Lessons from Maleficent
I didn’t particularly care for much of Maleficent myself though I know fans are pleased. Good for them. It’s always nice to have a franchise or characters you love brought to life in a way that’s unique but still entertaining all the same. I wouldn’t know.
But enough about me. One thing I appreciated about Maleficent though and that’s the underlying story. On the surface, it’s just a new twist on an old tale, but what is the actual message of the movie? Every story has an overall point and often times the writers aren’t even aware of the theme(s) until everything is said and done.
So what is Maleficent about? It seems to be about the beginnings of a girl untainted by the world. Her fall when letting someone into her life, and the process of trying to regain her former happy self, and trust in the world.
At the beginning of our story, Maleficent is happy in her life and home. She has wings that allow her soar above her domain and others’ as well; though she doesn’t intrude on others’ territory because she’s happy where she is. There don’t seem to be any problems in her life because she has enough that’s enough for her.
This is much like girls in their youth who don’t want to bother anybody but live their lives. They dwell in simplicity and happiness and anything beyond that is foreign to them.
The Prince Anti-Charming
Maleficent’s problems begin with her introduction to young Stefan. He steals from the forest, he hides from her prosecutors and doesn’t seem to understand the point of something unless it can do something for you.
There’s a reason Sharlto Copley plays him. Being an average looking guy, it’s that much easier to sense that something is up when this arguably handsome man seems to be the one for Maleficent. But they seem happy, so no harm done, right?
But Stefan comes from the outside world. And when you’re not safe in your home or only around what you’ve always known, that’s taking a risk. And a risk can get you hurt. So while Maleficent is hurt by Stefan’s abandonment of her for the outside world and a little hesitant to accept him when he comes back to her, she forgives him.
This, of course, is her downfall for not seeing him for what he truly is- greedy and deceitful. Because of this error, she pays the price- her wings. She’s not longer able to fly high above everything and everyone. She’s grounded and wounded.
But what does any of this mean for Stefan? He’s got her wings, her pride and glory and he uses them to become king. He brags about this feat and presents them to his fellow man (His king also wanting to take more than belonged to him). Maleficent didn’t really mean much to him past what he could do for himself. He even exaggerates about what actually happens since he was supposed to kill her and he took her wings instead.
This isn’t to say that Maleficent is a victim to blame but rather that she had to learn a lesson in discernment the hard way. If she’d seen Stefan for what he was, she would still have her wings (and innocence), but now she’s got to live with her mistake. This could be an allegory for virginity taken or even date rape, but the point is still the same- Maleficent’s innocence is gone. Better get used to walking, sister! Flying is for kids! Get your head out of the clouds, this is the real world! There is no love in the real world, only what people take for themselves.
Accepting New Roles
At this point, Maleficent begins to accept her role as unclean, unworthy and even a bitch, so to speak. She’s now that woman you’ve always known that likes to be the one to bring you down to reality and always treat you like you’re naive. You know the one. I say “bitch” because so many women use the term pridefully. How you feel about it is up to you, of course.
All of this while Stefan’s life seems to really be looking up. He’s the king now; the man. He’s got his kingdom and a new wife that doesn’t seem to be aware of Stefan’s ways. Maybe she does know, but either way, the image they present to the kingdom is one of happiness and perfection.
Stefan is that guy now- the one who wants to separate his embarrassing past from what’s supposed to be his perfect life. But he can’t hide from the shame forever because the past has a away of catching up in ways you don’t expect, especially when you think you can sweep it under the rug and be done with it. Maleficent doesn’t sweep it under the rug as much as she does revel in her new role as the villain.
She can pretend she’s okay, but this isn’t the life to live in order to feel fulfilled other than temporarily.
When Maleficent shows up at the newborn Aurora’s christening, she’s an embarrassment to Stefan, who clearly lied about his previous conquest. Maleficent places a curse on the baby, as revenge against Stefan but also due to the fact that she sees Aurora as the clean slate Maleficent no longer is. You don’t curse a baby unless you’ve got a problem with the baby i.e., a new generation.
