Disney films have been accused of hiding secret meanings in them before, but behind Maleficent is one theme those who are involved aren't afraid to admit is in there. The film's star Angelina Jolie says [spoiler alert] the Maleficent wing-tearing scene is actually a metaphor for rape. Speaking to BBC Radio's Woman's Hour, Jolie revealed the hidden-meaning in the disturbing scene where Maleficent's wings are stolen from her while she's in a drug-induced sleep. "The question was asked, 'What could make a woman become so dark? To lose all sense of her maternity, her womanhood, and her softness?'" Jolie said. "We were very conscious, the writer and I, that it was a metaphor for rape."
Of course the news that Disney knowingly dared to allude to rape in a fairytale movie has disturbed some. "Guess kids wont be watching," said one user on Twitter. "WTF, Disney?!" Perez Hilton wrote in his headline about the news. "WTF? It's a kids movie you scummy liberal," said another person on Twitter.
But when you think about it, rape isn't new to the Disney Sleeping Beauty story; now it's just being handled properly instead of being glorified. In the 1959 version it's "true love's kiss" that awakens Aurora. Or if you really look at it, a strange man thinking he's entitled to a kiss with Aurora simply because she is there. She's asleep and has no way of consenting to the stranger's touch. Of course, in this version they wind up living happily ever after because the kiss was shown in a romantic light. Yes, this is a much more mild form of rape, but it sets an example for young children that kissing someone when they can't agree is not only allowed, but considered sweet.
The rape scene in Maleficent is indicative of our changing times. No longer is rape praised as a romantic gesture, but it is what tore Maleficent apart. As Jolie puts it, "This would be the thing that would make her lose sight...The core of [the film] is abuse, and how the abused have a choice of abusing others or overcoming and remaining loving, open people."
This time, the story isn't about a man swooping in to save the princess, but it is about a woman reclaiming power. This idea is made all the more powerful by Jolie's admission that it's really the story of a rape victim overcoming what was done to her. The fact that Disney is able to make a film like this is actually very inspiring — it shows just how far the fairytale genre has come in the last 50 years. Perhaps there's hope for Disney's princess storytelling, after all.
Image: Disney; sexplorationtime/Tumblr