Spoilers for Maleficent ahead!
Note: This post is dedicated to my computer, which ANNOYED ME TO NO END by auto-correcting Maleficent to “magnificent” or “malevolent.” Thanks, but no thanks.
I saw Maleficent about two weeks ago, but I was excited for it months ago. Back in November, a trailer for it played before Catching Fire and immediately I went OH MY GOD, THIS LOOKS SPECTACULAR. I didn’t even know what this movie was about until later, but it. Looked. Awesome.
And it was. It featured a bunch of my favorite things, such as:
- Fairy tales
- Pretty visuals
- Morally complex villains – i.e. those who are neither good nor evil, are redeemed, et cetera
- A beautiful film score written by my favorite composer
- A great end-credits song
Oh, and one more thing that was too long to work as a bullet point: Gorgeous female characters. I didn’t understand all the fuss about Angelina Jolie and honestly, I guess I still don’t. Real-life Jolie is all right, I guess. But as Maleficent – whoa. [Bangs head against desk] I don’t even know why. She’s a villain, for heaven’s sake! Maybe this is the lesbian equivalent of having a crush on Loki? Eurgh. THIS IS SO WEIRD. WHATEVER.
Anyway. Where was I? Oh, right. There were a lot of good things in this movie. And actually, I lied when I said “one more thing” because there’s another thing, something that I thought about a lot after the movie.
This film has a lot of queer subtext.
A quick plot recap, if you need it: This story is “Sleeping Beauty,” from the villain’s point of view. So, naturally, Princess Aurora pricks her finger on a spinning-wheel and falls into a never-ending sleep… as Maleficent cursed her to do because she wasn’t invited to Aurora’s christening.
(Fairy tale characters. They’re so dramatic.)
But – and as far as I know, this is one big difference between the original story and the new film – Aurora was taken away from her parents so she’d be safe from spinning-wheels. She actually lives not too far from Maleficent, who watches her grow up and eventually regrets the curse.
Back to the never-ending sleep. As the familiar story goes, Aurora can only be woken up by true love’s kiss. In the original tale this means a HANDSOME PRINCE DUDE.
However, in Maleficent the prince is utterly useless. It’s hilarious, really. He spends most of his (very brief) time onscreen being unconscious, dragged this way and that through the air by Maleficent.
He doesn’t try to rescue Aurora. Maleficent does. She’s the one who gets past all the gates and guards of the castle, with the prince floating behind her in the hope that he’ll fix Aurora.
However, useless!prince strikes once again and when he kisses Aurora nothing happens. OH NO. WHATEVER SHALL WE DO?
In the original story I suppose the characters would have run around panicking. (Except, of course, for Aurora, who would keep snoring. Useless little beastie.) In this movie, however, Maleficent kisses the princess and she wakes up.
Because my reactions are always very very intelligent (sarcasm) I just sat there thinking, “What?”
And then: “Did that really happen? Why yes, Engie, it did.”
And then: “That’s cool. But also weird. I don’t know what to think.”
There are several possible interpretations of this.
The first is that OMG MALEFICENT HAS A CRUSH ON AURORA. And that would be cool, if some other things were a little different. I’m all about more LGBTQ+ representation in all sorts of stories – books, movies, TV shows.
Additionally, my favorite genre is fantasy and it’s disappointing how little queer representation there is in such stories. Fantasy is meant as escapism, so I don’t want to always read about the same-old, same-old heterosexual people I see everyday in real life. Show me something different!
Even better, in this queer reading of the movie, Maleficent wouldn’t be gay. Of course I want to see more fictional lesbians, but I don’t want to see only fictional lesbians and gay dudes. (“Dudes” is a cool word, dude.)
And all signs point to Maleficent being bi (and the Internet has jumped all over this). I mean, hello, her earlier relationship with King Stefan?! (Who is also Aurora’s father, by the way.) There’s a lot of parallels between Maleficent/Stefan and Maleficent/Aurora – true love’s kiss, the theft and return of her wings, the hiding scenes.
I really, really want Maleficent to be bi. Queer. Anything. Because I don’t see that often enough in fantasy.
But – and this is what I meant by, “if some other things were a little different” – I also don’t feel entirely comfortable with the whole Maleficent/Aurora situation.
Maleficent is a lot older, and Aurora is still a teenager, and it’s just weird to be in a relationship with someone you’ve known since they were born. (Growing up with someone is different – but if you were an adult already and freaking helped raise the kid then… weird.) I can’t be disturbed about (forty-ish-years-old) Petyr Baelish trying to get with (thirteen-year-old) Sansa Stark in Game of Thrones but still be OK with Maleficent and Aurora. That makes no sense.
And the LGBTQ+ community already deals with a lot of nonsense from the people who think we prey on kids and make them gay.
Agh. So close and yet so far, Disney. I want stories with queer characters. I want stories with queer protagonists. I want stories about queer women, non-lesbian queer women, queer villains, queer castle-dwelling women who are from movies with beautiful film scores.
I don’t want them to have slightly creepy relationships.
There is one final interpretation, though, and it’s pretty cool. Maybe “one true love” doesn’t have to be romantic. For every online thing I’ve seen about queer!Maleficent, I’ve seen at least one thing about how it’s more of a mother/daughter relationship. And I like that interpretation – partially because there are no other non-creepy options, but also because sometimes I get sick of love stories.
Friendship is good. Familial relationships are good. We need more stories about that. We need more stories with female protagonists who kick butt and have good relationships with other female characters and don’t absolutely need princes. And who prove that love isn’t always (or even mostly) romantic. Honestly, I think we all know that love isn’t necessarily like that, but we don’t have enough stories about it.
Yay for stories that subvert the expectation that romantic love is always the most important kind!
I still hope that Disney (or anyone else) makes a movie with a queer protagonist. I’d give anything – my computer, all my books, loads and loads of chocolate – for a movie about two villainesses who, like, destroy the world and go on cute dates. (Maybe world destruction is what they do during their dates?) I did not find quite what I wanted in Maleficent, especially once I thought things through. It’s still a great movie but… yeah, it’s weird.
I don’t think the answer lies in reading Maleficent as queer. I think the answer lies in making other movies, movies that don’t feature queer relationships with dubious age differences. Also, movies in which there is lots of destruction.
Until then, I’ll daydream about my own stories. Stories of queer, avenging, gorgeous fairy queens. Who can fly.