s body and how it is used as a weapon against her. The concept of rape contributes to rape culture as it allowed us to view the mutilation and dismemberment of a woman’s body by making the violence more palatable.

Another important detail in the movie is the binary opposition of good woman VS bad woman.   Maleficent is the evil witch rendering a dark image compared to the innocent, pure, delicate and fair skin Aurora, played by Elle Fanning. Aurora is a princess and the daughter of King Stefan. She is a naive girl living in ignorance with the good fairies far from the castle as a precaution because she is cursed by Maleficent. After sixteen years when she learns the truth about her identity, she goes to the castle to meets her father but instead her mad and paranoid father locks her up in a room for her own safety because she is unable to protect herself from the evil curse of slumber.

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In the end, we see how women are empowered and shown as capable, wise, empathetic and forgiving rulers. The film crushes the concept of bad woman and good woman which is a patriarchal propagation. We view how women are humans capable of both good and bad and they should not be stereotyped or labeled as an angel or a devil according to men’s wishes. Maleficent forgives Stefan for all the wrong he’s done her but  Stefan is full of vengeance that he tries to kill Maleficent which results in his own ultimate demise.

The gist of the movie as being a feminist movie is shown in the following lines by Aurora:

“My kingdom was united not by a hero or a villain, as legend had predicted, but by one who was both hero and villain. And her name was Maleficent.”

The film breaks the stereotypical view that some women are bad and some are good. Women are also human beings. They cannot be completely bad or completely good. If someone wrongs them they are quite capable of defending themselves and taking revenge instead of keeping quiet and tolerating in silence like the so called “good” women. In the original version of the story, Maleficent is portrayed as an evil queen and we condemn her without knowing her side of the story but the latest version is through the lens and point of view of Maleficent. We are introduced to her early life before turning dark and the audience sympathizes with. She is not evil but a woman; having the potential of both good and bad in her. Through her rule the two kingdoms of fairies and humans, once full of animosity are united peacefully. The greedy kingdom of humans finds contentment through Aurora’s leadership.

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The movie conveys a strong message that we should come out of our patriarchal system and maintain equality between both men and women. There should be no binary oppositions. Everyone must have equal rights. This is what real feminism is about; to relinquish equality to the suppressed lot of the society. To break the power system where one is superior and the other is inferior. Apart from that the movie cast has done an excellent job. Angelina Jolie’s performance is beyond stunning, as usual. The visuals and scenery created in the movie is soothing and dark at the same time and it gives a perfect image of the two opposing worlds to the audience.

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