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Essay: "Mali"-ficent, or How Disney's Best Villain Turned from Bad to Bland

Maleficent was the Celia Rodriguez of the Disney universe. Her outfits look like she's best friends with a gay designer, and when she arrives in parties, everything stops. In fact, she doesn't need an invitation to come to parties. She is so kick-ass her grand scheme to get back at the king for not putting her on the guest list is pure genius: everyone in the kingdom will fall in love with Aurora, only to have their hearts shattered when she turns 16 and she dies of a needle prick.

That's as cruel as giving a baby AIDS by sharing a druggie's needle with her. For 16 years, people around Aurora build relationships with her knowing she will die soon if she so much as breaks her skin with a needle. It's hard to get emotionally invested with a girl like that, but Aurora is gifted with beauty and charm, so it's really a Catch-22.

Then, when Philip turned up, Maleficent worked him into her plans. She captured him, and promised to release him only when Philip has turned old and gray. Maleficent be like: "Here you go, Aurora, your true love's a 70-year old prince who can barely ride his horse, enjoy your happy ending... bitch." (This happened many years ago, so it's totally OK that Maleficent never heard of Pauleen Luna.)


So, it was totally awesome that Disney decided to go with a live-action movie telling Maleficent's story as portrayed by the most kick-ass actress of our time, Angelina Jolie. With the state of today's moviemaking magic, the project sounds like it's disappointment-proof, yes?

Well, well, well. I must say I'm not amused.

Understandably, Disney's core philosophy is built around the concept of happiness. The whole brand of Disney is about being happy, making people happy. Magic is happiness. Love is happiness. If it's not about happiness, it's not Disney.

Still, one can't help but feel disappointed at Disney's "re-telling" of Maleficent's tale.

An opportunity to tell the story from the villain's point of view turned out to be a propaganda to whitewash Maleficent's backstory like she's running for the next Philippine elections. The story reeks so much of whitewashing that the intent to "tell the true tale" felt more like an agenda-ridden campaign to clear her name of any wrongdoing. Attempting veracity, the movie compromised its verisimilitude.

First off, let's talk about the uncomfortable date rape scene. Let's call it for what it is. A date rape. That dude got her drunk, took advantage of her weakness, and then violated her body and her trust.

Then she turned evil.

I'm pretty sure that's not how we should portray rape victims as. Understandably, rape victims may entertain thoughts of vengeance and retribution, but they don't turn murderous and kill babies using whatever object's handy.

Because, dammit, that's the second thing we need to talk about--Maleficent's choice of murder weapon. When she came swooping in with her curse, Maleficent's use of the spinning wheel's needle as the ticking time bomb was rationalized as the FIRST THING SHE SAW WHEN SHE SCANNED THE ROOM.

Disney, Disney, Disney. HOW THE HELL DID THAT GET PASS YOUR EDITORS? Maleficient looked around the room, saw a needle, and thought "Hmmm... I'm gonna kill this baby with that."

The brilliance of the original Maleficent was that she knew Aurora had to be raised like a proper lady, and thus, inevitably, she would need to learn needlework. As a proper lady, Aurora was expected to work her dainty little fingers using needle and expensive thread. Here's the dilemma she threw in everyone's faces back then: raise her as a proper lady and kill her yourself, or never let her touch a needle and hope for the best.


I can't imagine how Maleficent can come to the christening without a premeditated curse.

And on that note: I can't imagine Maleficent storming the castle without an exit strategy.


They were able to turn Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon) into a dragon in Enchanted, how can they take that away from Maleficent?

Turning into a dragon was Maleficent's thing. That was her thing, yo. How can you take that away from her? That's worse than getting her drunk, and ripping her wings off. She can turn into a dragon, and you didn't let her. That's like telling RuPaul not to wear drag, or the Pope not to bless people.

Nobody tells RuPaul what to do.

The movie was plagued by silly, cheesy scenes. They made Angelina Jolie deliver a horrible inside joke ("I hate children.") that sounds like it's conceived by Home Along Da Riles writers. The movie could have been directed by Tony Y. Reyes, and no one would have noticed, what with the three bumbling fairies, the horribly executed confrontation scene ("Is it true? Are you Maleficent?"), and the True Love Kiss that they obviously stole from another Disney property, Once Upon a Time.

Overall, Maleficent has the brilliance of an MMFF blockbuster, and if you've seen one, you know that's not a compliment.

With the 2014 live action Maleficent, Disney missed out on an opportunity to redefine happiness on a new dimension that would have connected with its grown-up audience. Maleficent could have been Disney's Walter White–an anti-hero torn between circumstances and character. Maleficent could have been the tale of a fairy whose gradual descent into the realm of dark magic was caused by mounting conflicts–internal and external. Maleficent could have been the story of how a fairy explored her dark magic skills to protect the ones she loves and treasures, it could have been a story of how fighting to keep the innocence of the forest forced her to lose her own innocence, and what she must do to redeem herself in the end.

Except, no. It was the story of how Maleficent had her heart was broken by a man, how she turned into a baby-killing crazy person, and how that man's baby turned her into a softie. I mean, really, how can a man break MALEFICENT'S HEART?

So, here is the lesson Disney leaves us with: Even if you date rape your ex, and basically sold her innocence so you can be popular enough to rule the kingdom, a cute little baby will solve everything. She'll get over it when she sees how cute your little baby is. She'll soften up, and even help you with your little baby needs. So get her pregnant. A baby will solve everything.

Not an exotic-looking baby like what Angelina Jolie's used to. 

Carlos Malvar wants to dress up as Aladdin for Halloween. He is the author of several books for young adults. His new novel DIRT will be available in bookstores soon. He talks to himself on Twitter as @whatsiegesaid. He can't turn into a dragon.

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