If she can’t be happy, why should Aurora? This is much like the view that many take on: Why try and do better? Why should anybody gets a fresh start? It all gets ruined in the end.
The king and Maleficent literally build walls as the king goes crazy with paranoia which could just as easily be seen as guilt. His past is catching up with him and he’s going crazy trying to find a way to stop it. But he hasn’t learned any lessons and it’s clear his way of treating women hasn’t gotten any better either. He sends his daughter away with three negligent fairies, and even ignores his dying wife’s pleas for Stefan’s presence.
Learning Their Lessons
The only one that can really make this right is Maleficent. Aside from bettering herself, she’s really the only one that can raise sleeping-beauty-to-be, since the king doesn’t even know how to take care of her. Once again, look at how he treats women. This is how the film deals with not only progression of one’s character, but forgiveness; in others as well as ourselves.
But notice that Maleficent’s curse is meant to be more powerful than it is because she doesn’t believe in true love. She can’t take the curse back because she doesn’t know how once she finally decides she wants to. She hasn’t learned her lesson that just because she was hurt doesn’t mean there is no happiness. She wants to do a good thing but her quarrel with Stefan hasn’t ended here. He’s still after her and she’s placed a hex on the one person that hasn’t hurt anybody. Wishing you could take back a mistake isn’t enough.
But once she goes through in an attempt to change (after the curse has taken place and Aurora is asleep), Maleficent risks her life to bring her back to life. The king hardly cares past the point of what’s being done to him because he still doesn’t care about anybody but himself. After seeing his daughter for the first time in years, he sends her away. He’s still too obsessed with self.
Once Maleficent has done everything to wake Aurora up and realize that “true love” does exist, she goes even further, planning to take care of Aurora herself as a surrogate daughter. Maleficent’s lesson has been learned but that doesn’t mean it’s the end of the story. Sometimes learning the lesson doesn’t mean you make it out alive. It’s here that the king attempts to kill her for good, not just take something else from her. This won’t bring him any peace, but he’s so far from being reasonable, he doesn’t care.
Maleficent fights with everything she’s got but it’s not enough. Though just when all hope is lost, Aurora (Of all people) finds Maleficent’s wings; and though they’re being kept as the king’s personal trophy, they[‘re not simply rotting husks but still alive, and waiting for their owner to reclaim them. Maleficent’s wings are her pride and glory, remember. She had them taken from her and displayed for others to mock, no one really knowing the true value of them (especially not Stefan), but they can’t die.
When her wings return to her, Maleficent majestically floats upward, above her transgressors. No one can touch her. And there’s nothing to say that she’s going to continue this fight. Remember that she was trying to escape anyway. That is, until the king clings onto her one last time in an attempt to literally bring her down. It’s this this is his downfall.
If he could have let Maleficent make her escape and forget everything, he would have lived. But being that he’s greedy and doesn’t want Maleficent to be happy, he ultimately gets himself killed.
Maleficent and her adoptive daughter have made peace with each other and themselves and appear quite happy by the end, with Maleficent free to fly again, having broken the chains of guilt, fear, depression, etc. Her upbringing of Aurora shows us that while her own innocence was taken by a man, Aurora’s prospect in Prince Charming is a healthy one, and one that allows Maleficent to be happy again knowing that she was able to keep someone else from going down the same road as her.
Maleficent has become the woman decides to uplift those less experienced than her instead of remaining bitter and wishing ill on those who have yet to make their own way.
While this story could be attributed to mistakes in general, the specifics Maleficent gets into seem to deal with the mistakes made of a sexual nature. From Maleficent’s own innocence to her corruption by man, all the way to her decision to raise the daughter of the man that “corrupted” her. But be they sexual or otherwise, living with our mistakes is something we all have to do, but clinging to them and letting them define you is a burden nobody needs to carry.
Though I gave this movie a C objectively, I do see this as a film that people, specifically girls, can learn something from aside from enjoying the aesthetics of fairies and princesses.