SO MANY SPOILERS AHEAD. Don’t read if you don’t want to know literally every major plot point.
I was interested in seeing Maleficent, but I hadn’t actually thought to see it in theaters until a friend asked to see a movie and I thought, “Why not?” I was so ignorant. Maleficent blew me away with all the usually awesome movie stuff–excellent acting (Angelina Jolie is magnificent) and breath-taking fantasy landscapes and creatures. But what solidified my love for the film was its beautiful feminist messages.
For starters, it is an undeniably female-driven movie. Maleficent and Aurora are the center of everything. The three fairies provide comic relief and a significant amount of screen time. There are three male characters to round things out–men to round things out! One as the sidekick to a female! Oh my gosh, what a wonderful thing to see women as the stars of a fantasy epic, living adventurous stories and making terrible and wonderful decisions.
Second, Maleficent continues what Frozen began: the assertion that love comes in many forms, and that female love relationships are just as strong as male-female romantic ones. (It also continues a hesitancy to rely on the rape-like “true love’s kiss” while a person is unconscious. I adored Prince Philip saying, “I don’t feel right about this! I barely know her!” when the fairies urge him to kiss the sleeping Aurora.) But he does kiss her, and nothing happens. She’s still asleep. And man, oh man, then Maleficent steps out, apologizes and cries and repents; she kisses the princess whom she loves and cares for, AND SLEEPING BEAUTY AWAKES. True love’s kiss is one woman caring for another.
And most importantly, I was completely surprised by the entire plot. Maleficent is essentially a rape allegory. The young carefree fairy befriends a human boy. She thinks she loves him and she trusts that he loves her back. Years later, out of greed and ambition, he drugs her so that she falls asleep, physically violates her, taking something of hers without her permission, and when she wakes alone, she howls in physical and emotional agony. Dear God, that scene was crazy painful.
Seeing the action as rape makes the movie so incredibly powerful. Her vengeance is understandable. I rooted for her to make the guy crawl. Her turn to darkness is a bandage for her pain. I was behind her 100%, even though I was uncomfortably aware that she was acting the villain.
But it doesn’t stop there! Maleficent learns to love again, albeit by loving the child she cursed. She saves the princess, risking her life in the process. And then love saves her, quite literally. The child she loves frees the wings that had been ripped from her, and in a burst of bright light, they reattach and Maleficent is whole again.
There is still, however, that pesky king rapist. He attacks her in exactly the way he knows will hurt her, and clings to her as she tries to fly away. I’m entirely sure that the fight scene at the end was probably nothing overwhelming or particularly epic. But seeing it as an abuser and a rapist attacking his victim made me so uncomfortable. I was cringing at the screen the whole time. I honestly didn’t know what would happen, what I even wanted to happen. Should she kill him? YES, I WANT JUSTICE. But that would turn her into the villain we assumed she was. In the end, she breathes deeply and says, “It is over,” releasing him and turning away. She chose FORGIVENESS. Not in like, the way where everything is okay. But in the real forgiveness way, where she chooses not to let him have a hold on her anymore, where the victim says, “I will not let you make me less than I am.” It is SO AWESOME. Of course, because justice is still demanded, he throws them both off the castle walls. He, being a terrible rapist, falls to his death. She, being a redeemed survivor with returned wings, flies away. And it is soul-wrenchingly beautiful.
I loved this movie. I loved it so hard, and I want to make everyone in the world see it. I want people to empathize with the victims of assault, to despise those who violate others, to learn the painful lessons of forgiveness and loving again. This movie was my everything!