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The Controversial Scene in Disney's "Maleficent"

Updated on September 9, 2018
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I have a B.A. in English with a minor in Gender and Sexuality Studies. I've been a Goth since age fourteen, and a Pagan since age fifteen.

Have you seen the Disney film "Maleficent?"

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Shortly after Disney's Maleficent film was released in theaters, writer, Hayley Krischer wrote an article on an interpretation of a scene in the film. The comments below the article were filled with disapproval, and judgment. Some claimed her interpretation went too far, some said Disney could never make a scene like that and some believe films never need to be analyzed by adults because they're for entertainment purposes.

Anyone who studies Literature will discover the very adult themes in every well-known children's story. Fairy-tales are not as friendly as parents would prefer, which should be fine. After all, when parents read their children a story or take them to a movie, the parents should be entertained as well. Every fictional story has a lesson in it. To make a fictional story universally popular, the author must use messages that anyone of any age can relate to.

"My 5-year-old digested the scene as an act of betrayal. She flat-lined the reasoning for Maleficent's rage: 'He cut off her wings.' Maleficent was wounded. But she survived. More, she recovered -- physically and psychologically."

- Hayley Krischer

Walt Disney Company (vector graphics logo by TutterMouse)
Walt Disney Company (vector graphics logo by TutterMouse)

Disney: For Kids and Adults

Any parent who argues that Disney would never put a sexual assault scene in one of their movies or that one doesn't exist because there was no actual sex is probably in denial. The underlying themes of every Disney movie are adult in nature--even if they are symbolic so children can't pick up on what message is hidden inside.

Women as Enemies

Many Disney princesses only have fathers. Many of the mother figures are enemies. When there are good women, those women are married or under the power of a masculine figure. This is Disney's way of promoting marriage to a wealthy man in order to avoid the social punishment of single women. For girls at such a young age, this is not a concern they should have.

In this version, it ends with Maleficent kissing Aurora's head and because Maleficent has come to love her so much, she breaks the very curse she created; therefore, the film is also feminist by making independent women both powerful and good.

Assault Saves

In Sleeping Beauty, Aurora hardly knows Prince Phillip before he saves her from the curse. Their first kiss doesn't even happen with Aurora's consent because she's unconscious; therefore, the story revolves around an assault to save the princess. Not only does this encourage young girls to believe they can trust strangers after one or two short encounters, but that those men will be responsible for the women's happiness.

38% of sexual assaults are a friend or acquaintance

Rape Equals Power

For the rapist, sexual assault is not about sex; it is about control. Rapists are attempting to take away the victim's sense of self. Maleficent's wings are her source of power. They allow her to be completely independent. When they are ripped off it is symbolic rape. When she wakes up, her self-confidence is gone. Instead of feeling strong, she feels weak. Also, she feels dirty--which is another aspect of a post-rape experience. Many rape victims want to bathe immediately after.

In this film, Aurora finds and returns Maleficent's wings to her. This restores the power Maleficent was robbed of. The fact that both women save each other makes this film feminist, unlike the original story, because it shows women coming together to overcome the oppression by men.

Jolie at the Cologne premiere of Alexander in 2004
Jolie at the Cologne premiere of Alexander in 2004 | Source

Maleficent star and humanitarian, Angelina Jolie spoke openly about strengthening anti-rape laws. In an interview, she voiced the connection she and the director made between sexual assault and the scene in her latest film when Maleficent's wings are torn off. This evidence supports Krischer's original article.

Art is a medium to voice the creator's opinion on a social matter. Not everyone will read a research paper, explaining in detail where they came to form their opinion, but art is another option for the same purpose. For example, writers have used entertainment as their outlet to have their commentary known since before the time of Shakespeare. The reason schools have literature classes where students must dissect stories is to start their thinking to go beyond the story itself. The reason some parents complain about kids' movies is because they can see the adult themes their children can't pick up on.

Do you agree the scene was a metaphor for rape?

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