As Maleficent continues to rake in cash at the box office, Angelina Jolie is at the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence. And during an interview with BBC Radio's Women's Hour, she addressed that scene in the dark Disney flick.
Maleficent's backstory, devised by screenwriter Linda Woolverton (who also wrote scripts for The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast), sees the erstwhile Sleeping Beauty villain as a high-spirited fairy-child, graced with enormous horns and gigantic wings. She swoops through the land, soaring and diving and spinning, literally free as a bird. The wings are large enough and strong enough to carry her up above the clouds, and it's obvious that she loves to fly.
We've mentioned it before, but consider this a spoiler alert: The moment that transforms Maleficent from a fun-loving, quirky woodland fairy into cruel, pissed-off sorceress is an act of violence. The man she thought was her friend drugs her, and while she is unconscious, he saws off her her wings. She wakes up bleeding, in pain, a part of her destroyed. Sobbing. It feels like a sexual assault.
As it turns out, that was intentional, Jolie told BBC Radio:
"We were very conscious, the writer and I, that [the scene in question] was a metaphor for rape," Jolie said. "The core of ["Maleficent"] 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?'"
According to Us, she added: "This would be the thing that would make her lose sight."
It might seem odd that, as our own Lindy West put it, a PG-rated Disney movie would be about how a man roofies a fairy and violently takes her "wings" while she's unconscious. But the truth is that Sleeping Beauty has always been about rape. The various European legends that the fairy-tale is based on all involve a man raping an unconscious woman. Even the 1959 Disney version, the unconscious princess, deep inside a bramble-covered fortress, is "awakened" by a sword-wielding prince who pushes through the black (pubic hair-esque?) branches and enters her soft pink chamber. You don't have to reach very far for rape metaphors. But while the plot device ties in with Jolie's personal mission to raise awareness about rape, we keep seeing women get raped, over and over again, on TV and in movies. For a re-imagining of a Disney film, it might have been more interesting to really and truly switch things up.
Image via Disney.