‘Maleficent’ begins as many Disney do, with a love story between two unlikelies. In this case, the winged titular Fae girl and a poor human boy, who spend years building a bond of love.
But human greed and lust for power overshadows the boy, Stefan (Sharlto Copley), who longs to be king by any means necessary. When given the opportunity, Stefan uses his history with Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) to catch her off guard. Stefan drugs Maleficent and brutally severs her wings while she sleeps, instead of killing her. But there are far worse things than death, as Maleficent soon finds out.
Maleficent’s wail of anguish the morning after, as she awakes aching and in pain, her seat of power having been violated by the one she trusted the most, is a similar sound to the one many sexual assault survivors make when they they begin processing what has happened without their consent. Whether they vocalize it or internalize it, Maleficent’s lament is familiar and real. A cry for what has been taken. Not just the physical violation. But the emotional and psychological breaches that make it difficult, if not impossible to ever trust again. For some, these layers of pain harden into an all-consuming rage, like it does for Maleficent. And who can blame her? She has earned her fury. Stefan’s actions beg for revenge.
“He did this to me so he could be king!” Maleficent screams as she makes a forest of thorns of the moors, and her once tender heart.
Colonizer violence is at the heart of this rape allegory. Rape as a weapon of war changes Maleficent. She becomes a monster who puts a death curse on an innocent baby, to damage the man who broke her.
And it changes King Stefan, too, as the weight of his evil deeds eat him alive from inside. He even keeps Maleficent’s wings locked in an iron case, a twisted trophy he spends hours talking to in an attempt to project his guilt onto her severed body. There’s a reason why rape is considered a war crime, and an act of genocide under certain conditions.
But on a positive note, the moment Maleficent gets her wings back is one of my favorite in cinema history. Because healing and wholeness are possible, even after physical and psychological devastation. And I love the alternative feminist reading of true love’s kiss. Because you can find love and trust again, often in the most unexpected places.
✨Diaval/5 stars. Highly recommend stronger punishments for sexual assault, legal or otherwise.✨
🦃ThanksKilling Terrors 2023 is the newest installment of my Horrorthon365 project, eclectic and unexpected genre watchlists with accompanying microreviews to suit the changing seasons. Horrorthon365 was sparked by a gnarly hand injury and surgery gone awry, hence the flash-style reviews. Browse the entire collection here. 🍗